Book Review – Brandon Sanderson (no relation)’s The Way of Kings. Or, putting the EPIC back into epic fantasy.

200px-TheWayOfKingsSo let’s just get this out upfront. This book is LONG. Really long. I would say too long. It could have benefited from more editing. Also there are too many typos, which I guess can happen when a book is so bloody LONG because who is going to manage to read all those words and make sure they’re all okay? I’m not being petty. Typos distract me from the story and the characters and remind me that it’s a book I’m reading and someone wrote it and there are things that still need fixing.

Right.

Putting that aside, the Way of Kings is remarkable. Brandon Sanderson has created a world of incredible richness. At first that slowed me down, because I struggled to visualise the unfamiliar environments and creatures and phenomena he was describing, but after a while I found myself absorbed. I loved the spren– which are kinds of spirits that accumulate around particular emotions or experiences. I loved the drama of the highstorms, and the way the biology and geology of this world felt like they were set at ninety degrees to the familiar. Sanderson has paid a lot of attention to the particularities of the environment and how it has influenced all elements of society and culture. The interconnected systems of magic/technology Sanderson has created are fascinating. The illustrations at the start of each chapter, which are annotated sketches of aspects of the world, are beautiful and add so much to the experience of reading the book.

The story follows a handful of apparently unconnected characters and is presented to some extent through a non-linear chronology. There are deeper mysteries and historical forces at work in this world, which throughout history has been wracked by a series of Desolations – attacks by the mythical Voidbringers from which the world was defended by the Knights Radiant. The Knights Radiant eventually abandoned humankind and left behind their magical Sharplate and Shardblades, weapons of such power that kingdoms still rise and fall on them. The Desolations are believed to have ended, and have faded into the realm of legend and scholarly dispute.

I would not say the main characters are complex or deeply drawn, but they follow such interesting paths that their stories drew me along and by the end I was totally engaged with what was happening and desperate to know where events might lead. At times the story almost felt like a romance in that I became quite desperate for some of the main characters to finally meet as they so clearly needed to.

On that note, the actual romance element didn’t work so well for me. I had the feeling of watching elderly relatives getting it on, kind of awkward and uncomfortable. But the action scenes were amazing: gripping and tense and vivid, with some incredible combat mechanics (and I’m someone who tends to go to sleep in battle sequences).

I’ve mentioned that the book is long and in some sections slow but SO MUCH HAPPENS IN THE LAST FEW CHAPTERS. Yes, you have to read 1500 or so ipad pages to get there, but seriously, I was gobsmacked. It is worth it!!!

I’m very, very keen to read Book Two, and follow these characters through the next stage of their journeys. And I’m hoping I won’t have to wait too long for the series to continue. (It’s planned to run over ten books).

There are so many really interesting things about this book that I haven’t done justice to. Really. You’ll just have to read it yourself to find them out.

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