Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Way of Kings


Reading this book reminded me of The Screwtape Letters.  At one point Wormwood’s affectionate uncle Screwtape offered the young demon a particular temptation that has always stuck with me.
“You should always try to make the patient abandon the people or food or books he really likes in favor of the ‘best’ people, the ‘right’ food, the ‘important’ books.”
I don’t know if anyone will ever consider The Way of Kings to be an extremely important book.  It is a 1,000 page beginning to what appears to be at least a 10 book series of fantasy novels.  This usually means that a certain group of people who are fans of the genre will eat them up, while everyone else barely knows of their existence.  The prose is pretty straight forward (more on that later) and while there are elements of politics, racism and religion at play, the book doesn’t seem to be trying hard to make a point in any of these areas.

It’s just a lot of fun to read, and I find that very refreshing. 

Don’t be fooled, this is not just a quaint little story.  Sanderson is creating a new world of his own here, and it looks to be big.  What is revealed in this first book evidences a long history, diverse cultures, and a unique environment which itself looks like it will be playing a major role in the plot as the series develops.  Sanderson gives us enough detail so that we have a feel for this world, but one can easily see that he is holding a lot back, and I don’t fault him for that.

This brings me to his prose.  Usually when I see a book this big, I expect a lot of it to get bogged down in overly long descriptions of characters and places or internal monologues within the mind of a character that more than anything serve as filler.  However Sanderson doesn’t let his writing get in the way of his story.  The plot moves forward quickly, jumping between multiple story lines in a way that effectively held my interest.  He does provide plenty of descriptive details, but these are stretched out throughout the story rather than just dropped in a big lump whenever we meet something new.  I found myself changing the internal images I had created of different characters and settings multiple times throughout the story. 

I wouldn't say the story all that original.  Sanderson does use a number of clich├ęs often found in fantasy or adventure novels, but has given them enough of a twist that I found them interesting.  Like I said earlier, reading this book was just a lot of fun.

I know what you may be thinking, “Yes that’s all well and good but I’ve read this supposed review of yours and I still have no idea what the book is about!”  So sorry, let me get to that.

There is a world full of stuff and people are fighting and stuff and there is a guy who got in trouble over some stuff and now has to carry stuff and this girl who wants to learn stuff so she can steal stuff and an older guy that is in charge of a bunch of stuff and they are all connected in a great big story.  Also it is a fantasy book so there is magic stuff.  To learn more read it yourself and enjoy!