Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Posted by Simcha 5:18 PM, under | 5 comments
Although I had finished reading The Way of Kings almost two months ago for some reason I've been unable to put together an intelligent review of this book, though I have tried several times. Usually the reviews degenerate into over-enthusiastic ramblings in which I rave about every aspect of the book in a rather embarrassing manner. Other times I can't think of anything to say other than "it's really good- just read it." But this time I'm going to try to find a balance between the two so that I can finally get a review written that I don't feel compelled to delete immediately afterwards.
Let's start with a synopsis.
The Way of Kings begins with the assassination of the King of Alethi during celebrations of a treaty between the Alethi kingdom and the people of Parshendi. Six years later the Alethis are locked into a war with no foreseeable end, as they attempt to destroy the Pareshendi who they blame for the murder of their king.
The main players in this story include:
Kaladin, a once respected officer in the army but now a slave due an act of of treachery committed by a man that he trusted.
Shallan, a young noble-woman who has seeked out the scholarly Princess Jasanah in the hope of becoming her ward. But Shallan's real purpose is to gain the princess's trust in order to steal from her a magical object that may save Shallan's family from ruin.
Brightlord Dalinar Kholin, the brother of the late king, who is troubled by recent visions that he believes may provide answers about events of the past. Though others fear he is just going insane.
The war between the Alethi and the Parshendi has been raging for six years and Dalinar has begun to worry that their absence from the kingdom for so long will weaken the king's rulership. But when Dalinar suggests ending the war he is viewed by the king and his advisors as weak, and his own loyalties become suspect. Dalainr's visions are becoming stronger, showing him glimpses of the past and of the Knight Radiants, before they had disappeared, leaving the people vulnerable to the evil hunting them. These visions show Dalinar that there is more to life then fighting with the Parshendi and trying to capture the magical gemstones they each battle for, but these are ideas are ones he must keep to himself if he wants to remain by the king's side.
Meanwhile Kaladin has been brought to the war camp and given work in the most dangerous job available, as a bridgman. The job of the bridgemen is to run ahead of the army, carrying the bridges that will allow them to cross chasms, and then remove them afterwards. This places the bridgmen in front of the enemy's lines, and most bridgmen don't survive for more than a couple of battles. But there is something keeping Kaladin alive when everyone around him is being killed off, and he decides that rather then giving up he will show his fellow bridgmen that there may be a way for them to live.
Back in the city of Kharbranth Shallan has finally managed to catch up with the Princess Jasanah and after much persuasion convinces her to give Shallan a try. While thoughts of the Soulcast she must steal from the Princess are never far from her mind Shallan unexpectedly finds herself caught up in the research Jasanah has assigned to her, and she begins to feel reluctance about the role she must play.
In the first half of The Way of Kings the chapters frequently switch between the POV's, along with those of several other characters. Because of this frequent switch I had a hard time getting into the story at first but as each of the POV's started to last longer I was able to really connect with each character and lose myself in their individual stories.
In addition to the three main characters that I had mentioned there are also many other characters with roles essential to the story though they are too many to name them all. Yet somehow Sanderson manages to give each of them a depth and complexity that many authors don't manage when only working with one or two central characters.
In between the main story-lines Sanderson also interjects short interludes in which we get glimpses of events taking place in other parts of this world. In one interlude we meet Ishikk who lives in a land in which the surface is covered in water and where submerging your feet in water all the time is a way of life. In another interlude we are introduced to Rysn, a merchant apprentice from a land in which grass survives by moving out of the way of people and animals, and where people grow their eyebrows down to their ears. In this interlude Rysn watches as her Mentor conducts negotiations with the a group of foreign Shin merchants, who are eager to exchange valuable metal for crates of worthless chicken. While most of these interludes don't really tie into the central story lines, I was really impressed with how Sanderson used them to provide a broader view of the world he has created here and the different cultures that occupy it.
The Way of Kings is a big book and I have to admit that even I was a bit intimidated by it at first, even though I had been waiting all year to read it. For the most part the story moves forward slowly and deliberately, skillfully weaving together each new thread that is added in. But despite the slow pace I was never bored or impatient since each detail felt like it was necessary to the story, and the narration was so compelling. Once the story got a hold of me I started wishing that this was the never-ending- story it appeared to be, one which would always be available for me to dip into. At the same time, though, I very much looked forward to finishing the book just so I could find out what surprises awaited in the last pages. It's just such a pleasure to read a book by an author that you trust to reward your emotional investment in their book with a fantastic ending, as Sanderson always does. And I was definitely not disappointed.
Since The Way of Kings is just the first book in a projected ten book series I had been a bit apprehensive as to how the story would play out and if anything would actually be resolved in the first volume. I would really hate to read 1,000 page book only to be left hanging at the end with more questions than answers. To my relief Sanderson does provide resolutions and enough answers to satisfy me while also springing some of those surprising revelations that I had been looking forward to.
For anyone that enjoys epic-fantasy, or just a really good book, The Way of Kings is a must-read.
(There, I think I've finally managed it with a minimum of gushing. Success!)