During a war of vengeance, Kaladin arrives on the Shattered Plains. Once a surgeon’s apprentice turned solider, he is now a slave, branded dangerous, and expected to die as a lowly bridgeman.
Also on the Shattered Plains is Dalinar Kholin, an Alethi highprince plagued by visions of desolations. Like his brother, the deceased king, he has become obsessed with an ancient book called The Way of Kings. Once a warlord, he has dedicated his life to honor.
Across the ocean, Shallan Davar seeks an apprenticeship with Dalinar’s niece, the eminent scholar and heretic Jasnah Kholin. Driven not by her love of learning, Shallan seeks to steal an artifact in Jasnah’s possession. If she is unsuccessful, it will cost her life and the livelihood of her entire family.
Ten years in the making, The Way of Kings is the first in the Stormlight Archive, a planned ten book series broken into two sets of five, and a masterpiece in the making. It stands not only as a giant among Sanderson’s Cosmere, but also in the fantasy genre. The world building is fresh and intricate. The magic is essential to the world and yet completely mysterious. Each character’s journey is compelling, none more so in this book than Kaladin’s as he struggles with grief and depression, choosing the high road even when faced with certain death and a miserable life.
In a time where our leadership seems so corrupt and unfeeling, it was refreshing to engage The Way of Kings again. The ideals of the Knights Radiant seem especially poignant, a reminder to stand for the oppressed, to fight for the disenfranchised, and to protect those who cannot protect themselves.
Life Before Death. The Radiant seeks to defend life, always. He never kills unnecessarily, and never risks his own life for frivolous reasons. Living is harder than dying. The Radiant’s duty is to live.
Strength Before Weakness. All men are weak at some point in their lives. The Radiant protects those who are weak, and uses his strength for others. Strength does not make one capable of rule; it makes one capable of service.
Journey Before Destination. There are always several ways to achieve a goal. Failure is preferable to winning through unjust means. Protecting ten innocents is not worth killing one. In the end, all men die. How you lived will be far more important to the Almighty than what you accomplished.
At 1000+ pages, The Way of Kings is a tome, structured as a trilogy and broken with interlude sections, but don’t be put off by the length. There is more than enough action, intrigue, and character development to keep any reader engaged. In the opening chapters, the reader is treated to a mystery, an assassination attempt, and a battle. The prose is clean and vivid, painting this alien world with rich and vivid colors. Although this was my second time through, everything felt fresh, and I found myself overwhelmed by moments I knew were coming. Also, it is worth noting that Michael Kramer and Kate Reading are masters of their craft, exceptional narration and character creation. I can hardly wait to listen to Words of Radiance, Edgedancer, and Oathbringer in anticipation of Rhythm of War (coming this November). If you have any interest in EPIC fantasy, I cannot recommend this series enough. If you find yourself daunted, consider starting the Cosmere with Mistborn and working your way toward the Stormlight Archive. It is truly incredible.