- The Good: Fantasy world-building!
- The Bad: Overall length and the time it takes for a substantive conflict to unfold
- The Literary: Masterful exposition of the history, mythology, and politics of the world
The Knights Radiant fell centuries ago, but the few Shardblades and Shardplate that remain are coveted mystical swords and armor that transform ordinary men into extraordinary warriors. In a world of war, stone, and storms, the slave Kaladin struggles to save the men who fight alongside him in a war that doesn’t make sense. The commander of an army in the same war, former warrior and Brightlord Dalinar Kholin can’t stop the visions of long-dead Knights Radiant. An ocean away, Shallan seeks to escape her old life and to study under an eminent scholar, but her studies uncover dangerous ancient secrets.
The Way of Kings is well over a 1000 pages long, and it’s only the opening movement in the Stormlight Archive series. So, yes, it’s long, but if you love epic fantasy, then you’ll love its “epic-ness”. Enjoy your journey through the thoughtfully detailed world. Don’t worry about the action; it’ll come. Sanderson is known for his worldbuilding, and he delivers, particularly with the magical systems. He creates a world and it’s rules, discovers interesting applications, explores unexpected implications, then blows your mind when he takes it to the extreme. Even the ecology of the world and it’s weather patterns are rich. The world of Roshar experiences highstorms so powerful that no one can survive if caught out in one. The ground is mostly rocky terrain, but the grass retracts into the soilless ground and trees pull in their branches. Most animals hide in their thick, crustacean-like shells. Then there’s the Spren, creatures of nature that embody ideals or concepts. And don’t forget we still don’t know the truth of the Knights Radiant.
Compared to other Sanderson stories, I think he’s improved his characters. They always have nice arcs, but the characters in this epic have great nuances. Of the three POV characters, Kaladin and Shallan really intrigue me, but there’s a lot of setup for more to come for Dalinar in upcoming books.
Kaladin is the reluctant hero. He’s fallen far and his luck is low, but despite his depressive state, he’s the every-man for whom you’ll love to root. Shallan, on the other hand, is tenacious and sharp and witty and talented, and it’s always a joy to read a character who knows what she wants. And for you fans of fantasy politics, Dalinar provides the birds-eye view of the kingdom as a whole, the movement of the armies, and the history collected in the ancient text The Way of Kings.
Recommended for fans of epic fantasy series with extensive world-building and magical systems!
“Life before Death.
Strength before Weakness.
Journey before Destination.”