The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
Book 23 in A to Z challenge
Roshar is a world of stone and storms. Uncanny tempests of incredible power sweep across the rocky terrain so frequently that they have shaped ecology and civilization alike. Animals hide in shells, trees pull in branches, and grass retracts into the soiless ground. Cities are built only where the topography offers shelter.
It has been centuries since the fall of the ten consecrated orders known as the Knights Radiant, but their Shardblades and Shardplate remain: mystical swords and suits of armor that transform ordinary men into near-invincible warriors. Men trade kingdoms for Shardblades. Wars were fought for them, and won by them.
One such war rages on a ruined landscape called the Shattered Plains. There, Kaladin, who traded his medical apprenticeship for a spear to protect his little brother, has been reduced to slavery. In a war that makes no sense, where ten armies fight separately against a single foe, he struggles to save his men and to fathom the leaders who consider them expendable.
The Way of Kings is an interesting novel, in that its more than just a novel. Clocking in at just over 1,000 pages, it consists of 75 chapters, 9 short stories in the form of interludes, and a book worth of full-page illustrations throughout. It follows the stories of several characters in a fully-imagined and interesting world. The story is primarily about Kaladin, a soldier turned slave who is sold to Bridge Four, a bridge crew with a bad history. People are put on Bridge Four as punishment, and tend not to last very long.
The novel also follows Shallan Davar, a woman seeking to study under a heretic in an attempt to save her family, and Dalinar Kholin, a high prince on the Shattered Plains whose story sets up much of what appears to be the overarching story of the series.
Sanderson is not afraid to throw in more viewpoint characters, and some of them are just as interesting as the protagonists. The prelude is from the point of view of a Knight 5,000 years before the book. The prologue after it is from that of a Shin assassin wielding a shardblade and mysterious powers that affect gravity. The interludes, as well, introduce new viewpoint characters. Using throwaway viewpoints like this is something that can get out of hand (as it did in The Wheel of Time), but for the first book it was a useful tool for setting the stage, defining the scope and making the world feel real. I do hope it tones down a little, though, and sticks to the four main characters of the first book, Kaladin, Shallan, Dalinar and Szeth, the Shin assassin.
Sanderson, known well for his magic systems and worldbuilding, does not disappoint. The level of detail in this world is amazing (and sometimes annoying), and, as always, you can be sure the worlds various magic systems are all grounded in rules and logic.
Overall, The Way of Kings is a pretty great start to what promises to be a truly epic series that I know Ill have to have on my shelf. The second book, Words of Radiance, is out now, and I think Im going to go read it now.