Jorge Desormeaux's Reviews > The Way of Kings

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
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Feb 04, 2012

it was amazing
Read in February, 2012

I began reading this book with a frown. The Prelude lasts barely more than 3 pages, and it assaulted me with 'Desolations', 'Dustbringers', 'Shardblades', 'Oathpact' and 'Radiants', all of them thrown about without care or explanation. The first chapter is no better: more meaningless words strewn carelessly. Worse, the opening sccene is a first-person narrative of a white-clad assassin who engages in a dizzying (confusing) set of gravity-manipulating acrobatics (which involve more arbitrary names of little use to the reader) to kill anything and everything in his way. Listening to his internal monologue was annoying, and I could find myself wishing for him to fail.

Obscure terms thrown around to impress and confuse the reader, check. Lots of adjective-noun words, some of which are redundant ('Oathpact'), check. Grotesquely overpowered character that polarised me within 4 pages, check. If the author makes this many mistakes in such a short number of pages, I thought, there is no chance this is going to be good.

I decided to stick with it anyway because both the author and the novel have an excellent reputation. And I am glad I did, because this novel is amazingly rich. Sanderson has a knack for weaving together worlds which are different from our own, and different from "standard" Tolkien-inspired fantasy, and part of that knack has to do with minting new names and visual ideas. Rather than offering the reader easy analogues with earth animals or fantastic creatures that everyone is familiar with, Sanderson makes his own. Also his own rules for what magic is and how it works, and a rich background that informs how the world came to be the way it is. It takes him a lot of time to set that up—and it takes the reader time, too, to become comfortable with it—but it pays off well.

In addition to having a great (fresh) setting that you have not seen before, The Way of Kings does an excellent job in studying the character and growth of the main characters it presents. It touches on subjects which are not usually examined in much depth in fantasy literature: Kaladin's story speaks about honour and loyalty in a way that is deeply personal and deeply touching, while Shallan’s story gives a personal account of betrayal. The novel is long and its pace is often slow, but that volume and time allow you, the reader, to get familiar with each of the main characters and it allows the author to let them grow organically, over long stretches, making them feel flawed, human, and very much alive.

I have trouble discussing what makes The Way of Kings so good because the novel is so long and deals with so many things. It is among the best accounts of leadership that I've seen in fiction, and the best study of what loyalty and honour are about that I have ever read. It is refreshing to see a consistent framework for magic that even the main characters follow, rather than getting a pass because they're "the chosen ones".

But above all that—above the cleverness and effectiveness of the ideas that it deals with—the reader in me wants to recommend this book because it is such a good read. I read 1,007 pages of it in the space of 2-3 days; I was so engrossed in the narrative and what was going on with the characters that I was thinking, breathing consuming nothing else. I thought about technique and themes and author intent here and there, but it was only after I was finished that I had much time for it.

Neil Gaiman once remarked on how sad it is that "fantasy", the genre which deals with imagining new worlds and societies which aren't chained by the dictates of ours, has become so formulaic and samey. I often feel that way, and for that reason the amount of fantasy I consume has been declining steadily in recent years. To my fellow sceptics I would say: forget all the mediocre, half-baked, clumsy, unimaginative fantasy you've read that has made you cynical and knowledgeable about the vices of bad writing. This is the real thing.

May you enjoy the journey as much as I did.
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02/01/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-18 of 18) (18 new)

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Patricia Great review. I actually felt the same way during the first few chapters, but then got so engrossed with the characters, in which Brandon Sanderson never fails to create great ones, (I have never hated a character in most of his books i've read). It turned out to be one of my favorite books, and I was screaming during the last few chapters.


Ibkay Very well written review! You perfectly described how I felt reading this book, though I completed it in about a week. It is just so good, I can't wait for the next one in March 2014. I totally agree with your describing the characters as being so alive, and the values of leadership, honour and loyalty. Awesome book, I expect it to be my next favourite series on the scale of Jordan's wheel of time, thanks for your review!


Leayla Thank you for your fantastic review.
I have only just started reading and I feel much the same way about the opening chapters. Your review has convinced me to keep reading.


message 4: by Gillespie (new)

Gillespie Boyd I'm glad I saw this. I got the ebook of this on sale and wrote it off after the intro. I'll give it another shot.


message 5: by Carl (new)

Carl Bewley Great review...I've just started this book and your observations of the prologue and first chapter are spot on. I also grow tired of being bombarded with new terms in Fantasy and SF from page one like I'm supposed to know what a gynosperm forest is (I'm looking at you Mr Dan Simmons!).

That's why I came looking for good reviews on this book.. to see if it's worth continuing with (time is a premium these days and I'm looking for a gripping read!).

I was going to give up as it didn't really seem my thing but I'm encouraged by your review. I will press on.

Now, if only his nomenclature was better...still grappling with Ashis from ishis....hmmm ;)


Irene Ok, I'll keep going a little while longer.


message 7: by Wesley (new) - added it

Wesley Spradlin I agree that the prologue and first few chapters had confusing elements but that's the point. I love the way that was done it's not slow and boring these new things are thrown at you in context as if you should know of them and it leaves you curious and drives you to keep reading to learn as much as you can about this oathpact and the shardblades. And it makes you want to learn why this strange character can do what he's doing. I admit it's confusing at first but it is so in the best of ways. Sanderson wasn't make mistakes he was making his readers curious


Charlie I agree that the prelude and the first chapter had some odd words that no one would understand. To add to your list: “stormlight,” “lashings,” and “Parshindi.” When I read the prelude and the first chapter, I too felt a bit confused and slightly annoyed. I did not like the way Sanderson made the white-clad assassin so powerful. It is hard to know why he did this, although it clearly ties into the story later. Like you, I stuck with the story (although I did not find the beginning as irritating as you did), and like you, I am glad I did.

In Way of Kings, Sanderson does indeed have a knack for making a world so different from ours and one that is different from, as you say, a “’standard’ Tolkien inspired fantasy.” This includes the way Sanderson creates a consistent framework of magic, with his own rules of how the magic works, including how different people gain and manifest their magical powers. Each of the main character’s magic was used in a unique way, so it was almost like his/her magic was part of his/her personality. One thing I especially appreciated was the fact that each person had to experiment with their powers in order to get more of it – and to get better at using it. I also liked the fact that you lost your magic if you went against an oath. It was great to see the main characters follow this magical framework instead of them suddenly getting some strange manifest of power. It was interesting to watch the characters discover their powers when they did not realize they had them to begin with (for example, when Kaladin started using stormlight before he realized what he was doing). It got even more interesting to see their powers grow over time after they discovered them.

You mention that the Way of Kings, “does an excellent job in studying the character growth of the main characters it presents.” While I agree with this, I found that Shallan’s chapters were a bit boring, there just was not much action. On the other hand, I really enjoyed the chapters featuring Kaladin and Dalinar because there was so always so much going on, including chasm fiend hunts and various bridge runs.

I also agree that this book is unlike many other fantasy books and goes beyond many “formulaic and samey” books out there. Despite the rough start (prelude), there are so many things about this book that make it one of my favorite books, and that is saying a lot. I agree with you: this is indeed, “the real thing.”


Jorge Desormeaux Wesley wrote: "I agree that the prologue and first few chapters had confusing elements but that's the point. I love the way that was done it's not slow and boring these new things are thrown at you in context as ..."
There is an ideal ratio between educating the reader and teasing him with things he can't possibly know to whet his curiosity. The prologue and initial chapters are way, way off this ratio. I found the experience annoying, and judging by the comments so did a fair number of other readers. I'm just glad that there are positive reviews on Goodreads that might persuade some of them to stick with the novel.


message 10: by Alexei (new)

Alexei Boridin When I read this book, I couldn't help but love all of the characters whose points of view that you read from. While I was reading, I had a gut feeling that Kaladin was going to exchange in some way or form from Sadeas to Dalinar, be it in an act of insubordination, betrayal, or a simple slave trade. Also, I loved the character developments of Syl, Rock, and Adolin, simply because their characters were so intriguing and different from the others. However, when I found out about the bond between spren and Surgebinding, and how that had affected both Kaladin with Syl and Szeth with his spren, I had a huge mind-blow moment. My favorite part, by far, was when Kaladin used his Adhesion abilities while assaulting the Parshendi in their own armour, therefore saving a huge number of bridgemen that would've otherwise died.


message 11: by Jackson (new)

Jackson Gibbs I agree with you on the slow start. This book really took a while to get going, but soon, I could hardly put it down. I actually kind of liked the things that were added in the beginning with no immediate answer, because that gave me something to look for, if it hadn't been for that, I probably would have overlooked the Heralds entirely, and the importance of the Nights Radiant. Plus, it made some of the reveals so much more satisfying to think, "OOH! I remember that from the beginning!" This made the book more complicated, but more interesting and fun.


Rachel Loyd I felt the same about the first few chapters. Difficult to understand and follow. But now, waiting for the next books to come out, I've re-read this one about 5 times. And I never re-read books. There is just so much that you miss as the world unfolds and describes itself that you can re-read and still feel excitement and mystery within the story.


Saleem Just started reading the book. Didn't like it much but your review has given me heart to go on..... Thank...


message 14: by Will (new)

Will Hutchison This really made me Lol. I actually just skipped though the first chapter. I had no idea wtf was going on. I stuck with it too, and when it really got into kaladins story I was hooked. It's my favourite fantasy series that I have read in years. I think it is probably the most 'adult' fantasy series I have read. It deals with pain and loss in a very real way, which I've never seen explored to this level in fantasy before.


Mahesh Raut This is my first high fantasy book. I haven't read any of Sanderson's book before. Is this the first book of the series? Do I need to read his other books to understand the story?


message 16: by Jeff (new) - added it

Jeff Will, have you read any grim dark fantasy or ASOIAF? Because I wouldn't really call this very adult, even though it deals with pain and loss. There are no R rated themes really.


message 17: by V.G. (new) - added it

V.G. Castle You read 1k plus words in 3 days?!
Wow, how did you do that? Here, I was considering if I should read the book. But the length is making me hesitate.


message 18: by L. (new) - rated it 3 stars

L. I agree with all the negatives in your review. However, those negative points stuck with me and I never got over the sting. Book was good, not great for me. Awesome review!


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