Kings, they explained, do not walk like beggars for hundreds of miles. My response was that if a beggar could manage the feat, then why not a king? Did they think me less capable than a beggar?
A couple of years back, I picked up a paperback copy of The Way of Kings on a whim. I’d never read any Brandon Sanderson before. I vaguely knew of him from other readers. The book looked like it’d make for an interesting read.
I made it a few chapters in and dropped it.
Don’t get me wrong; this was nothing about the quality of the book. It’s just that my contacts/eyeglasses prescription was long past due. I was having a tough time reading the small words. It was a shame that I missed out on this epic tale while it was just gathering dust on my bookshelf.
Earlier this year, I placed it in a stack of books I gave to my sister as part of my ongoing tidying process. I told her I wanted to re-buy it on the Kindle, and she suggested we read along together when we were not both in the middle of another series. And, that’s just what we set out to do. Except, I finished the book a couple of weeks back while she’s about halfway through (her schedule doesn’t give her quite as much downtime).
I wanted for us to keep a similar pace so that we could chat about the same parts of the book. But, it was hard for me to put it down. I wanted to know what happened next in this grand story. Every afternoon, I’d constantly check the clock to see how much of the workday was left. I wanted to return to the world of Roshar to see the what Kaladin, Shallan, or Dalinar would do in the upcoming chapters.
I see Sanderson as a fantasy fan who loves writing fantasy. He takes a lot of the themes that makes great fantasy great and puts an utterly original spin on them.
At this point, I’m a Sanderson groupie. I’ve now put down Skyward, the Mistborn Trilogy, and The Way of Kings. I suppose it’s fortunate for me and the thousands upon thousands of other fans that he’s such a prolific writer.
The Way of Kings is the first book in a planned 10-book series called The Stormlight Archive. It takes place on the world of Roshar where great hurricane-like highstorms sweep the land. Life has learned to adapt. Crustacean animals with their hard shells roam the land, some of them giant beasts. Plant life has learned to retreat back into the earth for protection. It is not a paradise.
The story primarily follows Kaladin, a soldier who becomes a slave; Shallan, a young woman with a plan to steal a Soulcaster and pay her family’s debts; and Dalinar, a high-prince and brother to the assassinated king of Alethi. The kingdom is in the middle of a years-long war with the Parshendi, a race of people who took credit for the assassination.
There were a couple of big reveals that I knew would happen based on the context of the story. Sanderson usually catches me off-guard, but I was on top of things this time. It wasn’t detrimental to the reading. It was more like, “OMG, I know what’s going to happen, and it’s so awesome!”
The Way of Kings is epic in the way that epic fantasy should be. The characters’ actions have consequences on a grand scale. Everything from the ecology, to the politics, to the commoner’s way of life is covered in this book in interesting ways that move the story along. The details of this world are vivid and believable.
I’m still having a weekly chat with my sister as she reads through the book. Like her, Kaladin is my favorite character. It’s his story that tears at your heart. It’s he, the underdog with a streak of bad-assery, that you want to root for. There were parts of the book where I was just reading along so that I could get back to Kaladin’s chapters.
Shallan and Dalinar’s stories took far longer to get interesting. If I had one minor complaint, that’d be it. But, when you read a book with 1,200+ pages, there’s a lot of buy-in that happens beforehand. And, Sanderson absolutely delivers.
I feel like I’m living in the Golden Age of Fantasy right now, and Sanderson is a huge part of that.