Friday, July 15, 2016

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

Recommended for:

Mainly adults who want to read intellectually and philosophically challenging books, but are sick of being assaulted by unnecessary vulgarity, unwarranted crudeness, or pointless shock value.


It took me over two months to finish this book (I had limited opportunities to read) and I also don't have it right in front of me. Ergo, I may not be remembering the details particularly well, particularly when it comes to the language.


The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson is the first in the Stormlight Archive, which is still currently unfinished. As I recall, Sanderson first became famous when he was chosen to finish off the Wheel of Time series after the original author, Robert Jordan, died. (If you're not familiar with the Wheel of Time, I don't recommend picking it up unless you have 90 hours or more available for reading this summer - it's a very, very long series. Some chapters in that series stretch over a hundred pages. Also, in addition to being very long, it's very heavy reading. I haven't finished it, and I definitely don't recommend it for anyone pre-college.)

To the best of my knowledge, this is Sanderson's most famous work that is not connected to Wheel of Time. It explores themes of leadership that could probably be divided into two main streams - what makes a leader and what maintains a leader.

The story takes place in an imaginary land called Roshar. The Kingdom of Alethkar was recently reunited under charismatic King Galivar, who is murdered at the beginning of the book, leaving his son Ehlokar as king. Ehlokar starts a war against the people who murdered his father, called the Vengeance Pact, and the story mostly focuses around two characters in the war. One is Kaladin, a soldier who became the lowest slave in the army, only to become a leader among the other slaves; the other is Dalinar, Gavilar's brother, who's experiencing visions that he thinks are trying to tell him what to do, but everyone else thinks are signs he's going insane. There's also a section with Gavilar's daughter and a girl who wants to steal a powerful magic item from her, which explores the reasons why Gavilar was murdered. The magic in this world comes from Highstorms, powerful storms that sweep across the land and destroy everything, but leave behind stormlight that people use for power.

Overall, it was an interesting book. The story zipped along quickly, the characters were likable, and it was worth continuing to read. There was no (current, active) love triangle (THANK YOU!) and the twists in the story, particularly with the princess and the thief, were really cool and imaginative.

There are a few problems, but I think the biggest one has to do with Sanderson's methods of building mystery around the past. It's difficult to explain, but I think the best way to describe it is that instead of feeling curious, you just feel confused. It almost feels like the little hints he's giving are incomplete hints. There were certainly some exceptions; for example, at one point at the very end of the book, a character who's been well-behaved the entire time suddenly confesses "I killed my father," and that's it until (presumably) the next book. That was surprising, a complete hint, but not the complete story. Other times, it didn't flow so smoothly, and I occasionally found myself struggling to figure out if he was hinting at somebody's mysterious backstory or if he just hadn't given enough information for what he was trying to say. As something that spins off from that, I think he might have been trying to say that in his world, there is no god even though everyone believes in one, but I'm not sure if that's what he's saying or if he just didn't give all the information. That's something else I'm not crazy about, by the way - the absence of any god. And, finally, there were some random interludes that seemed to go nowhere, but will presumably be tied in for future books.

Having said that, the story was extremely interesting. Furthermore, I don't remember a lot of language, explicit scenes, or graphic scenes. I was really impressed with how comparatively clean it was, but all of its value weighted totally on the story and not at all on the shock value or "adult" elements. I can think of one time the author used any particularly vulgar term

All that said, even without being explicit, it definitely wasn't for young readers, either. The story alone is 1,000 pages, and it has some heavy stuff (especially pertaining to romances and relationships between the nobles). I'd guess 17 or 18 would be the youngest I would recommend it to, but truthfully I think it is for mature readers. Honestly, I wasn't planning on reviewing this anyway, but my mom and other adults have told me that they prefer teen and pre-teen writing simply because the language/shock value/crudeness is much more tolerable in teen literature. I think Sanderson has written an engaging story that doesn't rely much on anything cheap and disgusting, and for that I think he deserves to be commended.

So, factoring in the confusing backstory hints and the random interludes - 4 stars.

No comments:

Post a Comment