Welcome to Tor.com’s reread for the ginormous The Way of Kings. This project is being led by yours truly, Michael Pye (aka The Mad Hatter), for those not in the know. I’m very excited by the opportunity to gab with all of you about the world of Roshar. It truly is like nothing else in modern fantasy.
It is quite fitting that we’ve arrived at the point of focusing on Brandon Sanderson’s grand fantasy now that the author has finished The Wheel of Time and is fully prepared to move forward with The Stormlight Archive, his own multi-volume epic fantasy. While The Way of Kings is very influenced by The Wheel of Time, it is markedly a world all its own, although fans of the latter will definitely enjoy the former.
Tor Books has also just announced that the second book in this New York Times best-selling series, Words of Radiance, is tentatively slated for late 2013. So it is a very good time to get into the series before it grows larger. Because let me tell you: these are going to be some wrist-snapping reads as The Way of Kings clocks in at more than 1,000 pages.
Please join us as we journey into The Stormlight Archive with The Way of Kings, the start to the most epic fantasy series of this decade. Placed on the rocky and storm-filled world of Roshar, we begin after war has broken out between two powerful groups over the assassination of a powerful king.
The cast is large, but focuses on 3 main viewpoints and a smattering of others. We follow Bridgeman Kaladin on his Ben-Hur-like journey in the thick of battle against the Parshendi. Then there is High Prince Dalinar Kholin who is trying to avenge his brother while attempting to puzzle out how the conflict began in the first place. Shallan, a woman of noble birth, certainly keeps things interesting in the city of Kharbranth, located in a different part of Roshar. Her journey begins as a quest to save her family from the brink of financial ruin, but she ends up discovering secrets about the nature of magic in the world.
Like the characters in The Wheel of Time these are not static people. They are formed by the events around them and the decisions they make. And the best decision isn’t the norm for many of them, which leads to the drama we all love in epics of this sort.
And I haven’t even mentioned the magic yet and let me tell you this is some wild stuff. The very world is alive with magic, which can be collected in gems during massive hurricane-like storms (“highstorms”) which occur with regularity. And if you thought Sanderson had fun with magical swords in Warbreaker you haven’t seen anything yet. Shardblades in the Stormlight Archive can cut through anything—even your soul!
This reread will largely follow the format laid down by The Wheel of Time and Malazan rereads, though with a few touches of my own. Each post will cover 1 or 2 chapters beginning with a rundown of what happened in said chapter(s) followed by my commentary. There will also be a section called “The Quote of the Chapter,” which will usually have big implications to the whole work. Or it could just be a finely written line. I’m excited to see how this works out in particular as Sanderson likes to lay down hints of what is to come.
My first Brandon Sanderson novel was Warbreaker and since then I’ve been impressed with how he has grown as a writer and been able to continually innovate with his worlds. With The Way of Kings he has outdone himself on the innovation side, but also set himself up on a very high cliff. Admitting that your series will be at least 10 books long before the first has been released is not something most authors could even fathom let alone revel in.
Now a bit about me: I have my BA in English, but unlike most English majors I focused on the technical aspects rather than the creative end. (This means I can BS a paper pretty well.) I’m a life-long fan of epic fantasy, having been hooked since finding King’s The Eyes of the Dragon. Before that moment I didn’t even realize what fantasy truly was and after that I couldn’t get enough. Some of my favorite authors from the last decade include Neil Gaiman (duh!), George R.R. Martin (all hail!), Kameron Hurley (badass!), Joe Hill (throw up the horns!), Martha Wells (Queen of the Imaginarium), and Joe Abercromie (Did I put that knife in your back?) to name just a few. I’m also a fan of Euro-style board games (Small World, Eminent Domain, and Yggdrasil) and am something of a hat collector. And I should just admit it; I’m a collector with around 1,000 books and counting. It is not a problem, but a solution to my bibliomania. I have been involved in book reviewing for going on 5 years now through my blog Mad Hatter’s Bookshelf & Book Review, where I’ve had the opportunity to review more than 100 books and also interview dozens of authors including Brandon Sanderson.
I’ve had the pleasure of reading Mistborn, Warbreaker, Elantris, and most of Sanderson’s shorter works—though to date my favorite long work of his is definitely The Way of Kings. With this re-read I’ll be focusing solely on The Way of Kings, but I may mention some connections to Sanderson’s larger Cosmere. Some of my assumptions are sure to be wrong and others close to the truth. Either way, don’t feel shy about sharing your thoughts.
The first regular post will be up in two weeks on March 28 with one following each Thursday until we get to the end. (Well, the end of The Way of Kings as there will be plenty more from Roshar before it is truly over.) So sit back and join us on a journey that might take us the better part of a year to complete. Comment, speculate along, and above all else enjoy!
[P.S. - To help fans and other folks get started with the reread, Tor Books has discounted The Way of Kings ebook and Tor.com is giving away free copies!]
Michael Pye (aka The Mad Hatter) runs The Mad Hatter’s Bookshelf & Book Review where he shares his views on genre books. He can also be found nattering on Twitter or in search of the perfect piece of bacon. He is currently working on two anthology projects and is hoping to find them good publishing homes soon.