The Way of Kings (Part One) by Brandon Sanderson
Book one of The Stormlight Archive
Published by Gollancz
Paperback - 592 pages
Published May 2011
Personal copy of book
Read the synopsis for The Way of Kings on Goodreads
First of all, something has to be said about the artwork in the book. The maps, the sketches, the journal entries and the chapter illuminations all serve to enhance the experience of reading The Way of Kings. Nothing is superfluous here, and it adds an extra level of depth to the story. The artists who worked on them - Greg Call, Isaac Stewart and Ben McSweeney - should all be commended. A story isn't about how 'pretty' the book looks, I know, but the art is integrated so well that it deserves a mention.
Master of culture
I loved reading about Kaladin. His back story and his determination to never give up (although he comes close) was inspiring. His sense of guilt drives him, and although others see him as lucky he sees himself as one who brings death to those around him. His path to the cusp of death and resolution to save the members of his slave crew were a pleasure to read.
I also really enjoyed the contrasting views of Dalinar's internal conflict. At one moment he is resolute in his convictions as a general and advisor of the king, and the next he fears for his sanity. He is a very proud but complex man, and the way he acts around his sons and his peers only scratched the surface of his persona.
An epic of epic epicness
Despite being a sprawling epic (at 600 pages for only half of book one, 'doorstopper' is an appropriate term) at no point do you feel bogged down by exposition, info dumping or tedious chapters about 'the journey'. Sanderson manages to keep everything running at the right pace and still maintain depth to his characters and to his world.
You've got an excellent mix of character arcs that play to several fantasy favourites that combine them into a single story - court intrigue and politics (Dalinar and Andolin's war on the Shattered Plains), a quest (Shallan's attempted theft of a powerful artefact) and the personal redemption of a fallen hero (Kaladin and his fall from decorated soldier to bridgeman (the lowest of the low) and how he claws his way back).
Nothing is perfect, however. I found that the sheer size of the story meant that I'd spent a third of the novel without having read about Shallan, making me unsure of her place in the world once the focus shifted back to her. Also, the first few chapters had more than a few instances where full stops (periods) were left out of the ends of sentences, making each sentence tumble into the next.
The Way of Kings (Part One) is a masterpiece of fantasy literature. Sanderson has managed to achieve that to which many fantasy authors aspire - the creation of an entirely new world with a rich culture and brilliantly written characters. Bring on Part Two. In fact, give me everything that Brandon Sanderson has published to date. I'll gladly devour it.