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Book Review: The Way of Kings (Stormlight Archive 1)

Updated: Jun 6, 2020

Rating this book was very difficult for me, as I went back and forth a lot. As a new author myself, I had been told repeatedly that Brandon Sanderson's TWoK was a must read, because of the world building alone. Now that I have finally completed the book, I understand. I must admit I am glad I finally tackled this hefty novel. Before I get into the details, I will first say that this was a wonderful work in many ways. However, there are many aspects of TWoK or perhaps just Mr.Sanderson's style that I did not love. Until I read more of his work, I won't know which it is. So let's get to it. First off, I will admit that reading TWoK was not only entertaining, but it was a bit of an academic pursuit as well. He is indeed a master world builder. Everything from the development of the various peoples, cultures, and religions was splendid. I love how Sanderson made sure to integrate stormlight and the gems into all aspects of every day life, particularly the multiple purposes of the gems (while serving as a currency in most nations). I also like the "magic" system that Sanderson created in the world. He did a great job of providing the reader with a foundational understanding of the rules of the various sources of "magic" like the Shardblades, the Shardplate, and the Surgebinders. He also did a good job of never breaking the suspension of belief, by honoring those established rules. Sanderson also did a great job helping the reader really connect with the handful of key characters, eventually allowing the reader to experience the emotional ups and downs of the protagonists. This is because of the immense ammount of time dedicated to these characters and their many struggles. Kaladin, Dalinar, Adolin, Shallan, Jasnah were all people with flaws, they were realistic in this way, making them stronger characters. And perhaps my favorite aspect of the book is the relationships that Sanderson established between characters, particularly with Kaladin and the bridgemen. All of this put together forms a lesson in some of the finer details that an author must pay attention to to create a great world. I also think that Sanderson is probably a greater expert in leadership than most realize. Many excerpts of this book could be used to develop leaders not only in Roshar, but back here in our world too. However the book is not without certain points of irritation. These items are generally all points of preference, which many will ignore. First off, I must say that Sanderson is not one for brevity. I wonder if the entire TWoK story could have been told in hundreds of fewer pages. I do not mind a lengthy read, but I feel that there was a lot of "story" that was not needed, and not always particularly interesting. I caught myself at times wanting to skim through pages if not chapters. I refrained, but the desire was there. Sanderson wanted to make sure that we fully understood each character's background so we could connected with them, but he could have told the story without a great deal of it. To add to that, I found that it seamed I was rereading certain passages over and over again. It was not that I was confused or misread them, it was because he felt the need to repeat content that we had already covered in prior reading. I can't tell you how many times we read that Kaladin couldn't save "Tien, Dallet, etc. etc. etc." I understand some level of repetion was necessary, but by the end of the book I was annoyed every time one of those passages popped up. I wanted to scream, "Brandon, I get it!" The last main gripe that I have with the book is the general characterization of the people of the world, and the imbalance of good versus evil. I understand the importance of creating a true sense of despair and hopeless in the world, but I struggled with being able to believe that almost every single character in the book was wicked in most regards. Time and time again you found that almost every person you met was evil in at least some way. I can appreciate that all people have flaws, but the astounding lack of even half-way honorable or noble characters (outside our protagonists) was just hard to swallow. The amount of people that could even be considered to have performed a single act of kindness (to any degree) in this book could probably be counted on one hand. Yes the bridgemen go against that grain, but it was not their natural response, rather it was in response to Kaladin's leadership. Even Kaladin struggled with this at many times. Is Roshar that full of wickedness that only Dalinar Kholin seeks to do right when the opportunity to do evil is present? No wonder the Desolation comes. Overall, I did enjoy this book. It was long and some parts were not exciting, but I was fascinated with the complex characters and a world with a clouded history. I am looking forward to reading Words of Radiance, as I am emotionally invested in Sanderson's characters at this point, but I do hope that some of my complaints here are addressed in the second volume of the Stormlight Archives.

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