Friday, March 20, 2015

The Way of Kings

Brandon Sanderson has truly become one of my favorite authors. His creativity, his passion, and his unique vision for laying out sweeping fantasy tales put him in truly rarefied air. I just finished the first entry in his planned Stormlight Archive series, a book entitled The Way of Kings. I daresay that the heft of this tome alone, my copy checked in at over 1000 pages, might be enough to scare away the casual reader. However, for someone who likes to be fully ensconced in an epic adventure and to become a part of a brilliant narrative that just takes you away from your own reality, this story was outstanding.

Millenia ago the members of the Knights Radiant used their power and their magic to protect the people and their lands from the continued onslaughts of the outsiders. Then one day the legends say that they just walked away, leaving the future in the hands of destiny. In the last few centuries, humanity survived under the control of local kings and warlords. It wasn't until Gavilar united them into a single kingdom that Alethkar finally found stability. When Gavilar signed the peace treaty with the Parshendi, warlike tribes in the surrounding hills, the promise of peace was in the air. The evening of the treaty signing, an assassin under Parshendi control was sent to kill Gavilar. Several years later, the kingdom is still under a single king, Gavilar's son Elhokar. All of the highprinces of Alethkar now are stationed with their men in huge war camps in the Shattered Plains fighting the Parshendi in a war that has carried on for more than 6 years. What was once a conflict birthed from the pain of avenging their fallen king, has become little more than a game to the highprinces, who are more content to posture and pose to win favor and to fill their own treasuries.

This story is told very much in the same fashion and with the same feel as George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones books. Each chapter is told from the point of view of a different major character. Two of the most prominent are the king's uncle, Dalinar, and a gifted warrior named Kaladin who was betrayed after saving a highprince. Both Dalinar and Kaladin are men of honor and principle. Dalinar is working to unite his people and protect his king among the battles of the ongoing war and the posturing of the highprinces and their traitorous schemes. He is also struggling with prophetic visions about the past and future that have him convinced that he is losing his mind. Kaladin has been branded as a slave and forced to be little more than fodder to take arrows to protect the real soldiers.

Sanderson has woven a gem here that kept me fully invested from start to finish. Watching how men of honor at the top of the royal line and at the bottom of the slave ranks went about conducting their lives also provided an fascinating contrast. As the story ended, both Dalinar and Kaladin had survived multiple betrayals and attempts on their lives, and have become united in purpose both to save humanity and to bring peace to the land. Now, onto the next part of the story in Words of Radiance.