Review: The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archives, #1) by Brandon Sanderson

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Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Date read: March 17 to April 15, 2014
Read count: 1

Only 3 stars?! BLASPHEMY.

Here’s why: This is a 1,000 page prologue. The action, the real action, doesn’t start until near the end.

I understand the need for a huge set-up to kick off a huge series, but there’s a point when too much set-up is just overkill. And that point is somewhere past page 500.

If not for the audio CDs*, there’s no way I’d get through this whole book. No one was more surprised than I about my reaction to this book because I’ve read a lot of Sanderson and liked most of his work.

As this is Sanderson’s most epic of epics (to date), I was expecting epic-ness of epic proportions which the first chapter did deliver, but then the second and subsequent chapters did not. I kept waiting for things to pick up where the first chapter left off, thinking this couldn’t be it, could it? This is what everyone’s been going on and on about? I was also expecting to see what everyone was gushing about–I still don’t it see. The story is more interesting than most average epic fantasy that promises bigger things to come, and that’s all I can say for the time being.

The writing is classic Sanderson, but with a heavy-handed tone that I didn’t care for. This isn’t so much a critique of the story, but more a reflection of how tired I’ve become of over-blown epic fantasies and Sanderson’s style of fantasy in particular. The former is a matter of personal taste; the latter is creeping up on me and threatening to stay. Sanderson’s style is becoming heavy and drawn-out, so so much that it made reading this book feel more like work. Generally speaking, I don’t like when I can see the author’s hand manipulating the story; it takes the fun out of reading.

However, if you’re an aspiring fantasy writer who’s in the process of honing your own style, I would recommend taking a look if you haven’t already. Even if you don’t enjoy it, there are a few pointers you might find useful.

The whole book is easy to dissect and deconstruct, and here’s why: the writing, as much as it drags, is precise in description and plotting. Sanderson uses vivid imagery and tactile examples to draw out each scene. I find the action sequences and internal monologues easiest to take apart and examine. Sanderson must’ve worked painstakingly hard to write each scene because you can literally feel the time and effort he put into them. He must’ve worked equally hard to achieve that slow build-up leading toward the climax. I would have appreciated the effort and attention to detail more if they didn’t result in a heavy-handedness that dragged the story down.

Because of a semi-cliffhanger, I’m tempted to pick up the second book just to see where the chips fall, but that won’t be for a long while.

* which I won GR’s first-read giveaway (I know, I was just as shocked as you are), and I’d like to thank MacMillan Audio and Samantha Beerman.

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