The Way of Kings

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson, The Stormlight Archive #1

Roshar is a world of stone and storms. Uncanny tempests of incredible power sweep across the rocky terrain so frequently that they have shaped ecology and civilization alike. Animals hide in shells, trees pull in branches, and grass retracts into the soiless ground. Cities are built only where the topography offers shelter.

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.

Brandon Sanderson is currently one of the best known fantasy authors out there. He has been steadily on the rise with his own works like the exciting Mistborn series and the standalones Elantris and Warbreaker. Brandon Sanderson also took over The Wheel of Time series from Robert Jordan after his passing. These titles above have all received rave reviews. The Stormlight Archive is Brandon Sanderson's latest series that saw it's first book, The Way of Kings, published back in 2010. Since than it has been high on my to read list but just hadn't had the time to get around to it. Earlier in March this year the second book of The Stormlight Archive, Words of Radiance, was published so I decided it was time to take the plunge. These books aren't lightweight 300 pages, their are hefty tomes of 1000 pages but its all the purest epic goodness that you can currently get! And even when I was finished with The Way of Kings I wished there was more, it didn't feel like 1000 pages at all, they flew by.

The Way of Kings opens with one of the best scenes that an fantasy reader could wish for and by this Brandon Sanderson doesn't hesitate and spare the reader one moment. From the first scene I was convinced that this book would be awesome. Ok, so the first chapter already showed a lot of the interesting parts that feature in the world of The Stormlight Archive. Mainly the Stormlight power itself and a glimpse of the Shardblades and Shardplate, and an assassin in white with some pretty cool moves, yes not the typical black but white, because an opponent should see you coming when you are about to die... You might be wondering what are Shardblades and what is Shardplate. These are old relics from a time long lost that now only a selected few highprinces carry in the world of Roshar. They are magical relic that bind once the user picks them up and can only be taken away by killing the person or when the person gives them away. The Shardblades are powerful magical swords that the bearer can call into existence, yup, they aren't present all of the time, when the wearer drops one they evaporate into mist! But once the fighting takes place they are more than solid, trust me, they also have the unique ability to not directly kill a person, but it severs the connection to souls, i.e. it doesn't bloodily cut of the arm but makes the arm usuable by severing that thread. How cool is that? Well it isn't over just yet. Now for the Shardplate. Impenetrable plate armor that gives the wearer a lot of enhanced superhuman power, better strength, stamina and agility. SO basically if you have your hands on both a Shardblade and a set of Shardplate you are nearly invincible. Yes, nearly so... They are mighty warrior but with enough counterforce even Shardplate can temporarily loose it's strength only to be fixed over time by Stormlight. This is only the first chapter of the book and already so many different elements of the world that Brandon Sanders set out to imagine leapt out of the pages in full color. It was definitely off to a good start! I did have many different questions after the introduction and luckily many were answered as the story progressed but many more were raised. 

Soon after this action packed prologue the story centers around our hero and main protagonist, Kaladin. I really liked to read the adventures of Kaladin. In the beginning he seems to have everything working in his advantage but soon the tables get turned on him and he finds himself being sold as a slave, and if he thought that life as a slave was hard, he eventually winds up in the bridge brigade, an army division of the Alethkar army that battle it out against the Parshendi on the hostile Shattered Plains. Kaladin makes up for an very strong protagonist, Brandon Sanderson has a way of writing up his character that I really started to feel for him early on. I think this was mainly owed to the fact that you aren't only reading Kaladin's current story but that there is also the occasional flashback to some past events that shaped Kaladin's life, mainly in his younger years, his life as the son of a surgeon and the relation with his brother came to a nice light. Kaladin is one determined guy and true to his word, if you have read all that he gone through I think a lot of people would just have given up, but Kaladin perservers and takes himself to the max. Another thing I liked about Kaladin is that he was introduced as just an average soldier, he is proficient with spear, but doesn't have the powers of Shardplate or Shardblade, luckily for me in the ending Brandon Sanderson start to weave a pretty cool idea around Kaladin's character! 

Next to Kaladin there are a few other characters that have a focus in The Way of Kings with their own storyline those are Shallan, Dalinar and his son Adolin Kholin. Shallan travels to become the ward of Jasnah Kholin, Shallan's father's empire is on the brink of collapse and he gotten into business with people he better hadn't... Jasnah has the only things, a powerful fabrial that allows her to soulcast, i.e. transmute certain items. Shallan needs this item to restore her fathers kingdom. Shallan might come over as a very innocent young women, who seems lost in the world, but she is more on the contrary. She knows what she wants and when she has set her mind on something she won't back down. Also fighting on the Shattered Plains, but not next to Kaladin are Highprince Dalinar and his son Adolin, they are royalty and lighteyes, the "elite" people. They both posses full a Sharblade and a set of Shardplate. Dalinar and Adolin fight on behalf of the King on the Shattered Plains against the invading Parshendi army. The Parshendi's aren't the only reason as there are also creating dwelling in this hostile area that harbor crystals within them that are used as a sort of currency to provide currency and thereby other good for the army. Dalinar Kholin is one of the King bodyguards and is haunted daily by the fact that he couldn't protect the old king (who was assassinated in the beginning). He desperately want redemption and the only wau he sees he can get it is by always being on the side of the young new king. I have to say that I was very, very impressed by how Brandon Sanderson introduced each and every of his main story threads, it was done with careful planning and from the first time he never, ever, stop developing his characters. But what is perhaps even more important, The Way of Kings clocks in at around 1000pages and there is never a repetition in it, the characters don't start to falter and get lost. No Brandon Sanders kept me hooked until the end.

Another thing that I have really come to appreciate of Brandon Sanderson are his richly imagined and well executed worlds that he immerses his readers in. The world of Roshar is no exception. He deftly takes his time and puts a lot of effort into both bringer over the bigger picture of the world as well as the tiny, tiny details, what else had you expect in such a tome? The world of Roshar has a unique magic system and I have already mentioned the Shards but there is much more as you have the spren, little spirit creature that are very common in nature, and each occurrence has their own type, like windspren, rotspren and a lot more. And what would such a world be without some history? On this part Brandon Sanderson introduces us to the Knights Radiant. They were the original bearers of the Shardplates and Shardblades to ward all of mankind against the evils of the world, like the voidbringers. The Knights Radiant have been said to have betrayed mankind on The Day of Recreance, they abandoned their gifts and walked away, little else is known about the reason that they gave up their Shards. The best thing about the history of Roshar is that you get to really feel how certain events happened through the visions that Dalinar receives when a highstorm hits. The history that is being laid out to you is very important as some part might start to repeat themselves or somethings aren't history just yet... Brandon Sanderson gives a lot of information when building his story but there was never a moment when it felt like an information dump at all, he really takes his time when explaining events or describing events, and doesn't use fancy words to make it seem more complex. It's comes over natural and that makes the story stick to you even more!

As for the ending of the book. Wow. What a rush. I don't think I had any sleep that night! In the end of The Way of Kings Brandon Sanderson cleverly starts dropping a lot of hints that make you replay a lot of the earlier events, because now they start to make sense! He also introduces several betrayals and backstabbing and something pretty cool surrounding Kaladin. I just remember. I totally forgot to mention the King's Wit (he's a character who makes witty comments for the king) I liked this guy a lot, there has to be a lot more to him than what I have come to learn just now. THat end scene with the guy smashing through the door and him. Just perfect. This is how you get me excited for a sequel! A prefect ending: rounding up some questions but raising tons more!

The Way of Kings is EPIC. It deserves to be capitalized. I don't think I can say anything that hasn't been said before in terms of praise for The Way of Kings but I loved the book and it really made my day. Once I sat down with this book I was completely immersed into the world and adventures of the many different characters, that I forgot to do some other things in real-life. Brandon Sanderson again shows that he knows his fantasy and why he is one of the best author out there. The worldbuilding and characters are just superb and very well executed. This is how I like to see epic fantasy, full of new and cool and well thought through idea's. The Stormlight Archive is set out to be a 10 volume series... Bring it!! 


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