I long for the days before the Last Desolation. Before the Heralds abandoned us and the Knights Radiant turned against us. When there was still magic in Roshar and honor in the hearts of men.
In the end, not war but victory proved the greater test. Did our foes see that the harder they fought, the fiercer our resistance? Fire and hammer forge a sword; time and neglect rust it away. So we won the world, yet lost it.
Now there are four whom we watch: the surgeon, forced to forsake healing and fight in the most brutal war of our time; the assassin, who weeps as he kills; the liar, who wears her scholar’s mantle over a thief’s heart; and the prince, whose eyes open to the ancient past as his thirst for battle wanes.
One of them may redeem us. One of them will destroy us.
I put off reading The Way of Kings for years because it is such an intimidating book. It’s an adult epic fantasy novel of over 1200 pages. That’s a serious commitment reading-wise, is it not? I finally bit the bullet late last year, and I’m so glad I did. After the first few chapters, I found myself falling in love with the characters, and wanting to know more about the world. I’d highly recommend this book, even if it might seem daunting to you.
The Way of Kings is a multiple POV fantasy novel with three main perspectives – interspersed with some small chapters from other people’s point of view.
The main characters of this book are Kaladin, Dalinar, and Shallan. I would say that this novel is more of an exploration of their characters and the world, rather than an action-packed fantasy novel. I assume the sequels will focus more on events happening rather than character introduction and build-up, as the first book has set the PoV characters up pretty well. I find it hard to choose a favorite character, to be honest, as they are all intriguing in their own way.
There are other characters who have their own POV as well, but don’t have as much page-time as the previous three, such as Szeth-son-son-Vallano (who is endlessly intriguing), Adolin Kholin (Dalinar’s son), and Navani Kholin (widow of King Gavilar).
Kaladin is the character you would follow to your own death, but is simultaneously the one you want to wrap in a blanket and protect from the universe. Dalinar is a man to look up to, one you can’t help but admire, even if you feel he’s somewhat naive at times. In fact, he reminds me a lot of A Song of Ice and Fire‘s Ned Stark. Shallan is a woman you grow to love and understand. She’s been placed in a position that leaves her unsure of what course to take, and I would not know what to do either. I can’t help but admire her eagerness to learn, and adore her witty retorts. I also wish I could draw even half as well as her.
“Ignorance is hardly unusual, Miss Davar. The longer I live, the more I come to realize it is the natural state of the human mind. There are many who will strive to defend its sanctity and then expect you to be impressed with their efforts.”
There are other characters that are incredibly important to the story, like Jasnah. In fact, she might be my favorite character of all. I don’t want to say too much about her, but know that Jasnah has taken Shallan on as an apprentice. She’s also an atheist in a world where it’s seen as insane, and is a woman who is not afraid to walk her own path, regardless of what other people think.
“Regardless,” Jasnah continued, “tonight’s actions came about because I chose this path, not because of anything I felt you needed to see. However, the opportunity also presented a chance for instruction, for questions. Am I a monster or am I a hero? Did I just slaughter four men, or did I stop four murderers from walking the streets? Does one deserve to have evil done to her by consequence of putting herself where evil can reach her? Did I have a right to defend myself? Or was I just looking for an excuse to end lives?”
I especially loved this conversation she has with someone trying to convert her to their religion.
[talking about being an atheist]
“I wouldn’t say I have nothing to believe in. My brother and my uncle, my own abilities. The things I was taught by my parents.”
“But, what is right and wrong, you’ve… Well, you’ve discarded that.”
“Just because I do not accept the teachings of the devotaries does not mean I’ve discarded a belief in right and wrong.”
One of the most interesting aspects of this novel is the world-building. We have become quite used to fantastic world-building from Sanderson’s novels, as he always manages to create a new, epic world without confusing the reader. However, the same cannot be said for The Way of Kings. It’s, in my opinion, intentionally confusing at times.
He starts off with the basics of the world: the fact that in Alethkar people with “lighteyes” are nobility, while the “darkeyes” are peasants, the fact that there’s been a war between the countries for years, that they are fighting on the Shattered Plains after Alethkar’s king has been killed by the Parshendi, the highstorms that determine the climate of the world, and so on.
We are also told of a previous time in history, where the Heralds protected humanity and the Knights Radiant were incredible knights/warriors with Shardplate – armor that is almost impossible to breach and lends power to the wearer – and Shardblades – same but a sword. Why the Heralds turned their back to humanity, the Knights Radiant seemengly betrayed the world, and what happened next is a huge mystery throughout this book. Why? Records from that time don’t seem to exist, and so no one truly knows the details of that turning point in history. It’s fascinating to discover more of the world, because it’s not only new to us but to the characters as well.
The Way of Kings is such a fascinating start to what I’m sure will be an epic series, and I can’t wait to pick up the sequel. I know it’s daunting to start the Stormlight Archive because the books are so long, but I promise it’s worth it. The first hundred pages or so may seem somewhat confusing or less captivating, but soon you’ll be unable to put the book down. I’m already so attached to these characters, am intrigued by the magic, and excited to discover the history of this world. I recently ordered the sequel, Words of Radiance, and I swear it won’t sit on my bookshelf for a year, unread! I promise. Truly.