CRUISING THE COSMERE: The Way of Kings (Book Review)
The Hive are starting a new feature, which isn’t actually all that new as it was originally introduced on Fantasy Faction, but myself and possibly Filip Magus have decided to continue it over here!
What is Cruising the Cosmere?
Whether you’re new to Brandon Sanderson or a long-term fan, you’ll have noticed he is undeniably a prolific author in the epic fantasy genre. His books within the Cosmere Universe (his fictional world) are boldly known to be interconnected to one another, and are so richly layered they provide a wealth of material to be explored.
Therefore my personal goal in this feature is to slowly work my way through reading and reviewing each one of the Cosmere books, starting with The Stormlight Archives series.
Yes, I know this is out of publication order, but I’ve already read The Way of Kings, so I’ve decided to continue with that as the publication of the fourth book, Rhythm of War is due for release this November. I’ll then move onto the Mistborn series.
So, now that you know what this is all about, I’ll start off with my first review;
The Way of Kings
‘‘One by one. Open them up, bleed them out. We’re nothing more than pouches to carry blood. Then we die, rain it down on the stones like a highstorm’s flood.
Until only I remain. I always remain.’’
The Way of Kings is set in the world of Roshar, in particular the Shattered Plains. It is a place ravaged by war; the Parshendi race are blamed for the assassination of the king of Alethkar and this incites a quest for vengeance. However, as this war prolongs, gaining wealth begins to take centre stage throughout the book, it becomes the driving force of many of the noble houses. Much has been forsaken in the land of Roshar, honour, loyalty and compassion are present in only the few, cruelty and greed reign.
Yet there is much more underlying this. The Way of Kings sets the bar for an immensely rich and highly nuanced series, to discuss it all would be one mammoth task. I read this book almost two years ago and though I am drawing upon notes that I had originally written, and rewriting my previous review from Goodreads, I still distinctly remember how much the book impressed me. The scope of it is enormous yes, but the world is incredibly immersive, and the characters are nothing short of excellent.
Although I’ll be keeping the details short, here are few aspects which I particularly enjoyed. Sanderson incorporates a lot of mystery, fantastical elements and mythology into this first volume – discovering it all was truly pleasurable. The Lost Radiants and their betrayal, the fabled Voidbringers, and powerful beings such as Surgebinders and Spren. I know it may feel like a lot to take in, but I never found myself overwhelmed, nor did I feel like the book had sections of info-dumping. No, instead Sanderson opts to pepper these revelations along the way, he feeds you the knowledge as the plot moves on. I vividly remember drinking in every detail, and still thirsting for more.
There were a few chapters which I personally felt could have been left out, such as the interludes. Although the parts with the character Szeth were fantastic, I found the others pulled me away from the main story, they lacked clarity and I was glad to see they were only short. I also feel the middle of the book sorely required more action scenes. This may be a controversial statement to make but in my opinion, the action sequences which were included tended to be far too short, too vague and not as well honed as I’m used to. I tend to be a fan of gritty, violent, blood-spilling, heads rolling, battle scenes, and Sanderson felt far too tame to me. However this is not grimdark, this is epic fantasy, so my opinion is purely a reflection on my personal preferences. Having said that, whatever Sanderson lacked in action, he certainly made up for in terms of world-building and characters.
Sanderson spends a lot of time building up a large and varied cast of characters. This was fantastic because it truly allowed you to care for, worry over and root for them to succeed. Among my favourites were Kaladin, Syl, Shallan, Dalinar, Szeth and Wit. There were also many who grew on me too, and one I was never sure if he was to be trusted or not! I love when an author messes with your mind in that way!
Lastly, I also adored the magic system in this – Sanderson creates the most intricate and fleshed out magic system I’ve read since The Wheel of Time saga. I kid you not! For example, the use of stormlight, fabrials, Shardplates, blades and old magic, was just mind-blowing to say the least.
I think it’s best to wrap up this review now, and resist going into any further details, because the pure joy of this book (and any book really), is discovering it all for yourself. Be warned though, once you start reading, you’ll find it real hard to stop!