“In the end, all men die. How you lived will be far more important to the Almighty than what you accomplished.”
This was the best Brandon Sanderson book I’ve read. Since I’ve started reviewing books, everyone constantly talks about Mistborn, which don’t get me wrong, is an amazing series too, but this book blew the entire original trilogy out of the water. I truly believe in my whole heart that The Stormlight Archive series is the series that everyone should be pushing onto high fantasy readers, because it is one of the greatest things I’ve read in my entire life.
“Don’t dream the small dreams of other men.”
The Way of Kings takes place on the world of Roshar, where war is constantly being waged on the Shattered Plains, and the Highprinces of Alethkar fight to avenge a king that died many moons ago. Alethkar is the largest kingdom on Roshar, and the people are called Alethi, and they are at war with the Parshendi, who are almost like bard warriors with their songs and chants. In war everyone pays a price, but some people pay the price way more dearly than others, and The Way of Kings very much showcases that.
On Roshar, Highstorms are magical like storms that have shaped this world into something unlike anything else. Highstorms provide Stormlight, which is an energy that the people keep in different gemstones, which has a super vast array of different abilities. And because this story surrounds wars on many different fronts, it makes sense that these Highstorms also helped make some pretty powerful and unique weapon, armor, and even some companions:
➽Shardblades – Magical weapons that are very rare and sought after. A person who owns one, a Shardbearer, is soul-bound to their blade. They can cut through pretty much anything, and it instantly kills whatever limb it cuts though, but without leaving a mark. The limb is just rendered useless until it can be reattached to the soul. And Shardblades can block other Shardblades. People constantly want to duel for them, because when a Shardbearer dies, the Blade rematerializes next to him/her, allowing anyone else to pick up the Blade and become its new owner. Yet, it is near impossible to beat anyone with a Shardblade without having one yourself.
➽Shardplate – Magical plate armor that protects the wearer, can heal magically on its own, and enhances the wearers physical abilities. And most importantly, it can block a Shardblade.
➽Soulcasting – Soulcasters have the magical ability through fabrials to do many things. Sometimes they use their power to create food, sometimes to heal, sometimes to protect sex workers from gross men at night. I mean, the abilities are actualy endless. But most the time they use their power to change one thing into another, like rocks into food. But the transformations are limited and range from Soulcaster to Soulcaster. Also, needless to say, these people are very sought after.
➽Spren – Also, in this world, they have Spren, which are magical little beings that come in a variety of different types. For example, Rotspren appear when something is beginning to rot, or something is dead, or something is being infected. There are tons of different Spren that take many different forms in this book.
But besides the wars and the all of the magic, there is a prejudice war that is constantly going on, too. In this world, having light eyes gives you all the advantages. Blue eyes, green eyes, grey eyes, amber eyes, any kind of light colored eye is superior to any form of dark brown. Some of the higherups in this world believe that the Heralds choose light eyes people at birth and mark them to rule. This is a really big parallel to the world we live in today, and I really liked this aspect of the story and the discussions that surround it.
Also, some females in this world are supposed to hide their left hands, and it is considered totally obscene for a woman to have that left hand uncovered. And “lower class” woman just wear a glove over their left hand, while working. I’m sure this will come into play in later books, so I thought I’d mention it, but it still made me giggle at some of the responses to seeing a woman’s bare left hand.
And the other unique concept/tradition in this world is that it is “beneath” men (other than ardents) to learn how to read and write. Like, men in this world marry a lot of the time just to be able to have their wives read to them and write down things for them. Yet, this value in society has not only put them at a disadvantage in life, but as also put them at a disadvantage in solving the mystery of the late king’s final act before death.
In The Way of Kings, we pretty much follow four main characters, even though three are at the forefront of this book:
➽Kaladin – Kaladin seems like the main protagonist of this novel, even though he shares POVs with other characters, but Kaladin makes up the bulk of this 1,000-page novel. Kaladin is branded a slave and is sold into a bridge crew. Yet, Kaladin is such a natural born leader, he ends up shaping Bridge Four into one of the best crews in the entire army. But this doesn’t go unnoticed. Kaladin’s character has a lot of representation. Kaladin is very susceptible to depression, and this book doesn’t skirt around the mental illness. Kaladin is also suffering from extreme PTSD from all the events that have lead him to where he is currently at the start of this novel. We slowly learn about his past; where he came from, who he was supposed to be, who he cared about, and what happened to make him the slave he is now. Trigger warnings for severe depression, suicide, war themes, violence, and gore.
“How easy it was to ignore a blackened heart if you dressed it in a pressed uniform and a reputation for honesty”
➽Dalinar – Dalinar is a Highprince of Alethkar. His brother was the king, but after his death (you learn this in the prologue) Dalinar has helped raise his nephew, Elhokar, into the king the world needs. Dalinar is also an amazing warrior, and wields the Shardblade Oathbringer (that name sounds familiar, true? *winky face*)! After the night of his brother’s death, Dalinar feels responsibility and is being haunted by it. Dalinar is also seeing visions, and people are questioning his mental stability. He is a widower, but something is blocking him from every remembering his wife’s face or name or any memory of her. And Dalinar has two sons, both in their twenties, that are very different, but he loves them so deeply and so unconditionally. Mostly importantly, Dalinar is a man of honor and he has a grand reputation of always keeping his word and sticking to the rules.
➽Shallan – Shallan had my least favorite chapters, but that was mostly because I wanted to slap her most of the time. She is daughter of the recently deceased Brightlord Lin Davar of Jah Keved. She has come to find Jasnah Kholin, claiming to want to study under her, but actually wanting to steal something from her for the kingdom she left behind. The thing I liked most about Shallan is that she is an artist and it plays a big role into who she is as a person. Plus, a lot of Shallan’s chapter were in libraries with tons of books and it was constantly a beautiful visual.
➽Szeth – Okay, call my weird, but Szeth’s chapters, as few as there were, were my absolute favorite. Szeth is still a very mysterious man, but he wields a Shardblade and knows how to use it to its full abilities. He is known to the world as the Assassin in White and is one of the most feared assassins in the world. From his perspective we get to see the guilt and pain from what he is being forced to do, but who and why he is being forced to repent for his past sins, is a constant mystery. Also, the epilogue chapter of this book, which is in Szeth’s perspective, actually blew my mind.
“Fighting is not the only thing of value a man can do.”
Yet, this book also has some amazing side characters:
➽Syl – Be still, my heart. Syl is honestly everything I look for in a character to love with my whole being. She is such a little cinnamon roll, and I keep picturing her tripping military dudes in her little invisible form and it just makes me smile for days. Syl is a spren that has bonded with Kaladin. She found him on a night that he needed her most, and has rarely left his side since. And she constantly reminds him that his life is worth living, and what an honorable man he is, and how he isn’t cursed and doomed to lose everyone he loves. Syl is honestly probably my favorite character in The Way of Kings.
➽Jasnah – Jasnah is the daughter of the late King Gavilar and she is the sister of the new king, Elhokar! She is also a very High Scholar and also happens to be a Soulcaster. The Almighty is a deity that is devotedly and widely worshiped on the world of Roshar, yet Jasnah doesn’t. She considers herself a Veristitalian and chooses to put her beliefs in science and the things she can see with her own eyes. The discussion and talk of religion in this book is super well done, and I would have never guessed that Brandon Sanderson, a man that is very open with how much religion means to him, wrote the character of Jasnah. Seriously, it was expertly done. Jasnah is powerful, and smart, and witty, and I think I totally developed a major crush on her.
➽Adolin – But speaking of crushes, apparently, I just love the entire Kholin family! Adolin is Dalinar’s oldest son, cousin to Jasnah and Elhokar, Brightlord of Alethkar, has a very short temper, and is a bit of a flirt. His mother, the one that is passed away and that Dalinar cannot remember, passed down to him full Shardplate, and he won his own Shardblade in a duel. Oh, he loves to duel, too! Adolin is an amazing fighter, who wants to follow in his father’s footsteps, but he is your typical young twenty-year-old that is trying to figure life out, while being constantly reminded that he doesn’t know it all, even though he thinks he does. Adolin loves his family deeply, wants to do what is right, and he just completely won me over. I truly love his character.
➽Renarin – Dalinar’s youngest son, Brightlord of Alethkar, Prince of House Kholin. Renarin is very shy and very quiet, and is not a solider like his father and brother, because he freezes in battle and sometimes has seizures. Brandon Sanderson has also stated that Renarin is on the autism spectrum, which is awesome representation we rarely see in high fantasy.
➽Sadeas – He is also Highprince of Alethkar, along with Dalinar. Dalinar, Sadeas, and the late King Gavilar all grew together and were best friends, yet this book constantly makes you question his loyalty. He is known to be very cruel, and is on the forefront of the war against the Parshendi.
➽Hoid – Okay, I don’t want to talk too much about Hoid, because not everyone is up to date with Brandon Sanderson’s works and the Cosmere Universe. But, this reveal made my year. How Brandon Sanderson continually tricks me, I have no idea. Maybe I’m just a huge sucker. But, like, that flute though. Also, first an interest in Kelsier and now Kaladin? Ahhh, I love Brandon Sanderson so much!
I gushed a lot in all the paragraphs above this, so you guys can probably tell I really loved this book. I truly think it is a masterpiece in every sense of the word, and I think this is Brandon Sanderson’s strongest series yet. The discussions in this are important and super eye opening if you look at the parallels to our world today. The characters in this are amazing and a few have really nested themselves inside of my heart. All the magic is so unique and so captivating. The story and plotlines were so addicting.
And, on a very personal note, after the Vegas shooting happened I was in a pretty bad headspace. To see my community be impacted by an act of terrorism and pure hatred was something that I don’t wish on anyone. I couldn’t stop thinking and feeling so much sadness, so I binge read the last two hundred pages of this book. Escapism truly is a beautiful thing, and I believe with my whole heart that books are magical entities that have their own healing powers. And I will never forget that The Way of Kings helped me deal with some pretty sad and heavy things going on in my real world.
“And men didn’t become heroes by walking away.”