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The Way of Kings: The Stormlight Archive Book 1
Brandon Sanderson
Tor, 1008 pages

The Way of Kings
Brandon Sanderson
Brandon Sanderson was born in 1975 in Lincoln, Nebraska. In 1994, he enrolled at Brigham Young University as a Biochemistry major. From 1995-1997 he took time away from his studies to serve as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Upon his return, he became an English major. It was in 2003, while Brandon was in the middle of a graduate program at BYU, that he got a call from an editor at Tor who wanted to buy one of his books. In December of 2007, Harriet Rigney chose him to complete A Memory of Light, book twelve in Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series.

Brandon Sanderson Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Gathering Storm
SF Site Review: Warbreaker, Part 1
SF Site Review: Warbreaker
SF Site Review: The Mistborn Trilogy

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Dominic Cilli

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Brandon Sanderson's The Way of Kings is the first installment in what is to be a new ten book series entitled The Stormlight Archive. Ten Books. I had to say it twice and pinch myself to make sure I'm not dreaming. But yes, it's true. The Way of Kings is the start of a large scale opus from one of the finest authors of our genre and it is spectacular in every way a fantasy novel can be. If you have read Brandon Sanderson before, he uses all the same trappings. He has found a formula for success and is sticking to it. This may seem like a negative criticism, but just about all artists are guilty of it and they wouldn't be who they are without their own style. In defense of this theory, I can quote from the book itself, "If it were their artistry, the beauty of their mind would we not laud it regardless of whether we'd seen their product before?" Such is the case with The Way of Kings. Sanderson's fans are going to find all the same things in this novel that made his previous work so wonderful and for people who haven't read any Sanderson, "What are you waiting for?"

The Way of Kings is a multi-layered tale told predominately from the perspective of three characters: Kaladin, Dalinar and Shallan. Dalinar is the assassinated king's brother and uncle to the current king. Known as "The Blackthorn," Dalinar is a legendary war leader whose advancing years and strange visions causes him to rethink all he knows and help guide his efforts to reshape his kingdom's political ideologies. Kaladin grew up an educated son of a surgeon and has always done the right thing. He is a healer and tries to always protect those around him, but this path of honor leads to his betrayal and eventually into military enslavement. Shallan is a young noble woman and a scholar who is her family's last hope for survival. She leaves her home to study with a heretic scholar and to fulfill her plan to save her family from financial ruin. Each of the three storylines is engaging and could have been strong novels on their own merit. However, I found the Kaladin and his pseudo "Ben Hur" story to be the most heartfelt of the three. Judging by the scope of the various threads, it is readily apparent that Sanderson has upped the ante for The Stormlight Archive. Readers will quickly realize that The Way of Kings is far more than the sum of those three storylines, especially when you consider the meticulously created world in which The Way of Kings is set.

In order to hold these stories together, Sanderson has created yet another vividly realized setting in which to tell his tale. The world is Roshar and is defined by its extremely violent "highstorms." The storms occur at somewhat predictable intervals, much like our own thunderstorms albeit magnified one hundred fold, and help Sanderson to shape his world. All the flora and fauna Sanderson has created are unique and have adapted themselves to the highstorms, so we have a lot of shelled creatures and plants that retract into rocks or shells. It all makes for a rather fantastic and well thought out vision and turns the world of Roshar into the most intriguing part of the book. However, not only are the landscape and life of Roshar affected by the climate, the highstorms also somehow power the magic that exists in Roshar. The magic system in a Brandon Sanderson novel always deserves some mention as it's quickly becoming one of Sanderson's trademarks.

In The Way of Kings it appears that Sanderson has combined some elements from the magic systems of Elantris, The Mistborn Trilogy and Warbreaker together along with some new ideas to create a familiar, but unique way to work the magic for The Stormlight Archive. It's a little more in depth and complicated than in his previous works, (I found myself still not quite understanding the magic system in its entirety by the time the book was over), but Sanderson does this intentionally. He treats his magic systems as if they were a character unto themselves developing slowly and deliberately through the course of his books. This method always seems to work well for Sanderson and never fails to help capture the reader's imagination.

The Way of Kings, as a book itself, is also first-rate. The cover art by Michael Whelan is terrific and is accentuated by a number of drawing and sketches scattered throughout the book of the various flora and fauna. This really helps readers to visualize what Sanderson was thinking. Sadly, I had an ARC and some of the drawings were missing, but the ones that were there were very nice touches. This is something I wish more authors of this genre would do. I know the purpose of reading is to draw your own pictures, but sometimes in fantasy and Sci-Fi those pictures are so "alien" to us, I just wish I had a better idea of what the author had in mind.

Overall, I honestly can't imagine anyone not enjoying The Way of Kings or any of Sanderson's previous work for that matter. Everything the man has written up until this point has been done with an extraordinary amount of feeling and imagination. He writes with passion and infuses it into his characters as they all seem to jump off the page at you. Readers will find it easy to care about them and perhaps even shed some tears along the way. The Mistborn Trilogy was a fantasy masterpiece and remains one of my favorite trilogies of all time and put Sanderson on the map. The Stormlight Archive seems like it's going to be every bit as exciting and heartfelt as that, but on a far grander scale. Furthermore, Brandon Sanderson is quickly turning into one of the genre's most accessible authors. His recent publication of Memory of Light, the twelfth novel in The Wheel of Time series has seriously increased his fan base. That fact, coupled with superlative writing, makes me believe that The Stormlight Archive will be one of the most prominent and best selling series in fantasy literature for the next several years. If the first installment The Way of Kings is any indication, it will be richly deserved.

Copyright © 2010 Dominic Cilli

When asked to write a third-person tag line for his reviews, Dominic Cilli farmed the work out to an actual 3rd person, his friend Neal, who in turn turned it over to a second person who then asked his third cousin to help out and this person whom Dom doesn't even know then wrote in 8th person Omniscient mode "Dom's breadth of knowledge in literature runs the gamut and is certainly not bounded by the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre. One thing I can say with certainty is that of all the people I don't know who've ever recommended books to read, Dom's recommendations are the best.


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