#37 Book review: The Way of Kings

Well met, my friends!

Here is my review for Brandon Sanderson‘s “The Way of Kings”.

The review rules:

I’ll start with the genre and my rating of the book, followed by a synopsis, explaining what the book is about. Since this will be done from memory after I’ve read the book, it may not be entirely accurate. The rating will be as follows: 5 / 5 is reserved for those awesome books that completely blow me away. Think “The Name of the Wind” by Patrick Rothfuss or Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series. 4 / 5 are great books that are worth reading. Most likely this will be the majority of book reviews, as I probably won’t spend the time to write up reviews of mediocre books. Still, for completeness sake, 3 / 5 are good books, 2 / 5 are books I would not read, if I were able to go back in time and warn myself about them and 1 / 5 books are the ones that are so aggravating as to incite anger.

After this subjective rating, I’ll talk a bit more about the book in the actual review and list what I thought was great about it. This will contain spoilers!

Brandon Sanderson’s “The Way of Kings”

Genre: Epic Fantasy

Rating: 4 / 5

Synopsis: A fractured nation of ten provincial rulers is entangled in a drawn out war against a tribe of warriors. At the forefront, this war is about revenge, but it’s equally about securing the plains’ resources in the form of the coveted gem hearts. Two of the three main view point characters are involved in this war effort, but there is a third view point character and some minor view point characters that illuminate the political intrigue and mysterious dealings that will probably become more important as the series progresses. As with all Sanderson books there are several different types of magic in the world, which use the series title giving stormlight as fuel.

Review (without spoilers): My friend Peter mentioned that he did not like Sanderson’s Mistborn books, but loved “The Way of Kings”. He’s a huge fan of epic fantasy books like Steven Erikson’s “Gardens of the Moon” or Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings.” Unfortunately I don’t share that fondness, so for most of the book, I was tempted to give it a 3.5 rating. Epic fantasy just isn’t my cup of tea. The rules of story telling become mere guidelines in works of such magnitude. For example, new authors are cautioned not to have two characters, whose names start with the same letter. In “The Way of Kings” every letter is used for multiple names, which becomes a necessity by sheer number of characters. There’s Kaladin, Kalak, Karm, Kadash, Jasnah, Jezrien, Janala, Dabbid, Dunny, Dalinar and Danlan to name a few. Brandon Sanderson even goes a step farther and wrote a scene where Dalinar and Danlan are interacting. Of course when you’re a brilliant storyteller like Brandon Sanderson you can get away with deliberately breaking the rules, but for a reader, who doesn’t love epic fantasy, this is a bit tedious.

However, the last 10% of the novel were so good that I upped my rating to 4. The thing with epic fantasy is that you seem to get 90% build up and 10% payoff. The ratio is much more favourable in regular fantasy, but trust me: that final bit is worth it. Sanderson has cast his hooks throughout the story and when he finally pulled, I couldn’t help but be moved. If you love the genre it’s a must read and even if you don’t, it’s still great and worth your time (but do read the Mistborn books first, if you haven’t done so).

Review (spoilers!): This section contains some spoilers for “The Way of Kings” and Sanderson’s Mistborn series, so proceed with caution. As I have indicated in the spoiler free review above, for a long portion of the book I did not like it as much as I wanted. The reason is the selection of view point characters: I enjoyed Dalinar’s scenes – he is an honest person that does interesting things. Shallan starts out as a crook and only redeems herself towards the end of the book, so I did not care for her scenes all that much. Although I did like Kaladin in principle, the amount of crem he has to slog through was a bit much for my taste. When I read his parts, I couldn’t help but feel that if Brandon Sanderson wanted to turn “The Final Empire” into epic fantasy, all he had to do was make it twice as long and fill up the additional pages with a detailed description of Kelsier’s ordeal in the pits of Hathsin…

As usual, the story is self contained, while leaving enough unresolved points of conflict to keep reader’s wondering how the story will continue in the next book (what happend to Gaz, by the way?). The big ending with Kaladin, despite being burned time and time again, running back to save Dalinar’s men provided a strong emotional pull. Tugging the reader like that is a truly masterful display of skill. It saved the book for me and made me admire Sanderson’s writing even more.

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,


P.S.: There are five alternate chapters of “The Way of Kings” in the Altered Perceptions anthology. It’s only available as part of an Indiegogo campaign to raise money for the medical bills of author Robison Wells.

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