Written By: Brandon Sanderson
As Part of the ‘Stormlight Archive‘ Series
Published By: Tor Books
Release Date: August 31st, 2010
Page Count: 1007 (Hardcover)
Narrated By: Kate Reading and Michael Kramer
Link to Purchase
Consider this a follow-up to last week’s ‘TV Thursday‘ post. I’ll leave a link to that at the bottom of this post.
Brandon Sanderson’s ‘Stormlight Archive‘ series is one of his strongest works yet. As well as one of his longest. Reading this book feels like climbing a mountain. Though I’m pretty sure mountain climbing doesn’t take half as long as reading this book. Nor is it half as satisfying.
But maybe if you climbed a mountain while reading the book… You could create the ultimate rush… Huh. I’ll have to try that.
Plot: A Song of Failure, Failure, and More Failure
As you’d expect, the story on display here is absolutely incredible. It is also very broad in scope, with numerous characters and settings. As such, describing it can be rather difficult. But I’m going to try my best.
After the assassination of Alethi King Gavilar, for which the race called Parshendi took responsibility, the Alethi go to war on the Shattered Plains. In this war is Kaladin, a great surgeon and experienced soldier turned slave after a series of failures. He works moving bridges on the Shattered Plains, a job which puts him first in the line of sight of the enemy’s arrows. As he struggles to survive, he regains his leader’s spirit and tries to ensure the lives of his fellow bridge-men.
Meanwhile, a young woman named Shallan is planning a heist. She plans to become the student to Jasnah Kholin, sister of the king, in order to steal a powerful magic item: the Soulcaster. With this, she hopes to pay off her late father’s debts and save her family. But the task proves even more difficult than she had expected.
Then there is the third main character: Dalinar Kholin, brother of the murdered king. He struggles to protect his nephew, the new king, while keeping his family’s reputation safe and secure. But when he starts to suffer from mysterious visions, and his image begins to suffer for it, he begins to consider new, drastic options to protect his family.
Every now and then, the story will cut away to a more minor character elsewhere in the world, doing his or her own thing. Among these is Szeth, the king’s murderer, who passes hands from master to master throughout the plot. Each individual character’s story seems separate, but they all tie together masterfully by the end. Not one detail is unimportant.
The story is very slowly paced. It takes an exceptional amount of time building on the characters, the world they live in, and the history of both. The world is incredibly deep, well-crafted and interesting. The same can be said about each and every character; not one of them is one-dimensional or boring. Each one has their own story to tell, and they are all masterpieces.
Voice: Lets Explore the World Together!
Sanderson has been an expert in the craft of storytelling for many years now. So of course, he brings his absolute A game and beyond to ‘The Way of Kings‘.
He perfectly paces each and every scene. The dialogue is absolutely flawless, masterfully balancing charming character with information. Everything is perfectly described, as if he were painting the largest, most beautiful painting ever crafted. At no point in reading it does it stop being engaging. Each and every word is interesting, thrilling or simply beautiful. Sometimes all three.
He is also a master gardener. Practically each scene plants a small seed. One that will sprout at a later point in the story. Some are flowers, others are trees. Picking up on both for the setup and payoff is incredibly fun and satisfying.
Plus, you get a pretty flower and a nice tree by the end. Or at least a really great piece of fantasy.
Presentation: Two Narrators, Twice the Quality?
This category is split right down the middle for me.
Once again, I listened to the audio book version. I’ve read the physical version before, but I don’t own a copy of it. I’d love to get one, don’t get me wrong. But considering how long it took to finish this thing to begin with, I feel that I’ve made the right choice.
Michael Kramer is a fantastic narrator. He brings the material to life with his buttery-smooth voice and decently wide range of character voices. Each time he speaks, I find myself listening more intently than I do for any other audio book.
Unfortunately, Kate Reading does not have the same effect for me. Her narration isn’t bad, per-say, but it certainly doesn’t have the same luster as Kramer’s. She sounds more artificial, like a text-to-speech program read all of her segments. She doesn’t capture the same emotion, intrigue and simple energy that Kramer does.
The book will go back and forth between these two narrators depending on who’s chapter it is. As such, listening to the audio version suffers from a bit of whiplash. One chapter, I’m deeply engaged in a fantasy epic. On the other, I’m struggling to appreciate excellent writing past a mediocre narrator.
On second thought, maybe I should have bought the physical version.
Last Thursday, I wrote a whole essay on why ‘The Way of Kings‘ could be a great successor to the legendary (well, once legendary) ‘Game of Thrones‘ TV series. And I meant what I said. I genuinely believe that this story could be an excellent meal for those who were left craving more after GOT.
Especially for you book-readers. Because let’s be honest: we’re never getting books six or seven. But we’re not talking about that.
If you’re a fan of fantasy literature, then ‘The Way of Kings’ is an absolute must-read. Sure, it’s a time commitment. But each second of it is time exceptionally well spent. It is a wonderful piece of fantasy writing, one that should be read by every fan of the genre.
Now, if you’ll excuse me. I need to go spend another four months reading ‘Words of Radiance‘. Followed by another four months reading ‘Oathbringer‘. It’s gonna be a real nice year.