he Way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson, is the first book in The Stormlight Archive, arguably one of the most ambitious fantasy series being actively written. With its fifth book, Wind and Truth, coming out late this year and marking the end of the story’s first phase, now is the perfect time to try and get into the series. Having just finished my reread of the first four books in the series, I decided now was the time to write this review and share my thoughts on the story’s first entry. 

Perhaps the largest draw to The Stormlight Archive is its magnificent worldbuilding. The world of Roshar is shaped by the passing of massive storms, referred to as Highstorms, which provide a key feature upon which much of Sanderson worldbuilding is based. Everything from the currency to the biology of the planet relates back to the presence of Highstorms. This allows the worldbuilding to feel more real, forming a cohesive world that is both fascinating and distinctive. Although the world exists within the larger Cosmere, an expansive universe in which multiple of Brandon Sanderson’s series takes place, the Stormlight archive works well as a standalone series, with no other Cosmere works required to engage with and enjoy its story. 

Another key aspect of The Way of Kings are the characters and the character conflicts. The book makes use of both external and internal conflicts to create realistic and relatable characters that readers will fall in love with. There are arguably three main characters in The Way of Kings, Shallan, Kaladin, and Dalinar who exist alongside a host of interesting and distinctive side characters. Kaladin is the main focus of this book, as his struggles and flashbacks make up the majority of the work. The depiction of his struggles with chronic depression and his resilience in the face of adversity is both inspiring and humbling. Dalinar’s story is more about internal conflict, as he struggles to understand strange visions, unsure as to whether he can trust his own judgment and desperate to prepare his people for the coming danger. Shallan’s story feels the weakest to me as she is more geographically separate from the other two and receives a lot more attention and focus in the second volume. She fears for the safety of her family after the sudden death of her father, and has a bold and dangerous plan to secure their future. 

Now I feel it is the appropriate time to address the largest deterrent from starting the Way of Kings, its length. With a word count of around 400,000 the book is just over double the size of The Fellowship of the Ring, making it a very intensive read. Its conflicts slowly build up into a crescendo of a finale that in my opinion is well worth the wait, though its at times slow pacing makes it difficult for some to reach that point. While its sheer magnitude can make The Way of Kings rather daunting to begin, in many ways it is essential to its success, allowing it to fully flesh out its greatest strengths, characters and worldbuilding.

While The Way of Kings is an incredible work, I don’t think I can recommend it to just anyone. It is far from a light read, and I do not believe it would be as enjoyable to someone who is not already experienced with reading long, epic fantasy novels. Brandon Sanderson himself doesn’t recommend it as a way to start the Cosmere, considering Mistborn to be a much better introduction to his work. Despite this, many (myself included) start with The Way of Kings, and I think those confident in their familiarity with the fantasy genre will find it a wonderful experience diving into this grand and majestic story.

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