the way of kings by brandon sandersonI have time to get in one more book review before the end of the year, and The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson is a good one to end on. Sanderson is an excellent epic fantasy author, and he proves it again in this book.

Note that this is not a new book. It was published back in August of 2010, and, although I bought a copythen, I didn’t get around to reading it until this month. Why? The reviews I read indicated that not much happened in the book and that it was mostly a set up for the rest of the series. So I decided to wait until closer to the release date of the next book. The sequel, Words of Radiance, is scheduled for March, so I figured it was a good time to finally read it. A recent sale which dropped the price below $2 didn’t hurt that decision.

In brief (tough since the book is a monster), the book revolves between the seemingly unconnected lives of several characters. We see hints of a past war, with ripples extending to the present day. There are a few scenes from long ago introducing The Knights of Radiance, heroes who had fought an ancient enemy, which appears to be returning in the present day.

Wow, that sucked as a summary, I know. The Wikipedia entry, while longer, isn’t much better. That’s the problem with epic fantasy. Good ones are long and involved, making a summary challenging. Bad ones are even longer, more involved and almost impossible to follow and read. And even the best epic fantasies follow the basic plot line of “ancient evil returns and modern heroes need to defeat it.” It’s the execution of that basic plot that makes one good or bad.

So is this a good one or a bad one? Well, the reviews were correct. It is a set up book. Halfway through it, I realized that not much had actually happened. We’d met characters and seen events in their lives, but how they all fit together was still murky. Here’s the crazy part. I didn’t care. I was along for the ride and enjoying it. Never have I enjoyed so much a book where so little plot advancement happened!

Sanderson does one other thing well. Have you ever started one of those epic fantasies where 100 pages in you’re lost in the cast of characters and desperately wishing for a native guide? I have, and that’s usually where I quit. ([easyazon-link asin=”0765348780″ locale=”us”]Gardens of the Moon[/easyazon-link] is a prime example of this for me.) I never got lost in the characters in this book. Even minor characters were vivid and memorable. I can’t remember the last time that happened in an epic fantasy. (Even Robert Jordan lost me on a regular basis, and he’s my favorite, after Tolkien.)

While I can’t give this one 5 eReaders, it’s certainly a solid 4. If you’re looking for a can’t-put-it-down page turner, this isn’t it. However, if you’re in the mood for a journey, and you’re not in a rush to get to the destination, this one will certainly satisfy.

Amazon Link: [easyazon-link asin=”B003P2WO5E” locale=”us”]The Way of Kings[/easyazon-link]


  1. I’m reading The Way of Kings right now (almost done), and I’m surprised to see all the rave reviews. It’s OK at best, with poor writing. I had read Elantris in the past and felt it was a good first novel, so I thought I’d give this one a try… I always finish books that I start, so that’s probably the only reason I stuck to it. I’m glad I did however, as you do get attached to some of the characters. That said, you should really give Gardens of the Moon a second chance! I read the whole ten book series; it is absolutely amazing! There are a lot of characters, but you will still get attached to them, and be eager to read more about them in later books.

    • @Joey, interesting that you considered the writing poor. I thought it was good, but obviously tastes vary. As to Gardens of the Moon, I’ve given it a second chance, and while I got farther, I still couldn’t finish it. Maybe someday, when my TBR list is smaller, I’ll give it a third chance.

  2. Let me clarify on what I meant by saying the writing was poor. I felt he over-explained everything, evidently not trusting in the reader’s intelect. In every Interlude involving Szeth, he would explain that by lashing himself to a wall, it now bacame “down” for him. He said this over and over, to a point where it got me frustrated. I also did not like how he used questions in his prose to add mystery or interest in his characters or the situations they were in. I remember reading a four line paragraph that was composed entirely of questions. I don’t mind if a writer does this occasionally, but Sanderson took this to another level. I can wonder by myself without him pointing out every single detail in his prose.

    This might explain why I am so fond of the Malazan books, as Erikson barely explains anything and allows the reader to discover his fictional world himself. When I first read Gardens of the Moon, I put it aside for about month when I was about a third of the book in. I didn’t understand what was happening and almost didn’t finish it (something I’ve never done with any book). I had already bought The Crippled God (the final book in the series) at that point since it was on sale, so I forced myself to finish reading it. Once you make it through the entire novel, you really start to understand what that world is about. I was hooked. I’ve now read all ten books, and am starting his prequel trilogy, as well as the Novels of the Malazan Empire, which were written by the co-creator of the Malazan world. I’ve had many of my friends read Gardens, and all of them are now reading the other books in the series, and all of them had a very hard time understanding at first.

    Oof, that was long. All this brings me to asking about the Mistborn Trilogy. I own it, but I haven’t read it. Being that it is by the same author of The Way of Kings, I was wondering if you’d read it. If so, how would you say they compare next to The Way of Kings? Is it more fast paced or drawn out as this one was? I’m on the fence whether or not I will read Words of Radiance, and Mistborn is probably going to be the deciding factor. I don’t want to pursue a ten book series if I’m not going to be rewarded for it.

    • @Joey, ah, that makes sense. I don’t mind the question approach, and I guess I skipped over the number of times lashing was described. Your reason for enjoying Erikson is my reason for not enjoying him. Which is why it’s good that everyone doesn’t write the same way.

      About Mistborn. It’s my favorite Sanderson series. He probably over explains his magic system (to your way of thinking), but the series is much faster paced, and I loved everything about it. He drops lots of hints in earlier books that suddenly come clear in the later books. I had several instances of “I totally should have seen that coming, but didn’t!” Even my husband, who seems gifted at uncovering plot points early, missed most of them until they were revealed. 🙂 Since I admire writers who can do that, I loved the books. Alloy of Law, which is a sequel to the Mistborn series, is one of my favorite books ever. But you do need to read Mistborn, I think, to appreciate it.

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