Books

A Rival for The Lord of the Rings

Spoiler-Free Book Review:

The Stormlight Archive: The Way of Kings

Rating: 10 out of 10 stars

Intro

This is the best book I have ever read. Period. My dad suggested it for me and I could barely put it down, especially near the ending. I was visibly smiling at parts, laughing, and on the edge of my seat repeatedly. In my opinion, it blows The Lord of the Rings out of the water. Read on to find out why this is my new favorite book!

Background

Brandon Sanderson is the author of various books for adults and younger audiences alike. Some of his more famous works include the Mistborn Trilogy and Alcatraz Versus The Evil Librarians, as well as the rest of the Stormlight Archive. He typically writes high fantasy with fantastic worldbuilding.

Summary

In the world of Roshar, three promising characters struggle against their pasts and continued threats while going on journeys of self-discovery. Kaladin, a mysterious slave with a tragic past. Shallan, an artistic young woman who seeks to become the ward of a famous scholar. And Dalinar, an older man who is trying desperately to unite the Alethi highprinces and create a stronger kingdom of Alethkar.

Pros

  • Multiple intriguing points of view
  • Gripping character backstories
  • Different lifeforms than in any other series
  • Unique magic system
  • Richly developed cultures
  • Objects unique to the realm of this book
  • So many quotable moments
  • So much research put into this
  • Illustrations and other worldbuilding snippets between sections of the book
  • Quotes that introduce chapters are interesting and relevant
  • Phenomenal ending with twists

Cons

  • I honestly cannot think of a con. Sure, it’s very long, but without that length I doubt the worldbuilding would be nearly as impressive.

Observations

  • The length of the book is 1200+ pages, but every bit is important to the narrative as a whole.

Review

Characters

Kaladin is introduced as a slave with a history of troublemaking and a host of enviable skills. The book delves deeply into his backstory in particular, speaking of his numerous losses and continued failures. If there is a character who is focused on the most in the book, I would say it is Kaladin.

Shallan is another point-of-view character, trying to become a ward of Jasnah Kholin, who is a high-ranking scholar. Shallan’s primary concern is saving her homeland, which has fallen into disarray since her father’s death. One of her most interesting skills is affixing an image in her memory and being able to draw a replica of it later on. She also draws from sight with remarkable skill.

When she drew, she didn’t feel as if she worked on charcoal and paper. In drawing a portrait, her medium was the soul itself.”

Dalinar is the third significant viewpoint character, an older man whose visions during highstorms worry him about the state of Alethkar. He has two sons, Adolin and Renarin, who are each very interesting in their own ways. Adolin goes through relationships with all the eligible young women of high enough rank quickly. Renarin struggles with physical weakness that prevents him from engaging in battle.

Lifeforms

This novel has lifeforms different than in any book I’ve read. From thunderclasts to chasmfiends to skyeels, Brandon Sanderson has a high capacity for creativity. My favorites, however, are the spren and the chulls.

Spren appear when something changes–when fear appears, or when it begins to rain. They are the heart of change, and therefore the heart of all things”

Hesina

There are musicspren, fearspren, painspren, windspren, and hungerspren, among dozens of others. Some are large and monstrous, others are like wisps, and some can even shift their form.

Chulls are kind of like large hermit crabs with rock-like shells that are used as herd animals and to pull cargo. See an illustration of one on Fandom here.

Magic System

The magic system is dependant on Stormlight. Stormlight from highstorms infuses many everyday items, the currency, and gems. That energy can then be used to perform lashings–attaching things to each other or moving objects, standing on walls, etc. Very few people are capable of these feats.

Culture

The first notable cultural difference is that men are expected to handle fighting, commerce, and creating glyphs. Yet women are the ones who are able to read and write and it is considered wrong for men to engage in these activities. There are also foods considered to be men’s food vs. women’s food.

In Alethi culture, people with light eyes are considered higher-ranking citizens than those with dark eyes.

There is also the Vorin tradition of having a safe hand, a woman covering one’s left hand with a long sleeve or glove. Uncovering one’s safehand is considered as scandalous in their society as very low cleavage. The society is medieval so there are a lot of restrictions for women and men.

According to Shin culture, one should not tread on stone and mining is an abomination. To them, a dying request is sacred. Farmers are celebrated with lavish clothes and acclaimed for their hard work. The Shin have childlike features. One of the characters in this book is a Shin assassin.

At the end of the book a kelek poem is displayed, which must be the same backwards and forwards (excepting verb forms).

Objects

Shardblades are the most interesting weapons in the Stormlight Archive. It is said that “a shardblade did not cut living flesh; it severed the soul itself.” Slicing through someone’s skin would cause no flesh damage, but would lead to numbness in the area swung through. Slicing through someone’s neck would lead to death and eyes being burnt out.

Soulcasters are objects used to turn substances into different substances. For instance, rock to smoke, or human flesh to flames. It is even possible to soulcast food, but it usually ends up being pretty bland.

Spanweed is an instrument that allows long distance communication through writing.

Quotes

But expectations were like fine pottery. The harder you held them, the more likely they were to crack.”

Shallan’s point of view

Well, I myself find that respect is like manure. Use it where needed, and growth will flourish. Spread it on too thick, and things just start to smell.”

Kabsal

The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how to think, but to give you questions to think upon.”

Wit

Research

After 10 years of research and writing, Brandon Sanderson produced The Way of Kings. There are many aspects of the story that are realistic and well-thought-out. The medical and surgical knowledge Sanderson included in his book added to the effectiveness of the story. Even though it’s a work of fiction, I felt that I learned more about how wounds were treated after battles.

There were other thoughtful aspects such as how a soldier was told to urinate before battle so during the battle he would not be distracted. He was supposed to do that well ahead of time because armor is hard to get off and back on. Another instance of realism is that the brand that Kaladin has is scabby and needs to heal.

Extras

The illustrations between sections of the book are beautiful and contribute to the illusion of realism that Sanderson creates. Illustrations can be seen at his website, here. The quotes at the beginning of each chapter are mostly made up of the dying words of random people. The reason for these quotes is revealed at the end, and they turn out to be extremely relevant.

Conclusion

If you like fantasy, read this book. I have a feeling this book will become a classic for the fantasy genre. Recommended for ages 13 at least and up, but may be better for an older audience due to length.

Rating System

If you are interested in how I rate books, check out my rating system.

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