Speak again the ancient oaths,
Life before death.
Strength before weakness.
Journey before destination.
It was a pleasant, if a bit cold November day in the Steam chat room when fate introduced me to The Way of Kings. Technically speaking it was my friend Tam, and the introduction went something like this:
Tam: My mum is sulking
Me: lol, why?
Tam: cos I was reading during lunch. And then she was all like: is this book more important than me? And I kinda said yes
Me: lol, evil
Tam: You’re gonna read it too btw
Me: I am?
Tam: It’s not debatable
Me: lol, k
A few days later, I had the book at home. Two books, technically speaking, because I was reading the Gollantz edition, which is divided into two parts.The reason for that has something to do with the publishers making people buy two books instead of one. But Sanderson intended for them to be read as one, so I'm reviewing them as such.
Sanderson takes us into the world of Roshar, more specifically into the kingdoms of Alethkar and Jah Keved. It is an exciting new world in which hurricanes are called highstorms and their stormlight can infuse gemstones with a glowing light. There are also rare blades that can cut through anything inanimate and kill by cutting - not flesh - but the soul. And these blades – shardblades – are used in fighting a war between the Alethi and the Parshendi, who are fighting because of the Parshendi assassination of the Alethi king. Are you lost yet? Introducing a whole new world is always a tricky thing. There are so many things the author wants to say and show, but are often not really important for the story. Readers can get overwhelmed by the amount of new information, but if there isn't enough of it, the book can become boring. Sanderson, however, managed to find that perfect line between too much and too little. Moreover, he doesn't simply tell us how the land looks and what its traditions are, but he shows everything through many different characters. That is how we learn the small but still important details of the world, from the fact that women always have their left hand covered or gloved - it is their safe hand – to the fact that it is considered shameful for a man to know how to read or be an inventor or an engineer.
There are four main characters through whose perspective we get to view most of the world and follow the story. The first is Kaladin, a former soldier, now a slave given up on running. The second is Szeth-son-son-Vallano, an enslaved assassin who kills against his will. The third is Shallan, a young woman who wants to become a scholar, but needs to become a thief. The last is Dalinar, a warlord and a highprince who doesn't do so well during highstorms. Sanderson lets these characters grow and change beautifully throughout the book, he lets them make bad choices, do bad things, give up and try again, lets them be treated badly, all in order for them to grow and change. As I read I really felt their pain, threatened them not to do what they were about to do and begged them not to give up when all seemed hopeless. Sometimes they listened, sometimes they didn't.
The four main characters, however, are not the only ones that have their own chapters. There are several others who appear to narrate just one chapter, but even those are unique, interesting and intriguing. They serve to present some new aspect or new information about the world and my favourite among these was definitely Axies the Collector, a scholar who studies spren (a kind of elementals that appear around certain events). I really hope Sanderson brings him back for the next book, because those few pages of his narration were a real treat. I especially loved the way Axies couldn't decide whether he actually witnessed intoxication spren, or just imagined them because he was drunk.
If I have one negative thing to say, it’s this: the elevated lord-of-the-rings type of speech annoyed me a few times. Very few times for sure and even that mostly at the beginning, when I was still a bit reluctant to let the book pull me in and the inner critic in me wanted to find something to criticise. But in the end this made no effect on my overall satisfaction with the book. I absolutely loved it and I would recommend it to anyone who's not afraid to fall in love with fictional characters. Oh Kaladin. But as it is often the case with these things, the second book, Highprince of War isn't out yet. Why do I always fall for the ones who make me wait? The anticipation spren are already buzzing all around me!
“Everything is a contest. All dealings among men are a contest in which some will succeed and others fail. And some are failing quite spectacularly.”