REVIEW: The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive, #1)

The Way of Kings - Brandon Sanderson
The Way of Kings ... well now, this book is kind of hard to describe. It's not an easy book to summarize, or review. I'm not even going to attempt to write a synopsis here. It's a book where a lot seems to happen, while not much seems to happen at the same time. What I mean by that is, I almost view this book as 1,000 pages of exposition for The Stormlight Archive series, which is meant to include 10 books in total, probably all of a similar length.

This is not the kind of book that necessarily feels rewarding to read in-and-of-itself. However, one of the recurring themes in the book is "Journey before Destination," and I feel like that is a perfect way to describe this book. It's not about the destination, whatever that will eventually be. It's about the journey. Once I was able to come to grips with that, and stopped expecting more of a standard book structure, I was able to enjoy the book a lot more.

And enjoy it I did. It's strange, as there isn't really much payoff - how can there be without a "destination," so to speak? There were just too many (intentional) loose ends here to feel satisfied with the conclusion. Yet, the book was satisfying in so many other ways. I was never bored, and I never felt that the story was dragging. I just enjoyed the ride, including the characters and their stories, the world and its magic.
“People see in stories what they’re looking for, my young friend.”
I grew very attached to the characters and their plights, even though it took me longer to warm up to some characters than others. As for the world, Roshar - there is so much going on, and so much is still unknown. I always talk about world-building when I read Sanderson, because I think that this (including the creation of his magic systems) is his true strength. Being a 1,000 page book, there is a lot of world-building (as you might expect), but there is also a lot that's still unexplained. The reader is ultimately left with many more questions than answers. The history of Roshar is a black hole, still waiting to be discovered, presumably in future books.

So, yeah, The Way of Kings. You're either in it for the long haul, or you're not. You'll either enjoy the journey, or hate the lack of destination. You'll either trust Sanderson to take you on a great ride, or you'll resent the fact that he needs 10,000 pages to be able to accomplish this.

I won't lie. There is a part of me that craves the answers and conclusions that weren't provided in The Way of Kings - hence the four stars and not five. For the most part, though, I'm putty in Sanderson's hands. It definitely helps that I've read and loved most of Sanderson's other works, and so I trust him as an author. If this was my first Sanderson book, I think that I might be a lot more annoyed, skeptical, or angry. So, I don't recommend this book for people as their first Sanderson work, and I certainly don't recommend this for people who don't want to go on a 10,000 page journey with him. Also, I should warn you that this entire book has a depressing tone and feel to it.

I do, however, recommend this to people who love epic/high fantasy, and who don't mind a "slow burn" type of storytelling.

Journey before Destination, indeed. And I'm ready to continue the journey with Sanderson in Words of Radiance.