I’m not very happy with the Wheel of Time. Not only did it turn from a good series into one that moved at a glacial pace and put its characters through too much repetitious self agonising, but it has also led to Sanderson delaying the release of the second book in his Stormlight Archive series, of which The Way of Kings is the first book. I really do try and avoid the current situation I’m in: starting a book, falling in love with the characters and then realising that I still have months to wait for the next instalment to arrive. It may even be years if the author is as slow as R R Martin. The very things that I love about fantasy — the in-depth worlds, the three-dimensional characters and epic storylines — come back to haunt me. It seems it takes time to write these masterpieces.

Sanderson has certainly taken his time to set up his world in The Way of Kings. We are thrown into the novel at the end of an epic battle, when a group of supernatural knights decide that they can no longer bear the burden of saving mankind, over and over. They give up their duties.

We are then, we assume, introduced to the world that they abandoned, if centuries after the event, to a cast of characters which, if mainly male, are at least well painted. Their world is one that is shaped by periodic storms, called highstorms. This, fittingly, leads to all swear words being a variation of storm, eg Storm you! The plantlife has adopted to the storms and the animals are all variations on crustaceans.

One of Sanderson’s characters has reached rock bottom. Forced into slavery, he soon discovers there is still a worse place to be as he is demoted to what could be called hell on earth. The story centres around his fight to do the impossible and escape his fate.

On the other end of the spectrum, we meet a prince who is struggling to implement the dying wish of his brother the former king, while others deride him for his efforts, thinking him weak. He is also suffering visions during the high storms, which his enemies take as a sign of madness.

A young girl desperately follows a princess, hoping that the princess will consent to take her on as her ward. The girl’s motives for this are not at all pure.

An assassin tries to hide himself from people who might know what he is capable of.

When I reached the end of this novel I was truly hooked. The story was rich and the characters were faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges.

However, there were some things that stopped me giving this book a 5/5, instead settling on 4/5.

After reading Sanderson’s Mistborn Series, I was a little disappointed at how similar the magic powers are in The Way of Kings. In Mistborn, characters ate metal which they then burned in their bodies to achieve supernatural powers, such as strength, pulling or pushing objects to them, or keen senses. In The Way of Kings, the characters breathe in stormlight, which they then unleash in “lashings”. They use the lashings and stormlight to push objects around, give themselves strength, speed, etc. The first scene of the book, where lashings are used, is very reminiscent of Vin’s rooftop wanderings in Mistborn.

Another issue I have is that Sanderson has again gone for the doomsday approach. If the characters fail, the world will be doomed. Does every story always have to be about the whole world? What’s wrong with fighting for one farm? Sure, saving the world is weighty, but it makes it hard to keep the story brief. This series will take ten books to complete, if what I’ve read about it is correct. Given that this one was released in 2010 and it’s almost the end of 2012, I could extrapolate to say that I’ll be waiting thirty years for the end. If I see it at all. It’s entirely possible that Sanderson will have to engage someone else to finish off his series after he’s gone. As hinted at above, he is currently filling in for the deceased Robert Jordan.

So great book Sanderson, but timing wise, NOT HAPPY.

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