Warning: Book-Breaking Spoilers Below

It was good.

I’ll start with that.

Honestly, it did take me a little ways into the book to fully start liking it. But the awesome thing is, the second I started liking The Way of Kings (tWoK), I started LOVING it. Literally, starting at about page 485-ish, I could not put the book down. It took me two weeks to get to page 485, and then two days to finish the next 516 pages of storyline.

When I first started reading tWoK, I was very annoyed by a couple things. The first was the slow start. Granted, I’ve read a lot of fantasy novels in my time, and many have slow starts, but I think I’m biased because I have prior relations with those novels, and have read and re-read them multiple times over the years. Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn doesn’t really get started until page 190 or so, but from there on, the adventure never stops. By the time I got to page 200 or so in tWoK, my brain just started thinking, “When is this going to get going, already?” and there was really nothing I could do about it. Regardless, I should have been thinking more about the fact that this is just the first book in a proposed 10-book series, and therefore, a little teaser to get us into the world should be expected.

Secondly (and speaking of getting us into the world), it took me forever to figure out what is going on in this world. You see, I read no preview material about the novel before it came out, read no reviews, read no spoilers, and therefore, had no idea that Brandon Sanderson had not only crafted new cultures, but also new geologies and ecosystems for his world. It is expected in fantasy books to have to learn a bit about the people, but most of the time, the world itself still remains basically the same. Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall all happen in pretty much the same order (though sometimes are very extended), and the weather systems of the world pretty much do what they do here on earth. There are typically still lions, tigers, bears, dogs, and cats, and you still hear the fantasy characters talking about oak, elm, and spruce trees. Sanderson puts us on a completely new and original planet, where hurricane-like “highstorms” occur every few weeks, and the entire geology and ecosystem of the world have adapted to those conditions. Many animals are crustacean-like, and many trees and plants actually protect themselves from these highstorms. So, all that being said, it took awhile to figure out how the world works. There are still a lot of things to figure out, but luckily, there are nine more books coming to help out with that.

Sanderson has done a remarkable job with a new magic system for this series. If I understand correctly, most gems (diamonds, sapphires, emeralds, etcetera) are ordinary, pretty gems, until they are washed by a highstorm. If left out during one of these storms, these gems become infused with a glowing essence of magical power called Stormlight (which suggests the storms themselves are magical, right?). Then, these newly-infused Stormlight gems can be used to power various devices and items. These items include Shardplate, (which I’m not very sure what it is, but it stops Shardblades), Fabrials, which are basically technological items that use magic to work, and others. Of course, the real purpose of them, as I see it, is to actually infuse people with their powers, thus giving us one of the types of magic Sanderson has introduced: Surgebinding. If I’ve read correctly, two characters in the book so far can use Surgebinding – one of them knows exactly how it works and in the process, makes Neo look like a clumsy three year old child. The other character is just starting to learn of his abilities, and we get to see as he becomes more powerful throughout the book.

There is another type of magic in the series as well, but we don’t find out about it until near the end. Up until the last few chapters or so, Soulcasting appears to just be a way to use a specific kind of Fabrial to make magical effects happen. When we finally learn what is actually going on, we get a glimpse into a much darker side of the world than we had previously been let on to. Shadesmar isn’t explained, and when it’s introduced (as a Chapter Title), we don’t really even know what’s going on. But we know it’s important, especially by the map in the back of the book. And by the way, the way in which those strange … beings … that Shallan sees are introduced put some major creep-factor into the books as well. They had the feel of Stephen King-Style horror to them, which possibly explains a bit about why I feel that this can’t be a good thing.

Brandon’s done a great job in tWoK creating a world we have to get to know. There are things thrown in seemingly-randomly that make us wish for more information, such as quick descriptions of how people in foreign lands look, and tantalizing short interlude-chapters which seem to have no real bearing on the story. But knowing Sanderson, they probably will become very important in the future.

Anyway, that’s it for now. The book is good. It definitely took me a ways into it to really start feeling it, but now I literally can’t wait for the next one in the series. I look forward to following Sanderson for many more years now.

Cheers!
-E.S.

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