Audiobook Review: The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

Audiobook Review: The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
Audiobook Review: The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

The Way of Kings

Written by Brandon Sanderson
Illustrated by Ben McSweeney, Greg Call, Isaac Stewart
(Macmillan, Tor - 8/31/2010)
Series: The Stormlight Archive #1
Genres: Fantasy
Format: Audiobook (1258 pages)(45:37)
Narrator: Kate Reading, Michael Kramer
Source: Purchased
Rating: 5 Stars

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Brandon Sanderson, widely acclaimed for his work completing Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time saga,  begins a grand cycle of his own, with The Way of Kings, Book One of the Stormlight Archive.

The result of over ten years of planning, writing, and world-building, The Way of Kings is but the opening movement of the Stormlight Archive, a bold masterpiece in the making.

Speak again the ancient oaths,
Life before death.
Strength before weakness.
Journey before Destination.
and return to men the Shards they once bore.
The Knights Radiant must stand again.

My Thoughts — No — First, A Story

Every time I finish reading a book I love, I tell my husband he should read it next. He just finished reading Elantris (another Sanderson book — surprise, surprise) recently and he asked me, out of ALL my favorite books, if I could recommend that he read just ONE of them, which it would be. “The Way of Kings” was out of my mouth before I even realized I was speaking! Obviously, that speaks clearly of how much I loved this book.

Sometimes — especially with books I absolutely adore — it can be difficult to articulate my thoughts and feelings and collect them into some sort of coherent review. When I was trying to express to my husband why I chose that one, I found myself saying, “Just go look on my Kindle and read all of the passages I highlighted!”

So he did, reading them out loud while I was baking cookies or something, and this allowed me to throw in my commentary on why I highlighted each passage. When we were finished, I sat down next to him, confiscated my kindle from him, and held up a finger.

“Let me read this to you. I didn’t highlight it, but it made me think of you.”

The passage is way too long to quote here, but for those who are curious, it is the final chapter with Wit and the conversation he has with a couple of guardsmen near a city wall. Reading it again, aloud, made my heart swell with awe and my brain tumble with intrigue all over again.

At the end of it, I sat back and took a deep, cozy breath.

“Wow,” my husband said. “That was so good!”

“I know!” I agreed, grinning at him.

“You SEE why I want you to read this book? It is SO GOOD. The whole BOOK is full of things like this — from MANY characters, not just this one!”

“Wow,” he said again.

(He’s now reading his way — much too slowly for my impatience — through this book, and I am so excited for him!)

And now, more review-like thoughts…

This book spoke to me on so many levels that I came away from it agape, in complete awe that one person could even think up all of this stuff and put it into one book. The depth and richness of the world is incredible, and Sanderson’s love of world-building is very apparent and not at ALL a detriment to the series.

“A dozen candles burned themselves to death on the shelf before me. Each of my breaths made them tremble. To them, I was a behemoth, to frighten and destroy. And yet, if I strayed too close, they could destroy me. My invisible breath, the pulses of life that flowed in and out, could end them freely, while my fingers could not do the same without being repaid in pain.”

I read in an interview with Sanderson, about Words of Radiance (book 2), that he wants the series to be a kind of love letter to epic fantasy. I was enchanted by the idea, but I didn’t really get it until I finished reading The Way of Kings.

The main storyline is a slow build that lets you deeply and thoroughly immerse yourself within, getting to know each and every character as a whole person — not just a caricature. I found myself sympathizing with, and respecting, Kaladin more and more throughout the book. I was absolutely in awe of Jasnah and her seemingly boundless intellect and wisdom.

The book has several sets of interludes, which contain little side stories of other people in this world, and I gobbled them up with fervor. I remember him saying at the event that you could skip these if you want, because they’re not canon (they do remind me very much of all the series novellas I’m so fond of), but to me they added such a richness and grounding reality to the world that I can’t imagine not having them.

“Too many scholars think of research as purely a cerebral pursuit. If we do nothing with the knowledge we gain, then we have wasted our study. Books can store information better than we can–what we do that books cannot is interpret. So if one is not going to draw conclusions, then one might as well just leave the information in the texts.”

Another little treasure within this massive tome is the bountiful and detailed illustrations: maps, pages of Shallan’s sketch pad (including drawings of creatures and plants), and more. This might seem sort of insignificant when compared to the mass of pages in this book, but for me they were like the garnish that completed the dish, and left me satisfied.

The narrators are two of my favorites: Kate Reading and Michael Kramer, who also narrated the entire Wheel of Time series. Their voices were familiar and comforting and helped me ease deeper into the story, which was really nice. As usual, their narration was stellar (even if they did pronounce a few words and names differently from one another).

I don’t even know if I’ve actually reviewed the book here, but I hope I’ve at least expressed how much — and why — I enjoyed it.

This book, you guys. THIS BOOK.

Read 25 comments

  1. ok – well now I have to read this. I skipped over the review part because I don’t like to read reviews until after I’ve read the book. but the story was enough to get me intrigued :)

  2. You know, I must apologize because I read ALL your posts, but don’t ever comment. I think it really comes down to the fact that I read them when I go to schedule all our social media posts, and then when I see them I’m like “Oh, I already read that.” and skip over it, without ever commenting. What a fail friend.

    Anyways, I know how much you love Brandon Sanderson and ONE OF THESE DAYS I am definitely going to read his work. I mean, geesh, The Rithmatist has been sitting on my shelf ever since I moved to the UK! So soon!

    Though I do have to admit, I am intrigued by this one! I’m a sucker for illustrations and other little added bonuses in books, so that’s awesome. And I actually sort of like how it has side stories added in there (sort of like novellas). I mean, sometimes that annoys me when authors do it, but I actually like knowing that I could skip it if i really wanted but that I probably wouldn’t want to. :)

    • LOL I do the same thing! Don’t worry! xD

      I am curious how you would fare with this book. Especially since I don’t really know much about you reading epic fantasy… I do think you would enjoy it, though, because it’s just so full of goodness! In the meantime, however, get to reading The Rithmatist already! That one has lots of little drawings (and diagrams!) in it too. :D

  3. YES TO EVERYTHING YOU SAID. I read this last month and was completely blown away by its awesomeness – even though it was 1000 pages and I never read an epic high fantasy before IN MY LIFE. Everyone should go read this, even though it may take you a month.

    I’m looking forward to reading Words of Radiance too. Hopefully sometime soon!

    • WOOHOOOO!!! I love that you were so impressed by this book and it was your first experience with epic fantasy! I mean, this WAS a pretty spectacular choice to begin your epic fantasy experience! I hope you get to read Words of Radiance soon, because it is just WONDERFUL so far! Hilarious and stellar writing, as usual. :)

  4. Ooooh two badges! Not that I’m surprised, with it being written by Brandon Sanderson. I haven’t read much by him so far but I’m still completely amazed at how many original ideas he manages to come up with, and how well he fleshes them out. I hope he didn’t make a trade-in-your-soul deal for all that creativity or something becuase he needs to stick around for a while!

    Your storytime reminded me of the same way I am with Laini Taylor’s books. The writing is just… gah. (But you already know this.) It’s so hard to pinpoint any one thing because IT’S ALL SO GOOD. Not that their styles are anything like each other, but both Taylor and Sanderson have this way of stringing words together that makes it apparent they really know how to make language work for them. I’m always thinking of how effortless it is to read but at the end of some sentences (okay lots of sentences) I’m sitting there like, “omg who else would have put those words together like that?!”

    But that was pretty much an entire paragraph to say I’m putting all of Sanderson’s books on my wishlist. I don’t even need to read reviews for them. :D

    Also: OMG SKETCHBOOK PAGES! I’ve been in love with the idea of having like little scientist entry sketches in an epic fantasy book for YEARS so I’m so glad someone with an already remarkable amount of talent decided to implement that. Did I ever tell you about my D&D cleric and her sketchbook?

    • I swear, Leanne, I have NO idea how Sanderson does it. Like, he has a million books and still a million more ideas and they’re all so different and so interesting and so well-developed! I swear, I keep saying (as I read these books), “How does he DO IT?” Like… I don’t get how his brain can even manage to HAVE all of these amazingly clever thoughts and ideas and then figure out how to combine them into a book that is freaking incredibly well done. So yes, I totally get your comparison to Laini Taylor, even though their styles are very different!

      Yes, seriously, you need to read his books! And start with THIS SERIES! Yes, there are all kinds of sketchbook page drawings insde and they’re awesome and hilarious because they even include Shallan’s scribbles and commentary on them (there’s one where she write “sigh” all girly-like underneath her sketch of a certain gentleman, lol!).

      WHAT NO you have a D&D Cleric with a sketchbook?!?! Tell me more!

      • I don’t know either and I’m equally amazed! Like, he had to have been cultivating all those ideas his entire life or something because I don’t understand how so many different things come out of ONE brain. I’ve only read Steelheart and Mitosis by him, but I do keep seeing you completely rave over all his books that you read. I’m itching for some epic fantasy lately, too, so I’m probably gonna grab up The Way of Kings from the library soon. Like once I finish the 9 other books I have checked out. Haha, oops! I actually just added it to my library wishlist, along with The Rithmatist. :)

        Eeee I can’t wait to see the sketchbook in it! I didn’t have much of one for my D&D cleric, and it was several years ago in a Kingdoms of Kalamar campaign I was playing. But the DM decided he would give us extra xp if we kept a journal of what happened each game session, and more xp if we did anything else beyond that to flesh out our characters. I kept an in-character running journal on our game forum and had started to sketch out plants and wildlife we were encountering in the desert. But I lost all that stuff a while back. :( It was so much fun, though! I wouldn’t mind joining another campaign where that kind of thing was encouraged.

        • Man, that’s so cool! So did you play D&D online with friends or what?

          Also: I have to say that out of all the Sanderson stuff I have read, Steelheart is my least favorite, so… OMG READ MORE. If you want a tiny sample of his epic fantasy awesomeness, you should read his Infinity Blade novellas. O_O O_O O_O

          • I tried a couple times to get an online game going with people but they would never last for more than a few weeks. I guess it felt too much like work to them or something. :/ Now I live too far from anyone I would play with and have to content myself with MMOs instead.

            When I was living in Mississippi my RL BFF was DMing a couple of campaigns and my ex and I would go hang out with them a few weekends every month. We had some epic gaming sessions (like 12-16 hours!) but most of that was more hanging out than it was playing lol. We ended up finding another group of people here around New Orleans a few years later (this was still like over a decade ago) and that’s the one I had the journal in, but that group of people didn’t last long. We just didn’t mesh as well with them as with the group back home and kind of gradually stopped going. I haven’t played since, and I miss it. :/

            Well, I really liked Steelheart so I can’t wait to get to Sanderson’s other stuff! I’m kind of just picking books at random from my library wishlist and checking out piles of them at a time right now. I know I have lots of his on there so I will definitely get to them before too long.

  5. I’ve already bought Raven Boys and Cinder because of you, Kelley. Now I need to read this too! I’m in the zone for fantasy at the moment. I look forward to reading this. Great review x

  6. Whoo! Faye (The Social Potato) hosted a readalong for this last month and I believe everyone who participated really loved the book! :D This isn’t my type of read, and while I did love the action and the world building (I read until the interludes), the writing style wasn’t for me. I still want to finish this book someday, though! :D

    • Awww man, you only read till the first set of interludes? You barely got going! But I totally get you. This sort of giant, epic fantasy is definitely not for everyone. And this one, I felt like I especially had to sit back, relax, and soak it in because it’s got a bit of a slow start. I hope you do finish it someday (and enjoy it).

  7. Brandon Sanderson — an author I REALLY want to love, but whose books I just can’t get into! Admittedly, I’ve only tried two, both of which I never finished. The Rithmatist was just so slow-moving, and if I my memory’s not trolling, I think you told me to read on because it gets much better and I TRIED, KELLEY. I DID. But then I had to stop because of exams. :P And Steelheart… I read the first chapter (in a bookstore) and didn’t like the writing style. It sounded like the author was trying too hard to sound badass. I dunno! >.<

    Sanderson's books all have cool-sounding titles, though. This one just screams "epic," though Steelheart did too and look at where that got me. But wow — one of your all-time favorites, huh? That's pretty high praise! I love that the world building was amazing but not all info-dumpy like a lot of fantasy books. Seriously, it takes a lot of skill to be able to do that. Leigh Bardugo is another author with that talent. ;)

    I also don't usually come across books with novellas that are actually worth reading (to me, they're mostly fillers to keep readers excited for the next book and don't add to the main story in any way), but if they add to the plot/world, then I'm all for it! Kind of reminds me of all of J.R.R. Tolkien's LotR texts, like the Silmarillion and even a whole book on the history of Middle-Earth. THOSE are good side stories. <3

    And OMG! Maps?! MAAAAAAPS. I don't even need to say anymore. Maps are awesome.

    Okay, okay, I think I MIGHT try this out? It does sound very good, but after I at least finish the Brandon Sanderson book I have right now, haha. Fantastic review, Kelley! Speaking of which… you and your husband should do a chat review or something for a book you both loved, or a book someone loved while the other hated. WOULD BE PRETTY INTERESTING, NO? :D

    • The sad thing is, Meg, that both of his books youv’e tried are his YA ones so they’re sort of simplified. Like… a lighter version of Sanderson. The Rithmatist, I guess, isn’t for everyone — and I know what you mean about Steelheart. I still gave it a chance (although I admit I did stop that one after the first chapter and had to return to it later when I was more in the mood), and ended up finding it a lot of fun.

      But THIS SERIES. Seriously, this is like his masterwork, in my opinion. If you like epic fantasy, massive amounts of world building, and stories that are full of INTERESTING things (not full of elaborate descriptions, like so many other epic fantasy novels), then this is the book for you!

      I mean, you could just go take a look at it in the bookstore, look at the maps and other drawings inside… sample a page or two (I recommend a Shallan chapter), and see what you think. In fact– WAIT. I have the perfect thing: go look in Words of Radiance (book 2) and read the first page of chapter 65. If you’re not convinced that this series is amazing, then I don’t know what else to tell you! >_< (Oh, and I've thought about blogging SO many of the conversations my husband and I have, but usually it ends up that we'd rather just discuss in the moment than try to put it down into a blog post. I am still trying to convince him to write a guest post on here, though!)

  8. It seems like I am late to the party but I just can’t help but post a comment. Hahahah. I am so happy that you love this book, Kelley! It’s one of my all time favorite books, too. Sanderson has just this awesome ability to write a story that has impressive world building, interesting characters, unique magical system, etc…etc…

    The first Sanderson book that I’ve read was Mistborn. Before I went into it, I was highly doubtful because I thought that it’s another Tolkien copy cat so I was really surprised. So after Mistborn, I basically rushed to add all Sanderson’s books to my TBR pile. The Way of Kings is my second Sanderson book and though it has a very slow beginning, I didn’t mind at all because it was just awesome.

    And yes to Kal and Jasnah. Jasnah is just so awesome isn’t it? Her sarcastic wit is just so appealing. I love her views on religion and her rather unorthodox way of teaching. I was practically laughing and at the same time awed when she brought Shallan to that dark alleyway where she killed the robbers just to teach the latter philosophy. I think all the characters are likable even Szeth. :D I’m excited to meet the other Radiants and see if they are as flawed as our main characters.

    Have you read the Words of Radiance? IMOO, it’s much better than TWOK. And I can’t wait for book three to come out. It’s a good thing that Sanderson is not lazy like George Martin.

    Wonderful review, Kelley! I am so happy to meet a fellow Sanderson fan.

    • YAY for another hardcore Sanderson fan! I swear, every book of his that I read just makes me love his writing more and more! I just finished Words of Radiance a couple of days ago and it was AMAZING! I agree, it was even better than the first book. <3 <3 <3

      And yes, Jasnah is just SUCH a great character. I was shocked multiple times by the depth of her insight! And oh, Szeth.... I do feel for him. I love him, too. The other character I really hate is Sadeas. I didn't like Adolin for a long time, either, but he's definitely grown on me!

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