Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Way Of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

In The Way Of Kings, Brandon Sanderson has written the first volume of what will be the decade's foremost fantasy trilogy, The Stormlight Archive. The book takes place in Roshar, a bleak world of stone and storms. The people of Roshar have been involved in a war for years to avenge the killing of their king. The war takes place on The Shattered Plains, a bleak area with massive chasms and stony ground. They meet and fight the people of the Plains, both for revenge and to win gemhearts.

The society is based on magic. Centuries ago, the land was ruled by the ten consecrated orders of the Knights Radiant. Those orders and warriors fell, leaving nothing but their almost-invincible armor and swords, called Shardplate and Shardblades. When armored in Shardplate, an ordinary warrior becomes almost invincible and can fight off entire battalions. Shardblades can cut through anything. Both are valued above anything else in Roshar; and those who own them are the rulers of the country.

Roshar now is ruled by a young king, the murdered king's son. He has ten Brightlords who each have armies and who fight for him, but they are not united. There are plots and counterplots, alliances and betrayals. Overall, the land is much weaker than in the past. And the signs are grim. Everything points to the coming of The Desolations again, perhaps to utterly destroy the land.

There are four individuals who seem to be the focus of both the hope and the despair that may come. Dalinar Kholin is one of the king's Brightlords, and his uncle and most trusted advisor. Renowned for his battle expertise, troubling rumors have started to circulate about Dalinar. He has been having visions of the past, and those visions make him question whether the ways of man are the way forward, or if they need to reach back to the ways of old.
Shallan is a young woman, ignorant and untested. She comes to court hoping to become the ward of the king's sister, a renowned scholar. She is accepted and learns to love knowledge and education, but she can't forget that she has come to court to attempt to steal a great treasure to help out her family back home and save it from ruin and poverty.

Then there is the assassin. No one knows who he is or why he kills, but his targets are never safe. He kills with ruthless efficiency, but each killing grates at his soul. His life is not his own, but hostage to the master who owns his oathstone. As long as his oathstone is held by another, he must obey their every command, no matter how foreign it is to his nature.

Finally, there is Kaladin. Raised as a surgeon's son, he joined the army instead when his younger brother was recruited. Far from admiring the Brightlords he joined the army to protect, he has grown to loathe them as they betray him and the codes of honor again and again. Due to these betrayals, Kaladin is now a slave, assigned to the bridge carriers, the most dangerous job in the army. Yet even in this lowly position, he finds a way to affect events around him.

This book is highly recommended for fantasy readers. If you have a fantasy reader in your life, run, don't walk, to the nearest bookstore and purchase The Way Of Kings for them. Sanderson has created a harsh world that challenges the men who attempt to survive in it, but gives glimpses of what can be. Like the best fantasy sagas, there is a moral code underlying the entire story that keeps the reader enthralled. Readers will be thrilled with this first book and anxiously await the next.

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