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The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
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Wow! This is a good read! I wasn't sure I'd be writing a review about this novel with those sentences for the first 300 pages, but thankfully after finishing the final 1001 pages setting up this new series, I CAN!

This book is a truly monumental work. Brandon Sanderson has laid the groundwork for a giant, enormous, humongous series. For those unaware of the intended scope of this projected series, 'The Way of Kings' is book one of ten, two of which have been actually been completed to date. The entire series is called 'The Stormlight Archive'.

The story is long and convoluted, with a mysterious history shrouded in blood, magic and the fall of civilizations. The current civilization is one fallen from the heights, occupied mostly with male pursuits of proving manhood, such as with hand-to-hand warfare using horses, suits of armor, bows and arrows, swords (some of which is amplified by mysterious magic). They are using remnant technology no one remembers how to make, crippled by religious superstitions, class divisions and slavery. Writing is a skill for females only. Many of the current humanoid races wage war endlessly on each other for no other reason except for primarily racial hatred, apparently, and gaining control of power-generating minerals for magic and bragging rights. Codes similar to English medieval knight fairy tales and the Marquess of Queensbury Rules of boxing are theoretically in place; however, even families related by marriage or relationships plot to kill each other. The warriors are honorable only on the surface, even while it's obvious to the reader this civilization is going down the drain.

Our heroes, Kaladin, Shallan, and Dalinar, do not know each other and are unaware of their future parts to play (so are we), but they have been damaged by the rot in this world and all are struggling to either hang on to their what they have left or are looking for a reason to keep on living. The book ends on a hopeful note, when our heroes are realizing that solving their current difficulties means separating out what tragedies happened in the past from the obfuscations of time and religion. Each of them must work through layers of institutional self-interest and a culture smothering under a myopic but deadly tournament of champions mentality. Each has suffered through a crisis of faith and loyalty which has forced them to step away from the expectations of their families. All of them are now unexpectedly on different paths then they had originally planned, taking them outside of what they knew. But the one thing linking these characters is what they've learned through their individual adventures is that they are in the thick of momentous changes to come.

Brief impressions:

Kaladin - my favorite character, although he is altogether too self-flagellating. However, he is one of the people who is sticking in my mind days afterwards, even before I realized he was going to be a hero. I found his awakening awareness to the big picture of the world and of other people VERY realistic.

Shallan - meh. Her backstory was great, but as a person, she is a bit of warmed-over toast. Maybe it's because since she is a young woman, she is given a tepid role as a beginning scholar and a dutiful daughter, (view spoiler) working for a powerful aristocrat, Jasnah. Jasnah is definitely going to be in the middle of this world's struggles for power and survival, as she is related to powerful families and is a powerful welder of magic.

Dalinar - he is the seasoned leader I wish the writer Sanderson was as a writer. Weird, huh? How can the author get the tone right for an aging warrior of long standing who has seen it all, but who is tiredly aware he is the only one who can get the job done? He is the adult in the room full of self-centered squabbling children. Because of Dalinar, I think Sanderson will be a GREAT writer, especially if he tightens up conversations. I thought Dalinar was the character most fully fleshed out.

Szeth - is the kind of person who I find tremendously disgusting and stupid as dirt. A follower, a true believer, a black and white thinker, and a religious cultist. It is obvious we readers are supposed to feel some sympathy with his position as a man enslaved to his code of honor, or whatever has made him debase himself forever. I don't care how much he believes he must cover himself in excrement and damnation, I didn't see any reason why he couldn't flay his own skin off or something. Knowing what he has done, and how he thinks, I'd give him the potato peeler myself.

Syl - I LOVE her. I want one! Having said that, what the hell are they?

I think this book is amazing, interesting and absorbing (I'd be glowing with Stormlight, if I was a book Radiant right now) to read. But I don't know if it is wonderful enough to continue for me. If I was a young adult the decision would be YES! However, as a (ahem) mature adult with literary tastes, I find Sanderson's books falling a touch short in the writing area. Creativity, characters, plotting - all of that is tremendously skillful, realistic and exciting. But in putting sentences together, it seems to me Sanderson needs more seasoning and editing. For one thing, he tends to be repetitive and overdone in this novel, occasionally, and another, a touch heavy on action and not enough on character, relying on stereotypical brush strokes (not a bad thing, generally). I found especially jarring some of the dialogue, of which the writing falls way short, especially when the character is supposed to be witty or wisecracking. Otherwise, the discourses between characters are simply a few steps above serviceable. However, when the author wrote for the earnest, heroic, or warm personalities is when the author performed his best at verbal interchanges. They could be particularly touching and lived with me awhile after putting the book down.

I hope Sanderson lives long enough to complete the series (a number of fantasy/science fiction authors who wrote a series which involved a pivotal cast of dozens over a tumultuous period of time while living in a world of fantastic creatures and technology/magic died or became too sick to complete their series). Before you toss bricks at me, keep in mind to start a series like this is a commitment as monumental as each book (this one was 1001 pages and it was only the first book in the series), and I'm on the downslope of MY aging life. I've estimated I've got about 20 more years to live and read books, statistically. From my experience, many authors take 15 or so years to write a ten-book series. Even if they start writing it when they are young enough to finish it in a couple of decades, they often get tired or ill, move on for a few years to other things before returning to finish - if they don't get sick and die!

When I was younger I was fearless at starting any series - now, not so much. For me, the possible two decades I may have left before moving to a nursing home means I have to be far more choosy. This means a 'maybe I'll continue' commitment at this time. I have a huge stack or two of books surrounding me as it is!

Anyway. It looks like a good series!
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Reading Progress

March 30, 2014 – Started Reading
March 30, 2014 – Shelved
March 30, 2014 –
page 22
2.18% "At least the map runs only a page...."
April 2, 2014 –
page 77
7.65% "[image error] photo imagejpg1_zps3ac367ec.jpg\n \n Sigh. I wish my library had 'the Way of Kings' in ebook format....."
April 4, 2014 –
page 312
30.98% "This is very dull, so far."
April 5, 2014 –
page 618
61.37% "Very interesting, finally."
April 8, 2014 – Shelved as: fantasy
April 8, 2014 – Shelved as: religious-terror
April 8, 2014 – Shelved as: young-adult
April 8, 2014 – Shelved as: politics
April 8, 2014 – Shelved as: sword-and-sorcery
April 8, 2014 – Shelved as: war-war-war-and-more-war
April 8, 2014 – Shelved as: magical-drama
April 8, 2014 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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message 1: by Karen (new)

Karen I began this book yesterday, and so far it seems like there is just bashing and war. Guy stuff. I also agree with you about the writing style. It is not particularly elegant. I think I am older than you, so I REALLY need to rethink this. :)


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