Review: The Way of Kings

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I chose to read the longest book I had set aside for this year in the shortest month.  By doing so it was my hope that to prove to myself that I can read anything in a month.  So I chose to start The Way of Kings on February 1st, and I blew my goal out of the water.  Despite it being 1252 pages long and spending many weekdays not reading, I still finished in 18 days.  Now I can be very confident in my ability to read a book a month for the rest of the year.

The Way of Kings is one of the most in depth fantasy books I’ve ever read.  It’s fantastic!  The flora and fauna are unique and different from the world we know.  The magic operates on the residual energy of storms… and the story lines follow people as they rise to power or are brought low by slavery and defeat.  Brandon Sanderson clearly hit gold with this novel.

I have only two complaints with the book.  First, the info dumps in the book are useful for explaining a great many things that don’t exist in our world.  And while that’s good, they are too frequent.  In general, I find that I’m the only one that is bothered by this.  But to me, what it feels like is this book is written as a history of another world and things are said in that history that only make sense in this world.

It makes sense when you’re telling a story to describe and unfamiliar place or custom to the person you’re telling the story to, in order to give it context.  But when you’re telling a story to a world that already knows that custom you won’t explain that the world has that custom.  In fantasy all too often they explain customs knowing that the reader has not context for it, and it’s noble that they’d want us to grasp that as we wrestle with their story, but the mode in which they explain it is often, unintentionally, condescending.  Where they actually writing the history for their world they wouldn’t explain some of the things they do.  They’d let us pick it up in context and connect the dots for ourselves throughout the story.  Brandon Sanderson is more guilty of this than other fantasy authors I’ve read.  He explains one creature in his book saying: “it’s like a dog” but there’s no evidence that there are any dogs in the world at all.  So for it me, it came off like cheap writing and sometimes condescending.

Second, The Way of Kings is book one of a trilogy and it leaves off with cliff hanger.  I hate cliff hangers.

Despite those two complaints, I still give this book full marks.  It’s masterfully written.  Yes, there are parts that could be improved upon, but overall the story is intricately woven and full of twists and turns that make it one of the best stories I’ve ever read.

Next Up: The Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

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