Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Way of Kings (Brandon Sanderson)

The Way of Kings
(The Stormlight Archive, Book 1)
Brandon Sanderson
Fiction, Fantasy
***** (Great)

DESCRIPTION: In ages past, the storm-swept world of Roshar trembled as great battles raged across its many lands, consumed by wave after wave of chaos known as Desolations. The Knights Radiant were humanity's greatest champions in these wars... until the day they betrayed the very people they served, walking away from their oaths and leaving behind their Shardplate armor and weapons. Today, stories of the Desolation and the foul Voidbringers are little more than myths and bedside tales, the Knights Radiant cursed. The people have fragmented into warring races and kingdoms, forgetting the old Codes. But danger still waits, and soon the Final Desolation will fall upon an unprepared world. A hero must come, to throw back to darkness, but who? And from where?
Shallan left the family estate on a mission to save her family. Her late father left them drowning in debt - if his death were known, the creditors would strip her family to the bone. Her plan is dangerous, but she's desperate... as she must be, to contemplate stealing from one of the most powerful women in the kingdom. But even as she works to gain the trust of the eccentric heretic Jasnah, she discovers more temptations and dangers than she bargained for.
Son of a surgeon, Kalidan once dreamed of becoming a soldier, of finding true honor on the battlefield instead of the corruption and pettiness if the lighteye lords his father served. He learned the hard way that battle brings no glory and little honor, especially for a lowly darkeyes like himself. Now a branded slave, his bitterness knows no bounds. People all around him seem to die, no matter what he does. Why can't he die with them?
Dalinar is a highprince, brother of the slain King Gavilar and uncle to the current regent. He, alone of all his fellow highprinces, still follows the ancient Codes that the late king embraced, codes that ask a ruler to display honor, integrity, and concern for his underlings. His ways make him an outcast among his peers... and, in the political maneuverings of the Alethki courts, that makes him vulnerable. Worse, he is plagued by recurrent visions of a world in chaos, warned by a voice to unite his peers. Is this a message from the Almighty Stormfather, or are his sons right that he's simply going mad?
Szeth-son-son-Vallano was cast out from his people as Truthless, a slave to a succession of brutal masters. It was his hand that killed King Gavilar, triggering a massive war that rages to this day across the Shattered Plains... a murder he hated committing, like every other time he was forced to use his deadly gifts. Some dark game is being played, a game whose shape terrifies him. But he is Truthless. If he cannot change his own worthless fate, how can he possibly change that of Roshar?

REVIEW: Fantasy, especially epic fantasy, has a way of feeling familiar, even in the hands of the best authors; characters may stand out, and there may be a few twists on the genre conventions, but there's usually a familiar world beneath it. Sanderson manages to create something entirely new, an alien world full of strange magic and stranger races, all bound up in a tale so large that "epic" is truly the only word for it. Having invented a unique world and several distinct populations, he goes on to stock it with a host of fascinating characters. Their paths rarely cross, save toward the end, but each of them has a unique and important perspective on events as they unfold. It's rare that I find both the setting and the characters equally fascinating. I was constantly torn between wanting to know what happens next and wanting to linger over the pages, extending my stay in Roshar. My only complaint is that it's Book 1 of a series, and I've yet to see a sign of Book 2. I haven't had a chance to hand out a five-star rating in a while, but this book deserves no less.

You Might Also Enjoy:
Rhapsody (Elizabeth Haydon) - My Review
Mistborn: The Final Empire (Brandon Sanderson) - My Review
Shadowmarch (Tad Williams) - My Review

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