Jonathan's Reviews > The Way of Kings, Part 2

The Way of Kings, Part 2 by Brandon Sanderson
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Dec 29, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: fantasy-challenge, own, personal-favourites, favourite-series, fantasy, brandon-sanderson
Read on March 20, 2014 — I own a copy , read count: 2


Note

Before reading the rest of this review I'd like to note that this is a two part review with notes from a first reading and a second reading. Like with any fantasy epic beginning this entire work starts out slowly but this second part becomes much faster and more readable. I encourage reading of this book, because as noted later it was my favourite book read in 2012 and I have been eagerly waiting for this novel almost as much as I awaited the finale of The Wheel of Time.

In short I wanted to clarify that on a first reading of any novel I can be very eager and excited about the novel if it thrills me. It is the second (and potentially third and so on) readings that inform one as to whether the book is one which has stuck with me as a great work of fiction. And my re-read of The Way of Kings (both parts) left me with such an impression. This is a fine fantasy novel, one that starts off slowly perhaps, but one with plenty of twists and turns. As mentioned elsewhere, Brandon Sanderson is easily now my favourite fantasy author for his ideas, pace, energy and all round readability. His prose is not the purple prose of other authors but he continues to improve and his ideas and themes shine through strongly no matter what.

Review The First

One of the positives of being a uni student is possessing the time on my hands to read books. Okay sure I have to do all the university texts and so forth but when travelling an hour to and from campus and in between lectures a remarkable amount of time is free to read. Well it certainly beats having to attend school where there was no time to read.

How does that all relate? Oh simply on the odd coincidence that I managed to finish the last two hundred pages across the three hours I had free travelling and waiting for lectures/tutorials. And I was staggered when I finally finished book one of the Stormlight Archive. This could very well be one of the best epic fantasy series ever written. Not that I want to make claims before the series is finished...

Let me break it down.

The Plot

This was superb. Revolving around three different main characters Sanderson plotted a whole course for his novel that I didn't see right at the beginning. Full of wonderful twists, turns, plots and sudden realisations Sanderson does a fine job of keeping his readers interested. I particularly loved how he would drop in a sudden bomb at the end of a chapter that left me going: "Hang on what! You mean Saldeas actually... You mean the visions are actually..." It was that kind of plot. I also loved the way in which Sanderson slowly provides a view into the background behind each of the character's motives. I feel that they were much more fleshed out in terms of providing me as a reader with a sense of how each character's morality worked than A Game of Thrones which I was unable to get into. That's not a cheap shot at A Game of Thrones which many have enjoyed but rather an indication that I really liked how Sanderson wrote his world.

The Worldbuilding

As in Mistborn the world is highly fleshed out. But this world is even deeper than the world of Mistborn. Religion again has its place alongside discussions of philosophy and morality. There are various native plants, creatures and people discussed which all fit neatly into a grand mythology of the Heralds and the Voidbringers. If you're looking for a Tolkienesque world with a grand level of attention to details then look at this for starters.

The creatures introduced by Sanderson were fascinating. You had the chasmfiends, the Parshendii and parshmen, the chull, the axehounds and the sky eels for starters. Each of which were nicely depicted through images in the book. In fact the elaborate artwork was something else to behold for a book. The most intriguing creatures however were the spren. These are spirits which appear in different forms and flock to various events. For example windspren fly on the breeze, firespren appear around fires, painspren are attracted to pain, rotspren are attracted to rot and so on.

The Magic

You have the supernatural featuring strongly as in all of Sanderson's books to date. There are three types of main magic mentioned along with another which is hinted at. The fourth I won't delve into as it is simply called Old Magic and may feature more in later novels. I'll put a spoiler here as I provide some details which some readers may find spoiling.

(view spoiler)

The Characterisation

I loved the characters of this world. They each had a strong and properly explained moral centre to their being that was observable from the start. Some may become annoyed at the lack of sexuality in the book but I disagree with it being absent. In fact I think Sanderson deserves credit for fitting a clever touch of romance during a massive war where most of the women are away from the front-lines. (view spoiler)

Because what the book is about is not romance or action or war although those elements are visible. This is in essence a book about the characters and how they struggle through conflict, how they wrestle with turmoil and danger and in the end triumph. This is a book about overcoming the odds. The best kind of book in my eyes. Of course naturally each character must be brought low to rise again and you feel pity for their failing. But then when they rise you cheer for their victory.

So what now?

Well obviously I suggest you go read the novel if you love fantasy in its epic glory. This is a grand novel and world that for me was addictive. I'm left desiring more despite the thousand pages I've just finished. And that's a good sign of an awesome book for me. If I loved it enough to hungrily devour it. Because what I can see is that Sanderson is just a good storyteller telling good stories. And no book of his I've yet read has been worth less than five. (There's always Warbreaker but I'm an optimist). Anyway do I need to present another reason for you to enjoy this book?

Initial Update

I'm going to put this out here right now since it is the middle of the year and say this is probably my favourite book read all year (2012). Then you can have Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell in second place. Tied third places go to The Hero of Ages and Warbreaker followed by 1984 and Brave New World.

A Further Note

Having completed my re-read for this book I am both apprehensive and excited about seeing the plot twists and turns of the second book. Almost everything I noted again in my re-read has been covered across the review for part 1 and part 2 already save for one small note.

I would like to comment on a point many, many reviewers I know have made and this is in regards to Shallan's story. Some have suggested that she was far too annoying (I would agree with that in part) and not necessary to be featured in this first book (to which I disagree). I feel that her story was important in showing all the elements of what was going on across the world of Roshar - rather than focusing on one area - as well as providing a more feminine character presence. I would further add that it is in the second half of the book where, to me, Shallan becomes a more rounded out character as well as a more necessary character (for her connection to Jasnah if nothing else).

The one other addition to this note that I can make would be to encourage you to read this book if you are into supernatural literature in any regard. There are themes of war, love, betrayal, necessary evil, honour and religion wrapped around a grand story that is fascinating. Again, it starts out slowly and the characters can at first seem unlikeable but one of the true joys about this novel is that none of the characters are really unlikeable for long in that you understand that even the villainous characters have fleshed out motives for their actions. And that is what truly makes compelling characters - not merely giving characters evil actions to undertake and calling them 'noble' despite it.
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Reading Progress

03/05/2012 page 335
63.0%
03/17/2014 marked as: currently-reading
03/18/2014 page 12
2.0% "The amount of Uni reading sure seems to increase each year...
I so want to get through this so I can move onto Words of Radiance!"
03/19/2014 marked as: read
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Comments (showing 1-20 of 20) (20 new)

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message 1: by Rykel (new)

Rykel I liked the review but I don't think I'll be reading the book anytime soon.


Jonathan Thanks for the feedback Rykel. And yes unless you're into long fantasy I'd say that you might struggle a little. I loved the fact that this epic and long book was broken in half neatly to allow a proper read. Apparently the future books won't be quite so long...


message 3: by Rykel (new)

Rykel Your welcome but it's not the amount of words nor the length of the read that would deter me from picking up this book, but rather the pacing and the plot.The brief run down you gave of the plot just didn't sell it for me, and trust me I've read longer books with progression similar to watching paint dry.


Jonathan Personally I really enjoy Sanderson's pacing but I know a lot of people find it slow in places. I guess since I've read a lot of really slow novels that I find his work quite lively. And when he does his action scenes it's brilliant. He pretty much kicks off the first book with first an intriguing snippet from his world's past and then he goes straight into a battle that affects the rest of the book. There were interludes which featured random stories set elsewhere apart from the main action but when you moved further on you began to see why those interludes featured. I guess that I just loved the way Sanderson pieced together his story and maybe that's just me on that front.


Yasiru (reviews will soon be removed and linked to blog) This first entry is mostly world-building (and a very impressive feat in that regard), but Sanderson's prose style is easy and quick-flowing (sometimes a bit too lax and simplistic in my opinion), so he doesn't botch the pace despite how little actually happens and how recollections and distant happenings are interspersed throughout
.
I don't know how the series will go, but the start is a solid and promising one. Hopefully the next book will have a stronger character focus.


Jonathan Yasiru wrote: "This first entry is mostly world-building (and a very impressive feat in that regard), but Sanderson's prose style is easy and quick-flowing (sometimes a bit too lax and simplistic in my opinion), ..."

I think he gets the balance between simplistic writing and elegance mostly right however. I've noticed that sometimes writing well means writing in a style that suits what you're attempting. Take a master of short stories in Chekhov. His prose is never extremely sophisticated or lengthy but it is incredibly well selected for what he intends (of course I still read his work based on translations but the various translations I've read more or less end up similar). Or take John Le Carre with his writing espionage novels. He also uses cleverly chosen and well crafted prose over elegant and flowery language. Sometimes long flowery words are needed and sometimes you just need simple elegance.


message 7: by Yasiru (reviews will soon be removed and linked to blog) (last edited Sep 07, 2012 05:25AM) (new)

Yasiru (reviews will soon be removed and linked to blog) Sanderson's prose is limited in scope I think, as much in the constructions as the language. He doesn't affect an arcane-seeming style as most fantasy authors do, and while this doesn't by itself mean much, I think it makes him lax sometimes about how best to say a thing, exactly because he's not working under constraints, i.e- it becomes easier to stick to a simple telling.

Chekhov has a kind of sparse and abrupt style which I don't think lends well to fantasy, but I'd say you're quite close with Le Carre. I wouldn't call it elegance exactly, but there's a kind of economy to Sanderson's writing (not economy of length, but in how long it seems to the reader- this present work is huge in terms of word/page count, but like you I too (and most readers I suspect) was able to hurry through significant parts of it despite this). It's to fantasy what Matthew Reilly's is to the thriller genre. It's well crafted to the extent that it's made very readable and not much more. Not that I'm saying you should be stumbling over the prose with something better, but there's not much ingenuity without some (not too distracting) complexity. I'm reading the Master and Margarita at the moment (which might be a quite out of the way comparison, but bear with me), and the style is just as eminently readable and economical in every sense (without being so stark for the sake of impact as some of Chekhov's stories- though again in translation), but also quite clever with a changing wit according to what character is being described, what's said between the lines, etc. Sanderson's tends to be simply statement, with little attempted beyond that, even if it's just right in how frantic to be when occasion calls. Which isn't a bad thing at all, since it provides a completely absorbing (utterly distraction free) and not at all strenuous reading experience, but with a little more discipline I think he can become a lot better still. It doesn't have to be condensed writing laden with meaning like Dunsany's (who relies on his unique style), but it could be like Moorcock's or Jordan's, simple, brisk, but with enough to give the prose further dimension (which may well help with Sanderson's characterisation too).


Jonathan I'd be interested to see how Sanderson could write with more discipline considering that the man is incredibly disciplined in how he organises and writes.
(I took my reply down to the simplest statement I could think of you see)

To write a little more though (okay I didn't really break it down to the simplest answer) I'm not sure he's quite comparable to Matthew Reilly. Sanderson still has a level of depth to his work if you notice it. He reminds me more of Steven Erikson whose Gardens of the Moon I've just finished. And for me personally fantasy is all about entertainment anyway (which is why I read so much of it). Classics by Austen, Dickens and Doyle can have their elegant prose (and I'll enjoy that too) but I always come back to the clutter of the fantasy genre for the escapism of a fast-paced (mostly) and entertaining read. There are exceptions such as Tolkien and Peake where the writing and style is superb and that draws me in more however.


message 9: by Yasiru (reviews will soon be removed and linked to blog) (last edited Sep 10, 2012 01:23AM) (new)

Yasiru (reviews will soon be removed and linked to blog) Briefly then:

I suppose what I mean is discipline in form, not how he proceeds with the story (which I reckon he does well enough, even going by Mistborn; I also think his priorities in tWoK, while a bit of a gamble, have the air of being thoroughly considered).

Sanderson has to make an effort at world-building, which naturally a thriller writer like Reilly doesn't have to work at, but in terms of style and pace, I do maintain that they're rather alike.

I read Gardens of the Moon a couple of months back too. Erikson tries for that atmosphere I mentioned, and maintains it better than does Sanderson, but his prose can be clumsy sometimes. In terms of the action however, I do see the similarity. Malazan is a promising series.
You should take a look at the Prince of Nothing trilogy (I might have recommended it to you). R. Scott Bakker writes elegantly and effortlessly evokes that alien fantasy atmosphere (his world is also unique compared to the medieval rehash worlds common today), but without sacrificing on the more linear action sequences. The first book is a must-read, and while I found the second not quite up to par, I'm told the last entry and the next trilogy make up for it. Content-wise, especially with the more graphic imagery, I think it's what aSoI&F could have been.

It seems I'll have to move Peake up my list. Hopefully next year I'll be able to tackle Gormenghast.
I think that perhaps it depends on where a reader is in terms of preferences when it comes to what style they like. I've found a taste for a more layered narrative lately, and I've been turning more to comics and manga rather than novels for the 'quick fixes' if you will.


Jonathan Ah yes I see what you mean. I guess it all depends on what you look at in books. There are those who look for entertainment and technique and those who look for one or the other. I tend to look for both but probably put a higher importance on entertainment and what the novel's ideas are. Layered narratives are interesting, it's what's lead me to want to read Cloud Atlas. I've heard the plot is meant to be a kind of Russian doll with a story in a story in a story. Do you tend to read according to what you have the taste for at the time of reading? I do at times but I tend to jump all over the place in my thoughts and what I read.


Yasiru (reviews will soon be removed and linked to blog) I do. Lately I've found a taste for short stories, but I think this reflects on a similar propensity to flit about. Trying to tackle a novel again at the moment.

From what I've heard of the Cloud Atlas, I didn't mean layered in the sense of the story itself ('narrative' might have been a poor choice of word there), but the hints and asides and general 'doublethink' devices (ones intended to be picked up on, unlike in the Orwellian sense) which can on the one hand distract, but on the other be edifying in a different way to the fast-paced and entertaining story progression. But it seems a very interesting book. First I heard of it (from the film trailer most likely) I thought for a wild moment that maybe it was the other David Mitchell who'd written it!


Jonathan Which other David Mitchell?

Ah I see what you mean now by layered.

By the way thanks for the fantasy recommendation. I've placed a hold on Bakker's book and look forward to reading it.

I've started Cloud Atlas today and it definitely seems interesting. It cut off partway through the 'first story' and will resume at the end.


Yasiru (reviews will soon be removed and linked to blog) The comedian/television personality; he of soap box fame- http://www.youtube.com/user/davidmitc...

I think you'll like the Prince of Nothing series. The first book is a must-read I think, but there are those George R R Martin-like elements sometimes.


Jonathan I don't mind those elements if the story is entertaining enough.


Yasiru (reviews will soon be removed and linked to blog) That it is, and well written too.


Rappelle Loved this book. Though I made the mistake of ordering mine online and accidentally bought the sliced up version (ended on page 500'something). Finished it but couldn't find part two in stores. Didn't want to order it online as it would take forever and I'm impatient. So, I found the full 1,000 paged book in a bookstore and bought that. xD

It was worth it, I don't care. I might give my other book to one of my friends.

The interludes at times peeved me (except for one, Szeth), because they didn't seem to have any...direct link to the story, except for taking part in the world of Rosher. However I watched an interview with Sanderson and he explained they were like mini short stories. I'm still not sure whether the other two interludes have any part of play in the grand scheme of all things. I suppose I'll discover the answer in later novels. I think.


message 17: by App (new)

App Guy I can't believe this book got such good reviews, feels like bad video game writing to me, and I'm sorry if i offend anyone by saying that, but the whole thing just feels really inconsequential and the way he writes is almost ridiculous. It feels like some regular schmuck is just telling you a story and making up the stupid names along the way...read ASOIAF there's nothing better


Jonathan Sorry App Guy but what you say about Brandon Sanderson's writing is precisely how I feel about ASOIAF... I feel like both Martin and Sanderson are making up the names as they go along and feel they both think about what they are writing but sad to say I find Martin's endless description dull along with his bizarre fetishes that he adds into his story as 'author wish fulfilment'. Also neither author has particularly memorable prose.


Hasham Rasool I love your review my dear friend Jonathan.


Marley Norris Cherished


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