The Way of Kings is the first in Brandon Sanderson’s ten book series, The Stormlight Archive. It was actually the first book of his I’ve ever read, but with the third one coming out “soon” and a novella in the universe being on the way, I thought it would be a good idea to brush up on the series. I’m not generally a big fan of rereading or rewatching things for their own sake, but after a span of not having visited the series for years, this four hundred thousand word monstrosity demands it. It’s over a thousand pages long, which translates to over forty hours of audiobook. And here I am struggling with a piece barely an eighth that length. In fact, this entire book is longer than the combined length of everything I have ever written in my writing career.
For anyone that doesn’t know, Brandon Sanderson is currently writing a bunch of different book series right now, and about seven of them are all in the same universe, which is called the Cosmere. They are all on different planets, and initially all of these series are completely unrelated to each other. Later on, however, characters will be jumping back and forth, and it will end up looking a lot like the Marvel Cinematic Universe in regards to their timelines, where some sequels happen before other stories begin, and characters jump into different series and whatnot.
To extend that comparison, The Stormlight Archive is intended to be sort of like The Avengers movies, where all the previous series are sort of combined into this series. Ten books each about a thousand pages long. Sounds like a hefty chunk, but only two are out right now. Sorry.
So The Way of Kings introduces to us the world of Roshar, a place where quite a lot of things are happening (with a book this big, though, that makes sense). It’s a very well written piece of epic fantasy. There are swords more powerful than lightsabers, swords more powerful than those swords, and also rocks. Some of those rocks are magical. Others aren’t. Crazy, right?
The first book follows the narrative of three main characters: Kaladin, Shallan, and Dalinar. They are all in very different positions in life, and so it is interesting to see how they interact with the world around them because of how their society treats them, since Roshar is a distinctly different culture than our own. To give a few examples: women must conceal their left hand (it is scandalous to show it in public), reading is a feminine art (it is almost blasphemous for a man to be able to read), and men and women eat different foods at different tables.
One of my favorite things about this book, though, is that at the end of every major “act”, there are about three interlude chapters written from the perspective of people in various cultures and societies around the world. This is rarely used to move the major plot along, and it is mostly intended to expose the reader to the rest of the planet and the way it works. It is actually a fantastic way to explain some of the strange phenomena without involving the main characters. It does add quite a bit of unnecessary chapters, of course, but they are still quite interesting.
The most unfortunate thing about this book series is that it is taking so long to be written. Book Five isn’t scheduled to be published until 2025, nearly a decade from now. By the time this series is over, Sanderson’s audience will have completely changed, both by physical people and by personality. Nobody reading this book series now will be the same person by the time its done, simply because the amount of sheer time that will have passed. To add on to that, people that haven’t even been born yet could still grow up with this series and read the last book as it comes out after they’ve already reached adulthood. It’s sad because I want to read the rest of the books now, and I would be uncomfortable recommending it to people because I don’t want to put them through that kind of wait, but it is a great series, even with only two books already out.
Besides, while you wait for the other books to come out you can read the rest of Sanderson’s works. It won’t be a waste of time since they’re all in the same universe anyway!