The Way of Kings may seem a bit intimidating when you see it in stores and with over a thousand pages (paperback) it’s not exactly a weekend read. It took me a very long time to get through it, not because it wasn’t good but because it seemed like such a huge task. Now that I have read it, and being a bit well read in fantasy, I think I can say Brandon Sanderson is one of the only authors who have come close to J. R. R. Tolkien in terms of scope, creativity, and literary art.
Brandon Sanderson has truly created a world that functions on it’s own. It is incredibly detailed and rich with a long history that leaves you knowing that you don’t know anything yet. There’s obviously a lot more to come. The characters also have a way of thinking that fits with the culture, environment, and magic system (which by the way is also inventive, logical, and original). I don’t think I can very accurately describe how good these things are. They’re really well done. The book also takes a more original stance than the typical fantasy novel, especially the first novel in a series. Instead of the typical journey over an unknown fantasy terrain, it feels more like a historical war fiction but in a world other than our own, which is cool to experience.
The other thing I really like about this is Sanderson’s cinematic writing style. It’s very easy to see the action unfold almost as if it were a visual medium. The parts when a character fulfills some heroic moment are extremely satisfying. Tolkien would have called this eucatastrophe which is where the situation looks bad but is suddenly switched around because of the actions and decisions of other characters, similar to Deus Ex Machina. And Brandon Sanderson is a master of it.
I didn’t give this book a 10 for one reason only. It’s not the length of the book, though it is related. However, I don’t think a long book makes it worse, necessarily. But, although it’s clear that the main character is Kaladin, it is not very clear what his destiny is or even a hint of it until about 2/3rds into the book. That’s a long time to not know why you’re reading about the guy. Luckily Sanderson makes up for this by making Kaladin intriguing enough to carry your interest for a while. But the same also applies to many of the other characters. That’s one of the reasons why the book is difficult to get through because it’s never too clear what the point or end goal is.
Overall however, this book approaches a masterpiece and luckily, Sanderson has a lot of youth left in him to continue to improve and surprise us all with something even better.