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The Way of Kings
Brandon Sanderson
Narrated by Michael Kramer and Kate Reading
Macmillan Audio, 45.5 hours

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 Way of Kings
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 Amy Timco

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Brandon Sanderson's The Way of Kings is the first installment of the Stormlight Archive, a projected ten-volume series in the tradition of The Wheel of Time and other epic high fantasy series. At 45.5 hours, The Way of Kings is quite a commitment. It starts off slowly; Sanderson is creating a complex world with history, traditions, and religions for multiple cultures, and things necessarily feel a little heavy as he lays down the basic groundwork for the action. But once all the characters and their backgrounds are established, the pace picks up quite a bit. And Sanderson certainly knows when to pull a punch in his narrative -- right at the end. I was surprised by almost every twist, and of course nothing's really resolved. The revelations of the final chapters leave the reader with more questions than answers, as Sanderson upsets our assumptions and sets up the events of the next book.

The world Sanderson builds is vast, complicated, and old. The powerful Alethi princedoms are held together by an uneasy alliance, but lack the unification of a strong ruler after the infamous assassination of their first king a decade ago. Military power is determined by Shardblades and Plate, magically enhanced weapons and armor that kingdoms battle to possess. Society is divided in a rigid caste system based on eye color; if you're a lighteyes, you are part of the ruling class, while darkeyes are consigned to the lower orders. Under the darkeyes are the parshmen, humanoid slaves who rarely speak and never display any hint of rebellion. Religion is a big player in this world, with a full range of denominations, doctrines, heretics, and even atheists. Women are the guardians of knowledge and science; men don't even read, and spend their energies generally on war. And on a cosmographical level, the world is subject to brutal "high storms" that cause even the plants to retreat into the ground. The scope of the world-building is ambitious, to say the least.

I did have a few quibbles. For one, Sanderson is extremely wordy and could do with a merciless editor to pare down the scenes and descriptions that lag. He also tends to overuse particular words and phrases; everyone, it seems, "cocks" their heads during conversation. And why is every female character described as wearing a dress that is tight around her breasts and flares at the hips? I don't see the male characters being described in terms of how tight their clothing is around certain body parts!

One thing that does not translate well to audiobook is the snippets in front of each chapter. In print they can be given a different font treatment, bold and set away from the beginning of the actual chapter, but the only tools a reader has for this are pauses and possibly a slightly different tone of voice. It was a bit confusing to listen to until I realized what it was.

A work of this size and scope benefits greatly from two readers, and Michael Kramer and Kate Reading (who also read The Wheel of Time audiobooks) narrate their sections well. Kramer took a little getting used to, but once I became accustomed to his voice I found it a fitting style for the chapters he read. Reading's voice is very pleasant and she does a good job, especially with Shallan's character.

I'm new to Sanderson's work, and what struck me most about him is his imaginative power and the complexity of the world and relationships he portrays. I think he still has some growing to do as a writer, but the raw materials are impressive. Overall, I enjoyed The Way of Kings and will probably seek out the rest of the Stormlight Archive as it is published. Recommended for readers looking for the next big fantasy saga -- but be warned, this one still has nine books to come!

Copyright © 2010 Amy Timco

Amy Timco is a voracious reader, avid reviewer, incorrigible booksale bum, and happy wife.  In addition to these absorbing pursuits, she also manages to be a freelance editor. (Yes, she is the grammar snob about whom your mother warned you!) You may visit her website at wisewordsediting.com.


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