A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library
I’ll start with a confession that’s likely to ruin my cred with fantasy readers: I don’t like Robert Jordan’s beloved Wheel of Time series. The first book was great, the second a bit less so, the third, fourth, and fifth were more tedious than the occasional flashes of brilliance could sustain. I finally quit it midway through the sixth book. When I heard that Brandon Sanderson, the author who finished the last few books of Wheel of Time after Robert Jordan passed away, was planning a multi-volume epic of his own and kicking it off with a 1200 page brick, I let my opinion of Jordan over-rule my interest and I paid no attention to the rave reviews it got.
Light, what a fool I was! Attracted by the Michael Whelan cover art and then pulled further in by my weakness for endpaper maps, I started reading the first chapter absentmindedly one afternoon. I never looked back. In fact, I don’t even recall the next two weeks very well. The Way of Kings was all consuming.
It kicks off with a thrilling action sequence that, in just a few quick pages, also manages to sketch a fantasy world that will peak your curiosity. As the book carries on that world is filled-in from the perspectives of three main characters: a slave named Kaladin, a student named Shallan, and a heroic General named Dalinar. I won’t give too much away plot-wise—partly because there are a few potential spoilers, but mainly because it’s hard to know where to start with a story so sprawling and epic—but let it be known that it ticks all the right boxes. There’s political intrigue and social strata to be explored. There’s fascinating landscapes and nationalities we get a look at. And there’s a system of magic that fires the imagination without testing our patience or credulity.
Besides this admirable world-building, there’s lots of absorbing action, and most important to me, characters that live, breathe, walk, talk, and develop realistically. I have a feeling most readers will be, like I was, initially more interested in Kaladin and Shallan than the General, Dalinar. But in retrospect, I’m amazed at how subtly and believably Dalinar’s changing attitude towards war develops.
In short, The Way of Kings is altogether well done. One of the best contemporary fantasies I’ve read. It even convinced me that Sanderson has created a world that can sustain the nine further volumes he plans to write. Recommended for just about anyone, but a must read for fantasy fans.
Review by Matthew