The Way of Kings (Stormlight Archive, Volume 1) by Brandon Sanderson

The first installment in a planned 10-book series set in a world where the remnants of long-forgotten magic may prove to be the undoing of all mankind.

My brother has been begging me to read The Way of Kings for ages, and he finally went and bought it for me. I’m ever so glad he did because it was a highly enjoyable read and a cut above Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy, which I enjoyed but found a bit flat. I am going to have to thump my brother one for getting me into a series that (a) is going to be 10 books and (b) only has 1 of those 10 books written so far. The next one is supposed to come out in November and Sanderson does seem like a fast writer.

The Way of Kings follows three main characters. Dalinar is an Alethian prince, brother of the murdered king and uncle to the current king. He has been plagued by crippling visions that come upon him during the high storms of Roshar. These storms ravage the land and kill anyone caught in them, and also infuse gems with Stormlight, which can be used to perform small bits of magic. Dalinar holds a Shardblade and Shardplate, Stormlight-infused weaponry that make him nearly invincible. Winning any Shards in battle automatically lifts any man up to nobility in the Roshari caste system, where the light-eyed rule the dark-eyed. I think if you win Shards your eyes change color but I was a little unclear on that point.

Anyway, Dalinar and the other princes are waging a war on the Shattered Plains against the Parshendi, a people with mottled red and black skin who sing as they fight. The Shattered Plains are home to chasmfiends, who lurk the deep crevices between plateaus. If you find and kill a chasmfiend in its chrysalis, you can rip out its gemheart and those hold a lot of magic. The princes want to get the gemhearts before the Parshendi can, and the king has them competing against each other instead of working together. Dalinar’s visions tell him that he is supposed to unite them all, but since everybody thinks he’s crazy that doesn’t seem very likely.

Kaladin is a bridgeman in another prince’s army. Sadeas isn’t honorable like Dalinar. He enslaves men to carry heavy bridges so the soldiers can quickly cross the chasms. A bridgeman’s life basically sucks, but Kaladin isn’t the kind of man to just suck it up and die. A former soldier, he’s haunted by the idea that he’s doomed to survive, unable to save anyone around him, starting with the battlefield death of his younger brother. Kaladin decides to rewrite the bridgeman’s script, and in so doing, unleashes Sadeas’s anger. However, he discovers a strange connection with Stormlight that links him to heroes of old called Radiants–the same ones who may be speaking to Dalinar in his visions.

Lastly, Shallan is a noble girl charged with stealing a powerful Soulcaster from a noteworthy heretic, Jasnah, who is also sister to the king. Here is where the book really shines–the theology is complicated, deep, and well thought out enough that the heresy makes sense. I felt like there was a lot to discover about the belief systems in the book and I appreciated that not everyone was on the same page, religiously speaking. Needless to say, Shallan’s plans go tragically and terrifying awry.

There’s also a scary guy who can walk on walls while he kills everyone in sight. This bit reminded me too much of Mistborn, but I’m curious to see where it goes.

If you have read this far, you’re either a fantasy nerd who will probably like this book if you haven’t read it already, or you are just amazed at the depths of my geekery. I am the real deal, okay? I am really and truly an epic fantasy nerd and I don’t care who knows it!

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