May 14, 2015

The Way of Kings (Stormlight Archive Series 1)

The Way of Kings book cover

by Brandon Sanderson
book review rating 4.5 out of 5

THE FIRST OF ten volumes scheduled to release annually, The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson is an exciting opening for the much-anticipated Stormlight Archive Series, a masterpiece in the making.  

It has been centuries since the fall of the ten consecrated orders of the Knights Radiant. Commonly believed to have abandoned and betrayed mankind on The Day of Recreance, they became known as the Lost Radiants. But, their powerful and mystical Shardblades (swords) and Shardplates (armors) remain. Possession of the Shards transforms ordinary men into nearly invincible warriors. Wars were waged for them, and won by them.

One such senseless war has been raging on for several years on a ruined landscape called the Shattered Plains, where ten armies fight separately against the united Parshendi warriors. Brightlord Dalinar Kholin commands one of the ten armies. He seeks to end this war and believes the key to achieving this is in the ancient text called The Way of Kings.

Speak again the ancient oaths:

Life before death.
Strength before weakness.
Journey before destination.

And, return to men the Shards they once bore.
The Knights Radiant must stand again.

As his fascination for the text grows, he experiences over-powering visions of ancient times and the Knights Radiant, and begins to doubt his own sanity.

Not far from Dalinar, is another army commanded by the less than noble Brightlord Amaram. There, Kaladin, who traded his medical apprenticeship for a spear to protect his little brother, Tien, has been reduced to slavery and forced to do deadly bridge runs in the war against the Parshendi – a feat from which no one has survived...yet. With a little help from Sylphrena, a mischievous and otherworldly spren who imparts lightness to an otherwise emotionally hefty story, Kaladin may survive long enough to see another sunset.

On the other side of the world in Kharbranth, a young and tenacious Shallan Davar earns a prestigious wardship to study with Dalinar's niece, Jasnah – "an eminent scholar and notorious heretic." Her research for Jasnah and her gifted ability to illustrate vivid memories of subject matters, both hint at forgotten legends of the Knights Radiant and the Voidbringers. Though Shallan genuinely loves learning, her motives are less than pure. Wearing the face of a budding scholar, and the heart of a liar, she plots a daring theft.

And then there is Szeth, the Assassin in White, a killer who weeps as he takes his victim's life. He is as mysterious as he is powerful in the lost knowledge of Surgebinding. His allegiance is to the Oathstone. Whoever possesses it, commands him.

As a first volume, there is nothing introductory-like about The Way of Kings. Mr. Sanderson is a master storyteller leaving readers with a profound attachment to the strong characters, and a deep satisfaction for the complex plot lines and world-building. Fans of George R. R. Martin, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Robert Jordan will speak of Brandon Sanderson in the same breath!

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