The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
Published by Tor, ISBN 978-0-7653-6527-9
Kalak rounded a rocky store ridge and stumbled to a stop before the body of a dying thunderclast. The enormous stone beast lay on its side, riblike protrusions from its chest broken and cracked. The monstrosity was vaguely skeletal in shape, with unnaturally long limbs that sprouted from the granite shoulders. The eyes were deep red spots on the arrowhead face, as if created by a fire burning deep within the stone. They faded.
Some books push the boundaries of literary technique, Sanderson has managed to push the boundaries of paperback technology; at 1256 pages, The Way of Kings is excellent value for money and one of those novels that will literally improve your life albet only with improved upper body strength. I really admire Tor's commitment to quantity literature.
The Way of Kings follows the current trend of focusing on a bunch of tenuously related characters instead of a single story. This can work wellSee Game of Thrones for a similar, much better, example, giving the author a larger canvas to splatter the plot on. But here I feel that the story focuses too much on the predictable characters for far too long. Nobody who ever read a book could be surprised when the enslaved surgeon/solder Kaladina character so mopey and put upon that Drizzt Do'Urden would give him a hug to try to cheer him up wins over the loyalty of his fellow slaves as he molds them into a fighting fit team, or think that Highprince Dalinar was actually going insane with visions as everyone else believes.
Other more interesting characters get less page-time. The only plotline with any intrigue (a young woman planning to rob her teacher) gets shoved in between long stretches of tedium. In fact the whole book is structured like a low-budget film from the 80s with all the best scenes near the beginning and the end.
If you like this, there are more at the illustrator's DeviantArt pageSanderson can write satisfying action; fighters spin, slash, and slide across the pages while armies clash on blood soaked plains. Since many of the characters are armed with
light sabres shard blades, the body count of nameless mooks must be in the thousands. His weakness is the rest of the prose which is functional at best and occasionally jarringly out of place. I doubt real archers ever "drew a bead" on anything while aiming in battle.
The imaginatively designed world of Roshar is the novel's main asset. It is a land of unchanging seasons - sunny days punctuated every few weeks by devastating magical Highstorms that last hours and can fling bolders through the air. The little touches in the novel where the plants and animals the can survive such conditions are described were some of my favorite passages. I am a sucker for fantastic biology and there are even scientific diagrams among the book's illustrations. Even better, every few hundred pages there is a neat little vignette where Sanderson takes a break from the plot to give us a quiet look at some other part of the world, I found myself looking forward to these more than the main story.
Fantasy novels such as this one often get compared to fast food and here the analogy holds well. The Way of Kings is like a KFC quarter pack served with 2 kilos of mashed potatoes. There is enough tasty chicken that you will probably enjoy but it is buried under a huge mound of filler. Also, it is bad for the environment and you will probably feel disappointed with yourself for consuming it. The main difference is that I am not hungry to see what happens in the 9NINE! The next one was originally going to be called The Book of Endless Pages but the publisher wisely changed it. planned sequels but I could really use some chicken right now.