Review of The Way of Kings – Book 1 of The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson

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A health warning comes with this book – it is a beast at just over a 1000 pages. So if you enjoy curling up in bed with your fav read, you may have to rethink how you hold/balance this breeze block edition – I know I did.

wayofkingsRoshar is a world of stone and storms. Uncanny tempests of incredible power sweep across the rocky terrain so frequently that they have shaped ecology and civilisation alike. Animals hide in shells, trees pull in branches and grass retracts into the stony ground. Cities are built only where the land offers shelter.  It has been centuries since the fall of the ten consecrated orders, known as the Knights Radiant, but their Shardblades and Shardplate remain: mystical swords and suits of armour that transform ordinary men into near-invincible warriors. Men trade kingdoms for Shardblades. Wars were fought for them, and won by them.

One such war rages on a ruined landscape called the Shattered Plains. There, Kaladin, who traded his medical apprenticeship for a spear to protect his little brother, has been reduced to slavery. In a war that makes no sense, where ten armies fight separately against a single foe, he struggles to save his men and to fathom the leads who consider them expendable.

Brightlord Dalinar Kholin commands one of those armies. Like his brother, the late king, he is drawn to an ancient text called The Way of Kings. Troubled by over-powering visions of ancient times and the Knights Radiant, he has begun to doubt his own sanity.  And across the ocean, an untried young woman named Shallan seeks to train under an eminent scholar and notorious heretic, Dalinar’s niece, Jasnah. Though she genuinely loves learning, Shallan’s motives are less than pure…

And there you have the synopsis. The book follows the adventures of all three of these characters through this engrossing and enjoyable world. Initially, it was Kaladin’s story that drew me in and had me wanting to read on, however as I got further into the book, I found myself enjoying the inconsistencies and puzzles around the other two characters, who are just as contradictory and well depicted.

It is a mark of Sanderson’s writing skill that I was held throughout this monster – huge tomes of high fantasy are not high on my list of favourite reads, and I picked this up fully expecting to get about halfway through and then lose interest. It has certainly happened with other popular fantasy writers – including George R.R. Martin. However, effective characterisation isn’t Sanderson’s only strength. His world is fascinating. I loved the landscape, complete with original ecology and unusual wildlife – as well as a complicated, tortuous history and conflicting religious beliefs.

While I may have to get some serious weight training in before attempting the sequel when it comes out, I’m definitely going to track it down – although I’m not promising I’ll get right to the end of this ten part series. However, this intriguing, complex story has lodged in my head and despite the fact that I am now more than halfway through another excellent, enjoyable book since I completed The Way of Kings, I often find myself thinking about the world and the protagonists. Who knows – Sanderson may be the author who thoroughly converts me to joining the ranks of epic fantasy fandom!
10/10

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