The Way of Kings

51WC999OnyLTruth be told, I finished The Way of Kings days ago, during the weekend. (Don’t worry, I’ve been reading only loose comics since, so it’s not like I’m getting backed up or anything.) I guess the reason there’s been no review is because it’s a very large book. Physically, too, but I mean it’s a very large story. I mean, it’s referenced on the cover as Book One of The Stormlight Archive, and it’s being written by the guy who stepped in because Robert Jordan was crushed under the weight of the Wheel of Time.[1] So you can see why this is tricky; I don’t think I’ve ever reviewed the first book of a doorstop fantasy series without having read other books in its series prior to any review. Still, since I keep thinking about the physicality of the book, it’s a good place to start, particularly during a month in which a lot of the chatter I see in my corner of the internet is about the migration to Kindles or other electronic book-reading devices.

Whether because Tor is also thinking about the e-book revolution a lot lately or simply because they’ve been sufficiently satisfied with Sanderson’s output over the past few years to want to splurge or maybe it’s something Sanderson wanted out of this book in the first place, but The Way of Kings is probably the prettiest modern book I’ve ever seen. The cover art is nice but not all that noteworthy; the inside is where it’s at. The inner covers have multiple different maps of the same continent, in startlingly fine color detail. The paper is heavier than I’m used to, not quite to the way I imagine vellum, but definitely of superior stock. There are any number of drawings and diagrams scattered throughout the story, each also of excellent quality. It’s the kind of book you’d expect to buy a special edition version of, years later, to get this many goodies. I know that has no real relevance to whether it has a good story, but it strongly informed my initial impressions, and even filtered through my distaste for non-physical books, it would be a pity to be looking at this on a screen. (Or even a paperback, almost certainly.)

So, was it a good book? I will say unreservedly yes, because a) I otherwise had nothing to complain about and b) my favorite part of any good-sized tale, the characterizations, was masterfully drawn. There are about four main characters and a handful of important secondaries, and another handful of very minor characters adding world flavor and possibly highlighting Important Facts that are not yet clear to me but will seem painfully obvious upon some future mythical reread. And except for those last few, I really do care a great deal about what’s going to happen to all of them. Of course, things will happen to them, as Sanderson doesn’t innovate the fantasy tropes: the world is falling under a long shadow for the first time in millennia, a shadow humanity has all but forgotten, and our heroes must figure out their own shit if they have a hope of doing anything about the worse shit coming. But Sanderson innovates like nobody’s business on sense of wonder, and he got it all over me. Still, that wouldn’t be enough to leave me excited[2] without how well he writes his characters and without the attention to foreshadowing and as yet unsolved mysteries and the promise of more that lie ahead.

I guess, after all is said and done, my excitement comes from the fact that this is the best kind of doorstop fantasy: the kind that leaves me wanting more and at the same time willing to pause and digest and discuss and (yes, someday) re-read. And while there are several series I’m in the middle of that leave me with some portion of those desires, this really is the first one since I finished Jordan’s The Shadow Rising and was officially caught up on Wheel of Time publications that has left me with all of them at once. That’s a heavy expectation to leave on a book, but I can’t really lie about it, right?

[1] I have a saidin-poisoning joke floating around in my head, but it would almost certainly be in bad taste. Well, worse taste.
[2] As opposed to merely entertained.

3 thoughts on “The Way of Kings

  1. Mike Kozlowski

    Okay, FINE, I’ll read it.

    (And I do feel slightly sad about reading it on the Kindle instead of on the hardcover, which really is pretty attractive. But, y’know, it’s also FOUR POUNDS in the paper version, as opposed to squeezing in along side a few hundred other books on a single 8oz device.)


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