Roshar is a land ruled by Highstorms and Shardblade warfare. But as a cycle of Desolation approaches to destroy humanity, four people will play key roles in the outcome:
Szeth-son-son-Vallano, Truthless of Shinovar, assassinates King Gavilar and begins a cycle of vengeance—the “Vengeance Pact”—between two races. He weeps as he is forced to kill for his masters.
Kaladin Stormblessed, an apprentice surgeon, is forced to become a soldier in the armies fighting for vengeance. After suffering the betrayal of a “light-eyed” noble, this dark-eyed soldier fights for his life and that of his dark-eyed crew.
Brightlord Dalinar Kholin commands an army like the one that employs Kaladin. But as he is drawn to an ancient text of law, The Way of Kings, he finds himself questioning the purpose of this war.
Young Shallan Davar, Brightness of a small, struggling estate, risks everything to plan a daring theft. The first step of her plan is to train as a scholar with the heretic Jasnah Kholin, Brightlord Dalinar Kholin’s niece; but as she gains Jasnah’s trust, she realizes that the woman studies much more than obscure academia: she studies the secrets of the fabled order of the Knights Radiant, their shards and the Desolations they fought so long ago. Adult High Fantasy Published August 31st 2010 by Tor Books.
My Thoughts :
Wow. 1,000 pages of wow. Just let me fangirl for a moment, here.
Don’t let the size of this tome fool you: The Way of Kings is a compulsively readable, highly character-driven high fantasy. The characters always let you know what they want; but you never know what twists lie in store for them.
And there are so many twists! They start coming early on. It’s almost funny how I continue to guess and theorize because I’m always totally wrong. Everything is sailing along as the characters expect, and then BAM! You weren’t getting comfortable were you, Christy? Because this guy’s being sold into slavery and this gal’s not the naïve young bookworm you thought. You think you know what’s going on? Trust me, you don’t.
I can’t talk overmuch about the plot without spoilers, but:
I dare you to get bored during a Kaladin scene. Seriously. I bet you can’t do it. Early on in the novel, he’s drafted into a hellish portion of the army known as “bridge duty” (wherein generals force crews of unarmed men to rush first into battle, set bridges across chasms and draw enemy fire away from the “real” soldiers) and his goal becomes one thing and one thing only: keep his bridge crew alive. He constantly schemes up crazy ideas to meet that goal, and I promise, it’s worth your time to read The Way of Kings just for this one innovative soldier’s arc.
But Dalinar Kholin’s arc is a close second favorite. Uncle to the king and brother of the slain King Gavilar, Dalinar dominates the battlefield. Known as the Blackthorn, he fiercely wields a weapon called a “Shardblade,” a giant sword with unimaginably destructive power. As the book’s description says, wars are fought for and won by these ancient, mysterious weapons that appear from mist and kill souls as easily as they kill bodies. Dalinar is a cultural hero among his war-obsessed countrymen—but he has lately been troubled by Highstorm visions that may or may not be the onset of madness. As everyone including his sons and the king begin to question him, Dalinar has to navigate the visions, public opinion and private family business. A complex man with a complex path. I’m totally obsessed with Dalinar.
I think Shallan’s arc qualifies as the most complex among the four main narrators. She possesses the potential and desire to become a great scholar, but family secrets close that option to her. While innovation and leadership concerns characterize the narratives of Kaladin and Dalinar, Shallan’s narrative blossoms more slowly, and it feels almost self-contained until we find out more about Jasnah’s research. Nevertheless, I love Shallan’s scenes. Her intelligence and ambition make her arc tense and painful, at times, but always twisty and keenly satisfying.
Szeth the assassin is the most mysterious of the four narrators, but I suspect that he holds the secret to the coming Desolations. We shall see.
The worldbuilding itself is like a fabulous character. It’s so big! And it feels that way, paradoxically, by detailing the small stuff.
“Kaladin stared out over those grasses blowing in the mild breeze. Whenever the wind picked up, the more sensitive of the grass stalks shrank down into their burrows, leaving the landscape patchy, like the coat of a sickly horse.”
Although we expect large amounts of setup and worldbuilding in a novel like this, Sanderson incorporates it all smoothly into the secretive and engrossing characters arcs. The swords, the storms, the mysterious “stormlight” that connects everything together…and don’t even get me started on the countries, social prejudices and religions! One society lives on an endless, shallow lake, and citizens just…stay wet. All the time. And Alethi men and women must eat gender-specified foods! It’s craziness. The smooth writing let me slip easily into the world of Roshar, never drawing attention to itself. I got lost in this engrossing giant of a novel.
When plot twists pay off—when the action starts—it’s explosive. This is totally cliché, but the battle scenes really are heart-rending and pulse-pounding. Very “visually” effective (better than Mistborn‘s action scenes, I would say). The tactics and strategy are extremely well drawn.
I switched back and forth between the audiobook and the hardcover copy, so I can confirm that the story reads easily in both. Hearing all the unique names pronounced with such assurance made the audio version a favorite with me; but the easy writing makes the hard copy equally as engrossing—and the illustrations! They’re gorgeous!
Combines the intrigue of Elantris with the action and themes of Mistborn. X1000. It’s definitely my favorite thing by Sanderson, as yet. As I was reading, I kept wishing the book could last forever. Thankfully, 9,000 is a conservative estimate of pages remaining in the series, right?
Recommended To :
It sometimes feels like I was the last person to this Stormlight Archives partaaay, but I know that’s not true! The books are so gigantic, I was intimidated away until I saw the list of contents in Arcanum Unbounded. Then I knew I needed to get on these books already. But seriously, if you like character-driven fantasy, I highly recommend trying The Way of Kings. You might be surprised how the pages fly by, once you start to get to know the characters.