The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive #1) by Brandon Sanderson

Fantasy, 1007 pages, published in 2010

Spoiler Free Review:

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Where do I even start with a book this size? I considered breaking this up into multiple posts, but I wouldn’t even know how to break it up. I went into this book used to Brandon’s writing, so I tabbed a lot of things (look at the picture above) that I thought I would need to remember later on. I don’t know if this necessarily help me in the future but I think it made me think more critically about what was happening.

THE FORMAT

The format of this book is definitely a little daunting. There is a prelude, then a prologue, then finally part one of the book. Between each part, there are interludes. It was a lot for me to take in, especially after seeing a pretty long table of contents. Another thing that initially scared me was that there seemed to be a lot of time jumps. After the first few chapters that take place in the past, there are chapters in the present and also chapters in the past following a specific character. The past chapters are all chronological and I’ve gotten the impression that each book shows a different character’s backstory with these chapters.

In each section of the story, you follow a different mix of characters. The interludes follow seemingly random characters throughout the world. There are also pictures and maps thrown in between chapters are certain points. These really helped me grasp the world and the creatures in it.

Similar to Mistborn, there are epigraphs at the beginning of each chapter. The style changes each section, sometimes being a letter, others being a collection of excerpts from different texts. It was fun to try to figure out what exactly each one meant.

THE SETTING

This story takes place in Roshar, which is comprised of many countries, most notably Alethkar and Jah Kaved. Highstorms are intense storms that ravage the continent every few days. The landscape and people have adapted to them. People from different countries are quite distinct. Some have weird features, like foot long white eyebrows (my personal favorite), while others have unique skin, like red and black marbled.

I feel like in general, Brandon tends to lean into stereotypes for nationalities a little bit too much and this was no exception. If a character is from a certain country, you pretty much know their personality because its the same at everyone else from their country. There are exceptions of course, but most of the time, this is true.

In the main areas of the story, the ruling people are decided by the color of their eyes; lighteyes are in power while darkeyes are beneath them.

There were a few gender things that were odd to me. Men and women have very different roles. Men are for war and battle, while women are for science and art. Women also have a “safehand”, a hand that is covered and isn’t used for anything. Men don’t know how to read, and I couldn’t tell if this was because it was beneath them or if women just have the capacity for it. Men and women also eat different food. This aspect was weird for me. In this book, nothing was done on either end to challenge these restrictive roles. I’m hoping that in future books, something will be done to challenge and change these traditions.

THE PLOT & THE CHARACTERS

It is hard to pin down a plot for this book because there are so many things happening to so many different characters. Kaladin is a slave who has to run carrying bridges to dangerous battlefronts. Shallan is trying to convince a heretic to teach her so she can get close and steal an artifact that could help her family. Dalinar is struggling to find a purpose for the war he is fighting, as well as keeping political rivals off his back.

In this book, we get Kaladin’s backstory. It shows his motivations for why he is willing to fight back, unlike the other slaves around him, as well as how he even became a slave in the first place. I think Kaladin is really interesting. He comes up will all of these grand plans for him and his bridge crew and while they work most of the time, sometimes they don’t. These moments reminded me of how young he still is because he definitely didn’t feel that way when he was leading his men.

I loved the community Kaladin ended up creating. I was totally rooting for his bridge crew throughout and it was sad every time anyone from the crew died in the dangerous job they were forced to do.

I liked Shallan, but I would still love to know more about her. She is thorough and loves to draw and learn. I thought her story was fun, but it definitely got more interesting towards the end.

My favorite character actually ended up being Dalinar. I didn’t like him or care about him at all at first, but by the end, I was totally rooting for him. He experiences visions during highstorms and I thought those were very insightful to understanding the world and the past. He is very traditional and honorable, which can sometimes get in his way, but most of the time, it saves lives. I am so excited to see more of him in future books.

Like most Brandon books, the beginning of this one was slow and grew to a huge climax at the end. I personally love this, but I know for people who predominately read YA, it will feel slow in the beginning. Brandon does such a good job of not giving away all the information at once. There were definitely moments where I was confused, but later on, it made sense because I was slowly given information about the world.

OTHER RANDOM THINGS

There was actually a lot of information about the Cosmere, the universe that all of Brandon’s adult fantasy novels are a part of. In everything else, there are vague hints and things that you would only pick up if you knew about the Cosmere, but in this book, there is a lot more information. It isn’t a lot by any means, but more than I was expecting.

I was really disturbed by the treatment of Parshmen, the race of slave people in Roshar. They are basically mute and will follow any orders. They are basically ignored until needed and aren’t even really treated as people.

The war going on throughout this book was also kind of disturbing. It is really being fought for no good reason and the cost of human life is astounding.

I am very intrigued by the Parshendi, the group of people that the war is against. They are so different than anything anyone in the world has experienced and it is cool to see how their culture differs from what is normal in the world. I am looking forward to learning more about them, hopefully outside of war.

For a fantasy book, this didn’t have as much magic as I was expecting. It is present and I know there will be more in future books, but there really wasn’t a lot in this one. There were magically powered swords and armor, but those are still pretty mysterious.

FINAL THOUGHTS

If you made it this far, thank you! This was a looong book, so I had a lot I wanted to say. I don’t know if I’ve made this clear, but I really loved this book! I can definitely see how this would need to be a 10 book series because the scope is huge. There are so many other thoughts I had that I just did not have time to mention in this review.

If you like fantasy and have read other Brandon Sanderson books, I would highly recommend this! I think it is helpful to have read something else by him to get a sense of his style beforehand. I am beyond excited to read more from this world! I ordered Words of Radiance before I even finished this book, that’s how excited I am.

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