Tuesday, May 13, 2014

"The Way of Kings (Stormlight Archive #1)" By Brandon Sanderson

And so we come to one of my favorite Sanderson (the Benevolent, click this to learn why) tales, the one he set out to write pre-Mistborn, but delayed it until 2010. Mistborn was never a "must-read" for me, rather disappointing after reading all those rave reviews. The Way of Kings was brought to my attention because it was so wide, taking up the room of two books, on a shelf at Barnes and Noble. I have always measured a book's value on the unfair "price per page" quota, and let me tell you, this one was cheap. 1252 jam-packed pages for $8.99? I had to buy it. For your information, this book is currently sold at the astonishing price of $2.99 as an e-book on Amazon. Yet another reason Brandon Sanderson deserves his title as "the Benevolent".

When I actually opened the book and began reading, it was one of those weird worlds. Everything felt fresh, in terms of world-building, and that made it difficult to dive in. I felt utterly mauled with my brain asking me questions: What's a safe-hand? What are the Knights Radiant? What's that creature supposed to look like? Why is Szeth hated when he's so relatable?
I like big books and I cannot lie...

At first, my downfall in reading this was ignoring Shallan's sketches. I didn't realize they had anything to do with the world-building. If you read The Way of Kings: you must study the sketches! I know, we aren't kids anymore, and we shouldn't need pictures to guide us in any book. But answer this question, and honestly: Have you ever read an entire epic fantasy series where the characters are constantly adventuring or moving around, without at least glancing at the map? Methinks not.

The Plot:
Szeth (Truthless of Shinovar) is an assassin, who uses Stormlight to carry out his dastardly deeds, though against his own wishes. Shallan is a nobleman's daughter, whose father recently passed, leaving her and her brothers in debt, though she plans to amend that by switching their broken Soulcaster with Jasnah Kholin's Soulcaster. Kaladin is a healer in training, who joins the army because his brother was enlisted, and he wishes to keep him safe. He fails miserably, his brother dies in battle, in a subsequent battle he refuses to take up the Shardplate and Blade he has rightfully won, resulting in his betrayal by Brightlord Amaram, who takes the booty for himself and sells Kaladin to a slaver. Highprince Dalinar Kholin is on the front lines of the war, the Shattered Plains, with his son Adolin. Dalinar has visions during highstorms. Adolin fears his father is "Going Slightly Mad" (Queen song, couldn't help myself). Dalinar is Jasnah's uncle, as well as uncle to the current king Elhokar. The previous king, Gavilar, was assassinated by Szeth.

The characters' storylines intersect on multiple occasions. If you skip someone's chapter, you will miss something, so I advise you to read every bit, no matter how tedious. I didn't find the book tedious, but it did lull at times when the author was busy informing us of something about the world. When you write a book this humongous, that is bound to happen, no matter how talented the author may be.

Here's some terms you should know before venturing into the vast world of Roshar:
Stormlight: A blue glowing light/magic produced by highstorms
Highstorm: A storm to be compared with Super Storm Sandy, that happens every few days in the book, except for a period of calm known as the Weeping. If you are outside during a highstorm, you die. If you leave currency or gemstones out during highstorms, they become charged with Stormlight.
Lighteyes: If you have light (blue, gray, green) eyes, you are a lighteyes, and therefore a noble, or of noble blood. Roshar would be your oyster.
Darkeyes: If you have dark (brown) eyes, you are a darkeyes, and therefore a peasant, or not looked upon very highly. Roshar would be hell for you to live in.
Parshmen: basically the most obedient slave you could imagine. They have skin "marbled" with pale color, black, and/or deep crimson. They are somewhat related to the Parshendi.
Safe-hand: If you are a woman, you keep your left hand covered. If you are a lighteyes, you cover it with an extra-long sleeve buttoned at the bottom. If you are a darkeyes woman, you can just use a glove.
Shardplate: Basically an Iron-Man-type suit without the flying and rockets/bullets. It makes you faster, stronger, and very hard to kill. It is said that if a darkeyes wore this, he would become a lighteyes. It is charged with Stormlight via gemstones.
Shardblade: A blade which can kill without leaving an obvious sign (cut, wound, etc.). It is summoned from thin air, unless the master wills it to remain visible. It is also powered by Stormlight-infused gemstones.

As usual, Mr. Sanderson's characters are interesting and relatable. Shallan was a bit disappointing for me, though in the next book she's more fully breathed, and her past is cleared up. Kaladin was easily my favorite, as he is an underdog who hates the lighteyes/darkeyes system, as he's a darkeyes (the only one as a main character, except for maybe Szeth). Szeth came in a close second in terms of favorite characters, as he is a reluctant assassin, and as Truthless, he is forced to do his master's bidding in all things. Dalinar and Adolin were okay, but I read the book mainly for Kaladin's, Szeth's, and Shallan's perspectives.

I was genuinely enthralled by this book, because if I wasn't I wouldn't have been able to finish it. It is a massive undertaking for any reader to commit to reading 1000+ pages, regardless of genre. I would never recommend this to a fair-weather fantasy reader, as it might be a bit difficult to swallow because of its size and content. One of my friends on Goodreads was put off by Kaladin's slavery and treatment during it. I admit, it was a bit of a shock to see Sanderson delve into the more gritty violence of epic fantasy, but I have always been acclimated to such things, as a girl growing up in a patriarchal reign of tyranny. If you can't stand the idea of someone being a slave, and managing to survive it by the skin of his teeth, this book isn't for you. Quite plainly, this is very hard to read at times, but I wasn't put off to the point of stopping. If you've survived reading Game of Thrones, and you liked it, you can probably tolerate this.

Rating: 4 of 5 stars, for a whole new fantasy realm to wander in!

Content: Violence, slavery, prejudice, and assassinations. Probably better read when you are 16+ years old.

Page Count: 1252 pages in my mass market paperback. It's ginormous, people.


  1. Great critique - I will probably be referencing your terms list as I read :)

    - Kritika @ Snowflakes & Spider Silk

    1. Thanks! Feel free to, I was a bit lost when I started this book...


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