The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson (Stormlight Archive #1): A book review


The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson (Stormlight Archives #1)

I have previously extolled the fabulous works of fantasy by Brandon Sanderson, so forgive me if another one is too repetitive.  I just love his books!  I recently started a reread of The Way of Kings, first book in the Stormlight Archives, in anticipation of the Words of Radiance (book 2) release in March.  This is the third time I’ve read The Way of Kings, and boy is a third read needed.

The Good:

The Way of Kings is set in Brandon’s cosmere, a fantasy universe that is connected throughout many of his books.  If you’ve read all of or most of his novels, you will notice similarities in magic systems, a character that appears in multiple stories, references to shards, and more.  There is a great forum online called The 17th Shard that is all about connecting his stories in the cosmere.  Growing up as a Harry Potter fan, I scourged the books for hints and clues of what was to come, for connections that may or may not be there, and for backstories and hidden meanings of characters.  The Way of Kings and Brandon’s other books brings this back to me as there are fragments here and there that enticingly foreshadow things to come and how the worlds are actually connected.  This is one of Brandon’s most amazing skills—he tells on his blog of what novels he has in the works.  Let me tell you…he has dozens and many of them are connected.  How he can keep everything in order is beyond me.  He writes other stories as breaks from the cosmere and his major works, and then those stories become trilogies unto themselves.  The Way of Kings needs multiple rereads to understand what is going on and how things connect to other things.  This may excite you, or it may dismay you.  This third time around I’ve already noticed quite a bit that I didn’t get before, but I love being able to read a good story multiple times and get something more from it with every read.

Each book in the Stormlight Archive is going to focus on a different character.  Other characters won’t disappear in later books, but the main story will be from one character.  The Way of Kings is Kaladin’s book, though we have multiple interludes from several characters, along with extended chapters following Shallan and Dalinar.  Brandon estimates that the series will be at least 10 books, so there are plenty of characters to follow and it promises to be an epic fantasy.  The format reminds me of The Wheel of Time in a way, as some characters are heard from more in some books than others (You can find my review of The Wheel of Time on the blog).  It is a great way to show multiple parts of the world (in this case, Roshar) and to slowly connect those parts into one overall story.

Brandon’s magic system in The Way of Kings is phenomenal, as usual.  The world itself is very unique—highstorms come across the plains threatening everything in its path.  People survive by taking shelter in strong walled buildings, by building their cities in sheltered coves.  Animals and vegetation survive through adaptions to the weather—grass contracts in upon itself when storms come or even when animals try to eat it or people are near to step on it.  Animals have thick shells, or are disguised as rocks, and have adapted to the weather.  There is one land, however, Shinovar, that seems to have normal weather, grass, and animals (as we would see it).  The magic system involves stormlight—power or energy that comes from the highstorms, as well as different ways to yield it, of which not all have been described in the first book.

There are a few aspects or themes that intrigue me while reading the book—one theme is that of leadership, of earning the trust and respect of the people.  Kaladin is gaining and earning respect by going back to the old ways, by working hard, doing the little things to earn the respect of his fellow bridgemen.  On the other hand, Dalinar is losing respect from his men and others in the armies of Alethkar.  He sticks to the old ways, follows a rigorous code of conduct and is concentrated on uniting Alethkar and following the book The Way of Kings, which describes how kings should act with honor, by serving the people, etc.  People think he is losing his touch, that he is old fashioned and too uptight.  I can’t wait to see how these things play out.  A second theme that is really interesting is religion, but the topic is barely touched in the first book except for some hints, flashbacks, and basic information about the “church” or devotaries, the priest-like ardents, individual’s callings, etc.

The Bad:

This is the beginning of an epic fantasy.  If Brandon releases a book every two years, as he hopes, that would take us at least 16 years until he reaches book ten.  So if you start reading, be prepared to be in it for the long run!  It is good and bad…you always have to wait, but you always have something to look forward to.

It does take a while to really understand the general happenings of the book, the world, etc.  As I said above, I’m still understanding more on the third reading.  Could be good or bad, depending on how you like to read.

The Verdict:

Please read!  And please feel free to email me or tweet me your thoughts, books you recommend, etc.!

Written by Heidi V

Heidi is a co-creator and writer at Definitely Not for the Birds (DNFB). She is an avid reader, a diehard Badger fan, and knows from experience that a good hike can solve almost any ailment. Follow Heidi @heidi_5 and DNFB @not4birds.