I really wish I could give The Way of Kings a sixth star. It has supplanted The Name of the Wind as my favorite fantasy novel of all-time. Rothfuss is still high-prince of my heart, but Sanderson reigns as king. Kvothe is an amazing, beautifully written character, but he doesn’t hold a Stormlighted-sphere to Kaladin. (Also, how can I not esteem the sheer amount of writing we get from Sanderson? Rothfuss is a craftsman, without a doubt. His writing is some of the most beautiful I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. But Sanderson’s work ethic earns him my respect and my gratitude.)
I tried to read this as slowly as possible, savoring every character’s perspective, every plot twist, every revelation. But alas, it was still over far too soon. I know that I have the second volume lying in wait on my shelf, but I think I’ll wait a month or two before I consume it, so as to give this delectable novel time to fully digest before diving back into the world of Roshar. I’ve read a plethora of fantasy novels, but I don’t think I’ve ever come across a world more unique or skillfully woven than Roshar. Sanderson should be applauded for that creation alone.
But that’s not all he gave us in the first volume of what I truly believe will be the greatest epic fantasy series of our generation, if not of all time. Sanderson gave us a cast of incredibly varied characters with believable inner turmoil and motivations. He gave us (yet another) unique, multifaceted magic system, backed by a similarly unique and multifaceted religion. He gave us a new view on the roles of women in fantasy, making literacy and scholarship and invention feminine arts. He even gave us completely original flora and fauna. And included sketches from the hand of one of the central characters! Is there anything this man can’t do?
I don’t want to get too into the character development present in this book, but I will say that, despite the strength of Sanderson’s world building, the characters are what made the story really come alive. He gave us Szeth, the reluctant assassin; Shallan, the artist-turned-scholar with ulterior motives; Jasnah, Shallan's incredibly gifted but heretical sponsor; Dalinar, a light-eyed high-prince and follower of the Codes, which sets him at odds with his peers; Adolin, Dalinar’s eldest son who questions his father’s decisions but adheres reluctantly; Navani, the widow of the fallen king; Wit, whose shroud of mystery and intellect make him a misfit; and, finally, Kaladin, a soldier with the hands and demeanor of a surgeon, with shoulders bowed beneath the weight of the world.
There were incredible battles in this book. Incredible plot twists. Incredible characters as mentioned above. Simply incredible storytelling. I know this review has pretty much been blathering praise and little else. But I don’t know how to say anything more about The Way of Kings without giving something special away, and I want anyone who chooses to read it to be able to mine all of those treasures for themselves. But I will say, if you’re a fan of the fantasy genre, don’t let the size of this tome intimidate you. Every page was a jewel well worth reading. You would be doing yourself a disservice by not reading this wonderful book. I can’t wait to see where the story goes next. Thank you, Mr. Sanderson, for crafting such a beautiful addition to the genre.