So, my long delayed review of The Way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson. I’m just going to start with one word for the moment: Wow. TL;DR version: If you enjoy epic fantasy, you will enjoy this book.
So, why wow? Well one reason is the size. With it weighing in at just over 1000 pages, this is one of the biggest novels I have seen! The paperback version has been split into two parts because of the size. The only novel that I can think of, right now, that is larger is War and Peace. My wife’s paperback copy is approximately 100 pages longer.
The other reason is that it is a good book. Don’t be taken in by it’s size. While it took me 4 weeks to read, I enjoyed every minute. The characters are engaging, and the various threads of story don’t let up. And the world, is exotic and strange, but similar enough that you don’t get too lost.
As par for other Sanderson novels I’ve read (Mistborn and Warbreaker) the magic system is amazingly well thought out, and detailed. I’m still not sure how many systems there are, (2, 3, more?), or just one that has different facets. In any case, I believe we have only seen the beginning of Soulcasting and Surgebinding, let alone the Old Magic that is mentioned.
I do have a few small qualms with the book. Because of the exotic and strange nature of the world, it was a bit difficult to understand what was going for a little while. After a few chapters though, everything started to make sense.
Another problem is that I don’t know who the main character is, if there is one. There are 3 or 4 characters that you follow through the book who could qualify. Then, there is another that plays an important part, but is only seen in 5 chapters. That’s saying something when there are 75 numbered chapters, and another 10 (or so) unnumbered ones.
The other issue that I have is the timeline. For the most part, time flows in a semi-linear fashion through the chapters. It makes sense. However, the storyline of one character didn’t quite follow in this path. The story came to a partial end about 2/3 to 3/4 through the book, and wasn’t resolved till the very end. This wouldn’t be a problem, except the time between the events in the 2 chapters was short, hours probably, while there are approximately 25 chapters in between the two. It would have been nice if the events could have been closer chapter-wise as well.
All that being said, The Way of Kings is an excellent book. If you enjoy epic fantasy, you will not be disappointed. Brandon Sanderson deserves to be among the greats of epic fantasy, like Tolkein, George R. R. Martin, and Robert Jordan. As a first entry in this series, I look forward to the rest of the series.