The Way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson
The Way of Kings is a high fantasy novel that follows a large cast of characters, including artists, historians, assassins, and various members of the royal family. However, it is mainly focused on Kaladin, a surgeon’s son and once-renowned military captain who has now hit rock bottom. Sold as a slave, the reader follows Kaladin as he tries to survive as a bridgeman, a person who, unarmed and unprotected, is forced to carry bridges at the frontline of battles so the military can cross chasms.
The Way of Kings is one of the rare books that has elements of so many types of novels, and yet never feels disjointed. With both wit and toilet humor, despair, war, romance, philosophy, magic, and science, The Way of Kings is one of the most all encompassing books that I’ve ever read. Despite being only the first book in a ten book series, it wrapped up many themes and issues nicely and didn’t leave on many cliffhangers.The characters are very well developed and complex, and their struggles felt so real. It also included flashbacks to the protagonist’s earlier years, which not only made him relatable to middle schoolers (like me!), but also helped people realize where he was coming from and why he felt the loathing and sadness he did. Sometimes, I would be reading it in a room full of people, and it was all I could do to not shout at some of the love-to-hate characters. Heck, I sometimes shouted anyway.
But why is The Way of Kings so good, you ask? What makes it better-than-oreos awesome? For me, it’s actually something that could make or break the book for other people: the world building. The world building is ridiculously well planned and well developed. There are different religions, races, even a different ecosystem from Earth. And it’s all explained concisely. The world is very unique, and it doesn’t follow the Tolkien-esque trope of white elves in the Medieval era. In fact, all of the characters in The Way of Kings are people of color, with the exception of one. The different kingdoms have their own unique cultures, too. If you don’t like world building though, you should probably skip this book. However, despite The Way of Kings’ massive length (1,252 pages in the US paperback edition) it doesn’t read like a long book. It isn’t tedious, and if even if it seems a bit daunting to begin with, I would give it a shot. The action is fast-paced and interesting to read, the supporting characters are lovable and unique despite not being the main focus, and it’s really suspenseful to see how the politics play out. And the plot twists! My god, the page-turning, mind-blowing plot twists! Also, the discussion of philosophy in it is very thought-provoking and engaging. The only bone to pick I have with The Way of Kings is that one character is almost ridiculously honorable and his good morals are just sometimes unbelievably strong. However, he’s very endearing and lovable, and it’s somewhat impossible to not root for him.
I would recommend this book to anyone who has already read fantasy, whether they’ve been introduced to YA fantasy or any form of adult fantasy. It probably wouldn’t be the greatest starter to the genre, but if it sounds like it would be up your alley, go ahead! If you think you’ll like it, you probably will. However, be warned that The Way of Kings contains content that could be troubling, specifically regarding depression, suicide, and violence. If these things bother you, I would not recommend reading the book. One thing I did appreciate is that the book portrays mental illness in a very realistic way, which is something that I feel like many novels, especially fantasy novels, often don’t do. It does a very good job handling the content matter. Overall, what did I think? The Way of Kings deserves five out five shiny, golden stars. Actually, it deserves six out of five stars. It’s by far the best book I’ve read all year, and it’ll be one of my favorites in the many years to come.