Madeline's Reviews > The Way of Kings

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
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May 22, 12

bookshelves: 2012, borrowed, sff, novels, high-fantasy, family, class, over-rated, depression, we-used-to-be-friends
Recommended for: hahahaha
Read from May 16 to 22, 2012, read count: 1

If you have to read The Way of Kings - which you shouldn't do, but if you have to because your dad gave it to you and he's your dad - I recommend you do so while a little bit drunk. It makes this book a lot more fun. For example, when passages like this occur:
She stared eastward, her expression horrified, eyes wide and sorrowful. It was the face of a child watching a brutal murder that stole her innocence.
. . . well, I'd much rather read that sort of thing while slightly drunk.

Now, I know it looks like I'm pushing you toward cirrhosis, given the length of the book and the fact that howlers of this kind pop up frequently. But hey: I'm not suggesting a drinking game (although it would be ridiculously easy to construct one) and actually, although The Way of Kings is quite terrible it is never difficult to read. Part of that is because Sanderson repeats every piece of information at least three times and rehashes characterization infinitely, so you're unlikely to lose track of where you are. So it goes quickly - I probably could have read it in a day or two if I'd cared enough about what happened to put aside a weekend for the book.

Relatedly, The Way of Kings isn't entirely unsalvageable, either. Part of the reason it's so bad (perhaps even the primary reason) is because Sanderson doesn't seem to know what is important. The world building seems to get a lot of praise, but it seems more like he'd rather be a video or computer game writer or designer than a novel writer: there's a distinct WOW feel to this book, and the world has a lot of gimmicks, and the plot has really no forward momentum - it's like everyone is bouncing around until the reach the next level. (I'm just saying: when you find yourself writing about "anticipationspren" that is a Red Flag.) So, if he'd cut out the prelude and the prologue, which are mostly establishing the setting - and it's not, frankly, such an opaque setting that a reasonably intelligent person couldn't figure it out as they went along (and anyway, there is something to be said for not telling your readers more than you tell your characters) - the book already has a more compelling opening. Cut even more - follow the Mamet rule and get rid of the first 20 minutes/150 pages - so that we start with Kaladin being glum in a slave cart and we're great. But even more egregious than the info-dumping (stuff I don't need to know: currency rates in anything but the broadest outline, what tertiary characters are wearing, and so on) are the endless flashbacks. I wish we could eliminate flashbacks from literature, I really do. But even if we can't do that, I wish we could limit Brandon Sanderson to a couple - again, this isn't so opaque or intricate a book that I can't pick up clues about formative experiences when they are reference twenty times a chapter, okay? BUT ALSO: that stuff doesn't matter. It really, really doesn't. The book would be both better and shorter without those flashbacks. Like, of course it's going to be ten books: fully half of each book is going to be extraneous to the plot.

The other big problem, as you might have guessed, is that Sanderson thinks his readers are very stupid. For example, if something important has just happened, and most of the book has been devoted to its occurrence, I don't need:
"Something just changed," Moash whispered, hand up. "Something important."
Yeah, we'd already got there! It's terrible writing anyway, just from an aesthetic perspective. Likewise, I don't need every bit of characterization spelled out for me. For one, a bit of ambiguity is valuable - otherwise it looks like a casting call or stage directions. For another, character is expressed by dialogue and action and if a writer is a good hand in at least one of those, then passages like
Navani was always at her most genuine when playing with new fabrials. It was one of the few times when one got to see her without any pretense. This wasn't Navani the king's mother or Navani the political schemer. This was Navani the excited engineer.
are entirely unnecessary.

Good things about this book: The food sounds delicious. The male/female divide is kind of interesting. Kiiiiind of. It passes the Bechdel test!

Other bad things: The battle and fight scenes were super boring and awkwardly written, and there are a loooooooot of them.
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Reading Progress

05/16/2012 page 197
16.0% "This book is quite bad but, oddly enough, not in a way that makes it difficult to read."
05/20/2012 page 723
57.0% "There is no destiny that cannot be conquered by contempt, Brandon Sanderson."
05/22/2012 page 1079
86.0% "Relief is in sight!"
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Patrick I wonder if you really are a reader or a fan of fantasy books. :P


message 2: by boudour (new)

boudour I'm glad I quit after the first laborious fight scene then, there was indeed a distinct feeling of being thought stupid by the author.
And yet I had enjoyed the prelude, but not enough to make me wade through the whole book.


Madeline I think I actually found the prelude fine when I was reading it, but then extraneous and unnecessary the further I got into the book.

Ugh, I'm reminded of the fight scenes - or rather, of the experience of reading the fight scenes, which is probably much worse! You were right to bail.


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