The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is the eighth book in my 2013 TBR Challenge, and it's the longest of them. It's also the first in a series of ten books about this world and these characters.
The world presented in The Way of Kings is harsher than most fantasy landscapes. Instead of dragons and gryphons and wizards, we're dealing with a world with very little magic wielded by people. The animals and even plant life have adapted to a world with harsh, violent storms. Somehow, these storms can produce a magical light, which can be harnessed into stones. From there, it's used for illumination, and to power magical items left behind by heroes who used to be able to wield magic, themselves.
Into this world we have Dalinar, brother to the deceased king and a powerful lord who holds honor above all. And maybe he's going crazy. Then there's Shallan, a young woman out to steal one of these magical devices from the king's daughter, an atheist. Last but not least is Kaladin, a soldier forced into slavery where he doubles as a pack mule and cannon fodder. He's determined to survive, and to help all those in his squad do so, too.
Kaladin's story was the most interesting, to me. He had the greatest struggles, and the greatest potential for growth. Shallan had some intriguing moments, as well, but she was so removed from the other two characters that it was difficult to see how she tied in. Dalinar's arc interested me the least, to the point where I felt relief, not tension, in the final scenes when all looks hopeless for him. I felt the continuing narrative would've been a lot more interesting carried by one of his two sons.
There are several minor characters, some of whom get their own perspective chapters, but all revolves around these three. It doesn't become obvious until the very end how Shallan is relevant to the rest of the story, and, it seems, her narrative may entwine with that of the assassin Szeth. That could be interesting.
A lot of this book is laying groundwork and showing how the world works, so the 1000-page epic does drag in places. It was hope of finding out what happened to Kaladin that kept me going through it. It's hard to believe Sanderson can sustain this for 10 books, but I guess we'll see. He did find a good place to wrap this one up, while leaving enough threads open that I really want to read the next one, now. (It comes out in March 2014.)
Overall, I recommend you don't start this book until you have some time to make your way through it. I have a feeling the portents are in the details, and you'll miss them if you quickly skim through to get to the good parts. This is a solidly built world, as you can expect from Brandon Sanderson. I just hope all of the characters are up to carrying this story.
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