Review: The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson (The Stormlight Archive #1)

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I went into this book quite wary because of the combination of the incredible amount of hype and my disappointment with most of the other Sanderson books I read. I’m far from new to the genre. In fact, I did not plan to start the series until at least book 4 came out at all. But my friends insisted and I did not regret it.

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

It is, at its core, fairly classic epic fantasy. The protagonists are mostly noble, the antagonists are mostly bad, and the world needs saving. It’s also pretty damn good at what it does.

The general pacing structure is similar to Erikson’s in his Malazan Book of the Fallen series. A slower first half that then slowly speeds up and leads into one hell of an intense ending, with many revelations and “WHAT THE FUCK THEY DID WHAT” moments. But it eases you in far more slowly and gently than Malazan. Some say too slowly, with too much of an emphasis on worldbuilding. Still, I never had to force myself through – it’s slower-paced, sure, and kind of infodumpy at times, but I love worldbuilding and this is no boring Tolkien rip-off.

And the ending. Oh gods, the ending. So much information, so many things coming together. Once it starts speeding up, it doesn’t let go. I read the section from 60% to finish in one day, staying up until I was done.

The only problem is, with this degree of popularity, spoilers are impossible to avoid no matter how much you try. I wanted to go in blind for once, but for a large part of the book, there was little new information simply because I have absorbed a lot by osmosis. It’s talked about a lot.

The prose is utilitarian, fairly competent, but not beautiful. Even though none of those things was a huge, book-breaking issue for me in the end, it suffers from Overcapitalization Issue, contrived swearing (such as “Storms!” and “Storm you!”) and fairly cringeworthy humour (“Each man has his place. Mine is to make insults. Yours is to be in-sluts.”). It’s still a large step above Alloy of Law, which often left me wishing he was a better writer (solid basic ideas, but the execution…).

The characters are not very in-depth, but generally good enough. I enjoyed Kaladin’s chapters the most, as much as his life sucks, followed by Shallan. Her chapters were the slowest and infodumpiest, but her hatred of confrontation, her anxiety…that was quite relatable. Until the climax, I found Dalinar/Adolin to be the most boring. I also wish the antagonists were shown a bit more (we hear they have a culture and society, but we never see it – they’re only ever opponents to be killed), but perhaps this will happen in the later books.

Was I mindblown? No. But I have enjoyed myself very much and will, after a break, happily read the next one.

Enjoyment: 4/5
Execution: 3.5/5

Recommended to: worldbuilding fans, folks looking for good epic fantasy that doesn’t rip off Tolkien, newcomers to epic fantasy, those who can take some slower pacing
Not recommended to: grimdark lovers, those who dislike magic systems, people who need good prose and very in-depth characters

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