The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is my second read and it's noticeably better this time. I even knocked it up a full star, remembering my original complaints about how LONG it is and how so much of it could have been excised without any real difficulty only to realize, at long last, that I was and am quite invested in all these characters.
Kaladin, for example, had the classic tragic feel, a man brought so low that he can never find the light of day again, working with super-expendable slaves meant to draw fire as they carry bridges across a vast network of chasms on a fractured plane while armies fight for the chance to get valuable magic stones. The battles are ongoing and seemingly without end, and the bridge crews have a very short lifetime. Kaladin is earmarked right off the bat for great changes and a meteoric rise, and most of the novel is spent with him depressed and suffering and we get more and more reveals for his backstory.
Believe it or not, he's my favorite character and all that buildup has a very satisfying conclusion. Very. It's just getting there, the first time, seemed like such a long slog.
Since then, I've read the second book and getting back into his tale again, this time, is a completely different ride. Far from complaining, I've found myself really enjoying the hell out of the step-by-step rise and slide, rise and slide and finally his explosive level-up. :)
Dalinar Kholin is a Brightlord who has visions and is also rather honorable in comparison to all the other Brightlords and he lets us, as readers, get an expansive overview of the cultures and big army movements and a feel for the whole kingdom. It's good and he's set to make big changes based on the ancient text of The Way of Kings which is meant to help defeat the Void Bringers, impressive monsters from the deep past that no one really understands anymore, plus he's having visions. Even this feels like pretty standard fare except the for the level of detail and the interesting explorations of the visions, the battles, and the politics.
Lastly, we work with Shallan, and out of all three characters, I suppose I was most taken by her. Scholar and liar and murderer, she's out to save her family by getting in good with a notorious heretic to steal her Soulcaster. She's got a very sharp tongue, an even wittier artistic talent, and serious willpower. I admit to falling for her both times I read this. :)
Of course, these stories end with grand reveals and situation reversals and complications because it's the first book in what is planned as an ENORMOUS FANTASY EPIC. :) They level up, but we're not to expect anything close to a full resolution. Just a taste of even bigger and badder to come. :) Fine? Fine. :)
But it's the worldbuilding that really shines in this Sanderson Epic. He's known for this stuff, after all. Magic rules. Interesting applications. Implications. Blowout awesomeness. And he's delivering over and over, too. It's a good enough reason, alone, to read this stuff.
But all together?
Wow. Just wow. Got my heart pumping and imagining such beautiful visuals... :) If I had to compare this to other huge volumes of epic fantasy, I think I would still put it up there with the very best, but it's really the full weight of everything that has happened and will happen, as in expectation, which really puts this on the radar.
I probably wouldn't have ever bothered with Sanderson at all if he hadn't done such a fantastic job finishing the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan after his death. But because he rocked it, I've been a big fanboy and so many books later, I'm still a big fanboy. Mistborn was great. Elantris was great. I've enjoyed everything else, too, but it's this book and this series that's meant to be his magnum opus. 1000+ pages each book, that shouldn't really be a surprise, right?
Patience is required, but the payoff is seriously here, too. :) Even in this first volume. :)
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