Way of Kings, the new epic fantasy novel from acclaimed author Brandon Sanderson, was released this past week. As a huge fan of Sanderson’s previous work such as the Mistborn Trilogy and Warbreaker, I knew I had to read this book! Sanderson’s success and notoriety speaks for itself, for example having been chosen to complete Jordan’s Wheel of Time series after the unfortunate passing of the author, so I’ll try to keep the praise to a minimum and focus on what I thought of the book itself.
Now that I’ve finished reading this first installment in what promises to be an long series reminiscent of Game of Thrones, The Wheel of Time or The Malazan Book of the Fallen, I am eager to see where Sanderson’s impressive world building will take us in the future. In this first book, Sanderson uses multiple view points woven together across an entire continent in order to establish the setting in a slow reveal while introducing our heroes – and perhaps villains to the reader. Where authors such as Robert Jordan, Terry Goodkind or Terry Pratchett tell a more or less complete wrapped up story within their opening novels, Sanderson’s work reminds me more of Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings – despite the length of the novel at over 1000 pages we are given just enough material to get us excited about the world and story unfolding and left wanting more. Without giving away any plot details, let’s just say that this entire opening novel feels like more of a prologue for what is to come.
However, despite the impressive world building the thing that has always impressed me most about Sanderson is the excellent character development and diverse cast featured in his works, and the Way of Kings is no exception. Although the seemingly main protagonist, Kaladin, seems on the surface a bit of the typical cliche hero, he at times surprises us with his evolving mental state, barely teetering on the brink of despair apologetically. Meanwhile, characters such as Adolin and Dalinar leave you wondering whether they really are the good-guys we are led to believe, with each displaying tendencies toward narcissism and insanity, respectively. Personally I found the viewpoint character of Shallan fell flat somewhat, toward the end of the novel her character arc picked up and I found myself surprisingly looking forward to what we may learn about her in the next novel. With over a thousand pages to work with Sanderson also manages to weave in a considerable amount of character building for even secondary and minor characters, with some of these providing several of the standout memorable moments of the novel for me.
Overall I highly recommend this work for anyone interested in high fantasy. The last opening novel of a series that left me so excited was Game of Thrones, and although Sanderson’s fare is not quite as complex and unforgiving as Martin I eagerly await the next volume. Beware however, despite Sanderson’s prolific writing pace this series promises to be a long one, and with Sanderson taking breaks between novels to work on some of his other projects as well we will likely not see the end of this series for over a decade. If you are willing to wait, however, then this work is likely to be a smash hit with you.
4.5 / 5 stars.