The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson is a massive novel of the most epic proportions that is as intimidating to review after the fact as it was to pick up and start reading.
I don’t know about you but a lot of times the synopsis of a fantasy book will turn me off because all the plots and world building sound so confusing that I just assume I won’t get it, and I move on to something else. If the blurb on Goodreads had been my first introduction to The Way of Kings, I guarantee my brain would’ve shut down and I never would have thought about it again.
Instead, I heard about this tome from my boyfriend who is a huge Game of Thrones fan and has read all of those books a million times (I’ve only read the first book once). We were talking about how GOT compared to The Way of Kings, which he was reading at the time. He mentioned that he thought Sanderson’s creation here was better than A Game of Thrones and I was shook. I mean, isn’t Game of Thrones like the end all, be all of fantasy stories?
I had to know what made this one so great. Great enough to be better than Thrones.
Before I get into that, you’re still probably wondering what this book is about. Instead of giving you a nice and succinct little blurb here (kind of impossible for a book of this size and span) I’m going to tell you what it’s like. 1.) because that’s more doable for me, and 2.) because I believe The Way of Kings should be jumped into without a whole lot of prior knowledge.
The Way of Kings very closely resembles parts of World of Warcraft in my opinion. If you’re familiar with that world, picture Hellfire Penninsula in Outland and boom! That’s the setting of TWOK!
The world is very magic heavy and lots of stuff occurs on a massive scale: Big weapons, big battles, big monsters, and big mysteries.
The story has three main characters whose perspectives you will follow: Dalinar, Kaladin, and Shallan.
Dalinar is the brother of the King who was just assassinated, sparking a war between factions. He’s trying to hold everything together and still remain true to his values. He’s a very code-driven man similar to a Ned Stark kind of guy but a bit more proactive about things than Ned.
Kaladin is a young man with a lot of stuff going on. He was raised to be a surgeon like his father but he always resented their social standing, being on the low end of the class ladder. Despite his age he has a lot of history that is fascinating to uncover as the story goes on. His character calls to mind folks like Jon Snow and Celeana Sardothien. He’s biased and hot-headed but otherwise caring and well meaning.
Shallan is probably my least favorite of the three main perspectives but that’s because she pales so much in comparison to the minor character she spends so much time with. Shallan is a high society girl who goes to study under the infamous Jasnah Kholin, a woman who is known for her controversial religious beliefs. Shallan has other reasons to be studying under Jasnah besides her pursuit of knowledge, and this plot line plays out like a heist/mystery with a generous helping of magic. I got Grisha Trilogy vibes from her story. Jasnah is really the star of the show here but I did still enjoy seeing her through Shallan’s naive and often misguided perspective.
The world of Roshar, where TWOK takes place is massive and diversely cultured. Sanderson weaves together world building seamlessly in a way that is non-intrusive but perfectly informative and fascinating. The Alethi for example decide class structure by eye color. “Lighteyes” are the lords and ladies of society while the “darkeyes” are low-class citizens.
All of this comes together in a story that is incredibly scary to look at but totally manageable and a pleasure to read once you start. I highly recommend reading the ebook version as the physical copy can feel like you’re carrying a few bricks around in your bag.
So is this book better than A Game of Thrones? I’d say so. I found parts of TWOK more surprising and impactful than A Game of Thrones and most other books I’ve read for that matter. This was an easy five stars and I look forward to diving back into The Stormlight Archive with Words of Radiance sometime soon.