The Way of Kings
Stormlight Archives #1
By Brandon Sanderson
It has been centuries since the fall of the ten consecrated orders known as the Knights Radiant, but their Shardblades and Shardplate remain: mystical swords and suits of armor that transform ordinary men into near-invincible warriors. Men trade kingdoms for Shardblades. Wars were fought for them, and won by them.
One such war rages on a ruined landscape called the Shattered Plains. There, Kaladin, who traded his medical apprenticeship for a spear to protect his little brother, has been reduced to slavery. In a war that makes no sense, where ten armies fight separately against a single foe, he struggles to save his men and to fathom the leaders who consider them expendable.
Brightlord Dalinar Kholin commands one of those other armies. Like his brother, the late king, he is fascinated by an ancient text called The Way of Kings. Troubled by over-powering visions of ancient times and the Knights Radiant, he has begun to doubt his own sanity.
Across the ocean, an untried young woman named Shallan seeks to train under an eminent scholar and notorious heretic, Dalinar’s niece, Jasnah. Though she genuinely loves learning, Shallan’s motives are less than pure. As she plans a daring theft, her research for Jasnah hints at secrets of the Knights Radiant and the true cause of the war.Ok, so previously I have not enjoyed Sanderson's novels. But I did, for the most part, enjoy the work he's done to date on completing the Wheel of Time.
So when I heard the big announcement about the Stormlight Archives ten book deal I was unimpressed. Particularly with the early 'gushing' of some people and his own disingenuous blogging about the praise and his being unworthy of it (all the while repeating it) on his website - now I have to admit that reading authors blog post can cause a lot of misunderstanding, so I was in fact prepared to accept that I have misinterpreted the tone(s) of those postings and move on.
To which I began to harass my Hachette rep for a reading copy - and subsequently a got a 400 odd page (incomplete) early manuscript - having seen that the book was coming in at 1008 pages I was pretty sure that the manuscript I was given wasn't the finished product. So I was very good and held off even looking at it until Daniel was able to bring in for me the finished product a week before general release (and yes I have only just finished - hey! I did have WorldCon in the middle of it all you know).
I really enjoyed it.
It travelled very well through three main story lines, as seen through the eyes of three different characters and I was bored with none of them, although I did find his 'jumping back in time' chapters for Kaladin really irritating. This in turn, however, made me think a lot about the momentum of narrative. Thanks Brandon!
Unfortunately my favourite character - Shallan - had the fewest chapters :-( And I must admit for the first time ever I skipped chapters to get to the end of her chapters before going back.
The setting is inventive, but as ever with Sanderson’s work I found the inventiveness almost too much like a ‘look at me, I am so clever and original’, because ultimately – but for the great storm’s that sweep across the land – this story could have been told in any ‘traditional’ setting (read medieval) just as well as it was in this one. Too much emphasis seemed to be placed on what was ‘different’ about his world rather than the storytelling, which was enjoyable in and of itself.
There were parts of the story that seemed to be added in for no real purpose other than to demonstrate just how diverse Roshar is, and how different it is to anything else you might have read to date. If they were being used to set up or foreshadow some future event – which I suspect they might be – then I have to think they were wasted efforts because either they didn’t get resolved in this book or they are going to be picked up in the next. And given we’ve just read 1008 pages I am not confident that they will have as much ‘punch’ in a future book as they would have had in this one.
But for all that I thought the book was great; I have been doing a lot of hand selling it in the store and it’s really inspired me to keep pushing forward with my own work!
I’m glad Sanderson is going to finish the Wheel of Time before we get the next instalment of the Stormlight Archives but I am also a little annoyed because – damn it! – I want book two now!