Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

I bought and started this book the first day it was available, and was initially overwhelmed by its massive 1,000 page size. Seriously, this is the best argument in favor of eReaders I am aware of. In the interest of full disclosure and complete honesty, I should say that I was predisposed to dislike this book because it took up Brandon Sanderson's time which would be better spent finishing Wheel of Time! Ok, I am just kidding. Mostly.

I really didn't enjoy Way of Kings much until about 1/2 of the way through. It really is super ambitious and I think there is just way too much setting for one book. There were too many elements of the setting's past/mythology/ecology that I really failed to understand. So many pages were devoted to obscure discussions about the setting's ancient history. I finished the book with only a slightly better understanding of the setting than I had initially. Heralds? Crem? Radiants? Spren? Voidbringers? Soulcasters? Symbol-heads? Dawnshards? I seriously don't really understand what anything in the setting *is* or how it is relevant. Really frustrating. There may be like five magic systems, or one. I really don't know. It's very eclectic and I feel like nothing in the setting fits together. I guess Sanderson saved that for the other books in the series? It would have been ok if the setting were confusing and not fully described, but background took up a ton of the book and I *still* don't get it! I wish Sanderson had reduced the scope of the setting and made the book about half as long.

My take on all of Sanderson's other books is that they have really cool, graspable magic systems and races, at the expense of characters that the reader cares about. This was just the opposite. Way of Kings had, in my opinion, a confusing setting and meaningless magic system(s) but really, really great characters. I immediately found myself cheering for Shallan and Kaladin especially. They were deep and likable and had excellent stories, minus the crap I didn't understand... I found myself reading the last chunk of the book way past my bedtime last night because I had to know how it all ended. The last half of the book was riveting and enjoyable, really cool stories.

All in all, the Way of Kings makes me feel like Sanderson is a less experienced author than I had previously imagined. This book seems maybe too ambitious. I wish he had stuck to Wheel of Time for a few more years, maybe some simpler stories, and waited to write this book when he had the experience to better tame his imagination and the setting. It's just too much for one planet/book. The characters and story are strong, but made into an almost unsurmountable book by the vast amounts of confusing history and magic.

1 comment:

  1. Ambitious is correct - He definitely is REALLY attempting to create the epic in his own image. What Robert Jordan did well was to displace the history of the world throughout the entire series. You didn't spend book one learning about the Breaking, or Boring the Hole(yes, WOT nerd). While I did enjoy WoK, I do think that what you say sounds right.



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