Malazan Empire: The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson - Malazan Empire

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The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson Book 1 of his new 10-volume series

#1 User is offline   Werthead 

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Posted 11 August 2010 - 11:08 PM

An assassin in white murders the King of Alethkar, an act commissioned by the enigmatic Parshendi tribesmen of the east. In response the Alethi armies meet those of the Parshendi in battle on the Shattered Plains, a vast landscape of plateaus separated by dark chasms. Progress is slow and gruelling, and Dalinar, the murdered king's brother, adopts a siege strategy to wear down the enemy through attrition.

Meanwhile, Kaladin, a former soldier disgraced and sold into slavery, arrives on the Shattered Plains as a bridgeman, a role designed to help carry and place the immense mobile bridges which carry the Alethi army into battle. Mistreated by his masters, Kaladin begins to burn with the need for freedom and vengeance, and finds like-minded men amongst his fellows.

In distant Kharbranth a woman named Shallan seeks a missing princess, hoping to become her protege and study under the most famous heretic on all of Roshar. But Shallan's quest disguises another, less honourable cause.

These three stories become entwined with the ancient legends of the Knights Radiant and the Voidbringers they fought against. The world of Roshar and the wider cosmere beyond lie in danger from an ancient force, and the key to understanding the nature of that threat lies with a man who can walk amongst the worlds...

There's no faulting the ambition of this novel. The publisher and the author have set out their stall quite clearly: they want the ten-volume Stormlight Archive series to be the next dominant epic fantasy series, replacing the soon-to-finish Wheel of Time sequence. The publishing marketing spiel has cranked up to support this effort, drawing comparisons with Tolkien and Frank Herbert which are more than slightly hyperbolic. Yet The Way of Kings manages to weather these pronouncements to stand on its own merits as one of the best epic fantasy releases of this year.

The Way of Kings is Brandon Sanderson's finest novel to date, showing a remarkable and satisfying maturing and evolution of his craft. Sanderson is a student of epic fantasy who's made it his business to test the limits of the subgenre and take a mass audience with him, and The Way of Kings raises this skill to new heights. Roshar isn't another generic fantasyland, but a dangerous and alien world wracked by devastating tempests which the normal business of humanity takes place in the lulls between the storms. In his previous books Sanderson has used his worlds as effective background locations, but in The Way of Kings the world itself comes to life satisfyingly, becoming a vivid location which the reader ends up wanting to know more about.

Characterisation is an area where Sanderson takes a significant step forward in quality. His characters in The Way of Kings are considerably more flawed and more real than those in Mistborn or Elantris, but he also avoids turning them into grim, grey ciphers. These characters are given motivations and rationales for what they do which make sense, and then evolve satisfyingly over the course of the book. It has to be said that of the three major protagonists Shallan is the one who is not developed very satisfyingly in this way until the very end of the book, when her last three or four chapters transform the reader's understanding of her character and motives in a very impressive manner.

Sanderson has a strong reputation as the creator of impressive magic systems, so it's rather surprising that The Way of Kings pulls back on the magical side of things. There's an excellent opening sequence depicting the assassination which is slightly reminiscent of Nightcrawler's attack on the White House in X2 and is as impressive, but otherwise actual feats of magic are somewhat few and far between in the book (although there is a fair amount of use of magical artifacts such as fabrials and Shardblades), although with plenty of hints that these will form a bigger part of the story in subsequent volumes.

Another surprise is that Sanderson makes a bold move in this volume by putting some of the common mythology of his universe into the centre of the plot: Hoid, the Shards of Adonalsium, the Shadesmar and other elements which have been hinted at in Elantris, Warbreaker and the Mistborn series are here brought into somewhat sharper relief (although foreknowledge of those earlier novels is not required) and followers of this shared-universe element of Sanderson's work will have plenty more to chew on as a result of this book.

On the downside, Sanderson does adopt an everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach with the book, and uses some side-plots purely to establish elements which will have no resolution until much later, and as a result there are a few side-stories which simply have no apparent reason for being in this novel (most notably the scenes set on the Purelake). In addition, to achieve greater resonance and carry out more impressive worldbuilding, Sanderson has had to sacrifice the thunderous pace that made the first Mistborn novel very enjoyable, the result being a book which is a good 150-200 pages longer than it strictly needs to be with some repetition of ideas and some action sequences (the chasm battles, whilst very impressive and atmospheric, do start blurring together after a while).

The Way of Kings (****½) has some minor issues, but overall is a deeper, darker and more satisfying novel than anything Sanderson has produced to date. The book will be published on 31 August 2010 in the USA and on 30 December in the UK.
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#2 User is offline   Slow Ben 

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Posted 12 August 2010 - 05:31 PM

I'm really hoping this is good. Loved Mistborn, thought Elantris was good and Warbreaker was pretty good.


So far i've really liked his work. If this series is good it could push him a lot higher up on the fantasy author hierarchy.
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Posted 12 August 2010 - 06:31 PM

Certainly not lacking ambition in the story or how the publishers are looking to position it.
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#4 User is offline   polishgenius 

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Posted 12 August 2010 - 08:54 PM

View PostAbyss, on 12 August 2010 - 06:31 PM, said:

or how the publishers are looking to position it.



To be fair, this is more common sense than ambition from the publisher's perspective, since the link's already there.

I'm looking forward to Daniel Abraham's big enormous series (Dagger and Coin) more purely because I thought Mistborn was okay whereas The Long Price was amazing, but hey ho, there's space for more than one big fantasy on the market given the winding down of not only WoT but recently SoT (much as we dislike the thing here) and, although the writing goes on, the main Malazan pillar next year. And the gaps in aSoIaF.

Although, given that iirc we'll be getting not only probably the first Dagger and Coin book but TCG, and probably the next Lynch, Rothfuss, and Bakker plus maybe, just maybe, Dance with Dragons in the first quarter of next year, it looks like Sanderson's stolen a march putting this out now, especially in this slightly big-fantasy barren year...

Anyway, the stuff about more worldbuilding and character fixes my main complaints about Mistborn, so I'll pick it up eventually (though the December release on this side of the pond means I'll likely wait till after the aforementioned glut). How's his prose?
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#5 User is offline   Tarcanus 

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Posted 12 August 2010 - 11:20 PM

View Postpolishgenius, on 12 August 2010 - 08:54 PM, said:

To be fair, this is more common sense than ambition from the publisher's perspective, since the link's already there.

I'm looking forward to Daniel Abraham's big enormous series (Dagger and Coin) more purely because I thought Mistborn was okay whereas The Long Price was amazing, but hey ho, there's space for more than one big fantasy on the market given the winding down of not only WoT but recently SoT (much as we dislike the thing here) and, although the writing goes on, the main Malazan pillar next year. And the gaps in aSoIaF.

Although, given that iirc we'll be getting not only probably the first Dagger and Coin book but TCG, and probably the next Lynch, Rothfuss, and Bakker plus maybe, just maybe, Dance with Dragons in the first quarter of next year, it looks like Sanderson's stolen a march putting this out now, especially in this slightly big-fantasy barren year...

Anyway, the stuff about more worldbuilding and character fixes my main complaints about Mistborn, so I'll pick it up eventually (though the December release on this side of the pond means I'll likely wait till after the aforementioned glut). How's his prose?



Bolded mine.


This this this! His prose was terrible in Mistborn. So bad at one point that I had to put the book down. I'm excited to hear that his worldbuilding and characters have gotten better, but his writing will be the linchpin for me. I'll wait until he has a few of them out in mmpb before I start reading, methinks.
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#6 User is offline   End of Disc One 

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Posted 13 August 2010 - 12:17 AM

View PostTarcanus, on 12 August 2010 - 11:20 PM, said:

View Postpolishgenius, on 12 August 2010 - 08:54 PM, said:

To be fair, this is more common sense than ambition from the publisher's perspective, since the link's already there.

I'm looking forward to Daniel Abraham's big enormous series (Dagger and Coin) more purely because I thought Mistborn was okay whereas The Long Price was amazing, but hey ho, there's space for more than one big fantasy on the market given the winding down of not only WoT but recently SoT (much as we dislike the thing here) and, although the writing goes on, the main Malazan pillar next year. And the gaps in aSoIaF.

Although, given that iirc we'll be getting not only probably the first Dagger and Coin book but TCG, and probably the next Lynch, Rothfuss, and Bakker plus maybe, just maybe, Dance with Dragons in the first quarter of next year, it looks like Sanderson's stolen a march putting this out now, especially in this slightly big-fantasy barren year...

Anyway, the stuff about more worldbuilding and character fixes my main complaints about Mistborn, so I'll pick it up eventually (though the December release on this side of the pond means I'll likely wait till after the aforementioned glut). How's his prose?



Bolded mine.


This this this! His prose was terrible in Mistborn. So bad at one point that I had to put the book down. I'm excited to hear that his worldbuilding and characters have gotten better, but his writing will be the linchpin for me. I'll wait until he has a few of them out in mmpb before I start reading, methinks.


I'm 1/3 of the way through and his prose is much, MUCH better than it was in his prior works. It reads a lot more like The Gathering Storm, which didn't read like a Sanderson book.

I can see the hardcore Sanderson fans being turned off by the slower pace though.
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#7 User is offline   alt146 

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Posted 13 August 2010 - 06:51 AM

I'm pretty excited to hear this, I've liked the way he has improved through his various works and it sounds like he has really improved. As polishgenius says, it looks like the next year is looking to be a barrage of awesome books :D
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#8 User is offline   Slow Ben 

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Posted 02 September 2010 - 04:25 PM

Picked this up yesterday and got about 250 pages in last night.

So far its good. Not great, but good. I'm really feeling it has the potential to go either way at the moment. You can really tell its going to be a loooooong way before this series is completed as you can tell he packs in as much as he can and tries to add as much detail as possible. At times it feels stretched, but not nearly enough that it bothered me.

As always, Sandersons ideas are pretty original (to me at least), as are his characters. Some of them are close to cliche, but have enough to distinguish them from being re-hashed.

Kaladin is standing out so far as a favorite character so far. The one thing i'm really appreciating is there isnt a character (so far) that makes me groan when i realize its there chapter.

No matter what i may say i know that i'm pretty hooked already since i'm at work and all i can think about is getting home and finding out what happens to Kaladin.:)
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#9 User is offline   kcf 

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Posted 03 September 2010 - 04:37 PM

I really enjoyed it - it's Sanderson's best work to date IMO. An excerpt of my review.

Quote

Let’s not dance around it – The Way of Kings could be a defining example of big fat fantasy. It weighs in at a hefty 1,008 pages in hardcover and is only the first book in a projected 10-book series, and I daresay that each volume will probably be rather long. This is classic epic fantasy – an imagined second-world setting, magic, and good versus evil, though identifying a specific quest is a bit trickier. In some respects The Way of Kings holds much in common with beginning of George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire – the real evil that must be faced (and most probably overcome) hasn’t really revealed itself as the typical concerns of humanity get in the way. In fact, while you could probably quickly identify the ‘good guys’, identifying the bad guys is far less certain. Thematically, this is the point, and a point that I think will only grow more important as the series progresses.

The Way of Kings is essentially told from the point of view of 3 characters. Dalinar is the brother of the assassinated king and uncle to the new king. Kaladin is a slave with a unique past sold into service of the army of High Prince Sadeas. Shallan is the daughter of a disgraced and impovershed house looking for a way save her family.

The Way of Kings is character-based in that the success or failure of the story lies with the characters much more than other elements of the story. In this Sanderson succeeds with characterization that is by the far the best I have seen in his writing to date. As one would suspect, the characterization does vary a bit, though it feels intentional and one’s reaction to it will largely be a personal one – in other words, I may like Kaladin best, but someone with differing life experiences from me may relate to Shallan much more.

...

The Way of Kings is Sanderson’s most recent original work and the first book in a planned massive series. It’s his best book to date and the start of something very promising. The world is wonderfully creative with a deep history and uncertain future, the characters draw you in and make you care, and it all combines into something very special. Sanderson’s name may have leaped into the spotlight on the coattails of The Wheel of Time (though he was certainly on his way up already), but The Way of Kings proves that he belongs. This is a book that all fans of epic fantasy need to read and it could serve a great introduction for new fans to the genre, both young and not-so-young, as long as they can get past intimidation of 1000+ page book. My final thought can only be this: Brandon, when do we get book 2, because I want it now!

(full review)
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#10 User is offline   QuickTidal 

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Posted 12 September 2010 - 10:56 PM

Holy sweet effing storms!

I just finished the book. I have almost no words for how AMAZING this book is. It is 1001 pages of solid, brilliant storytelling that has all the trappings of a fantastic world inhabited by the most interesting characters. I am completely mind-blown like I haven't been in a very long time by a book. Sanderson has trumped himself this time. He has literally shown what an utter heavyweight he is in the fantasy scene now. Look out Martin, Lynch, Rothfuss...as good as you all are, this guy has you on the run. I mean shit, this is so complete a win of a book I can't even explain it properly right now.

The way it is built with the different POV's, all of them interesting...the interludes with other random (but likely important) characters in the world are even great. I was enthralled all the way through to be honest, but around the midway point it became VERY hard to stop reading. The pace was bloody electrifying.

The history in this world is deep, interesting and unknown. A lot of it based on myths that may or may not be true to the people who currently inhabit Roshar. The main menace of the series hasn't even REALLY shown up yet and the conflict in the book is probably some of the best I have even been privileged to read. While obviously Kaladin and Dalinar's war and bravery plotlines are the best for me, I find that I get equally enough good stuff, but in a completely different vein of interest from Shallan and Jasnah's storyline that is searching shadows, histories and philosophies for tidbits about what is happening to the world of Roshar and what the future may hold.

The magic system is INCREDIBLY realized. I think this may give Sanderson the carte blanche fantasy leader card for magic system creation (what with his systems in Elantris and the Mistborn series being equally realized). the man is endlessly inventive.

Prepare for bold statement....this is officially, hands down, the BEST BOOK I have ever read...ever. High praise indeed, but this volume just had everything that makes current fantasy great. It builds the characters plotlines with such skill that by the end I wanted to cheer out loud for glory, or yell in anger at villains.

Read this book. It is, I agree wholeheartedly his best work to date. End of story. Do yourself a big favor....sit down for a day or two to kill and read it, cover to cover. It is well worth your time and then some.

I am literally SALIVATING for the second book. Salivating. Damn.

Two of my favourite bits from the book:

Spoiler

This post has been edited by QuickTidal: 12 September 2010 - 11:18 PM

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Posted 15 September 2010 - 04:14 AM

Just finished this bad boy and I gotta say: it was freaking great. It had its slow parts and the action scenes where kind of overdone, but overall it was an amazing story. Quite frankly, I was very dissapointed when I finished. I didn't want it to be over. I reccomend it highly.
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#12 User is offline   haroos 

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Posted 15 September 2010 - 06:04 AM

this whole story is set in the world of mistborn and warbreaker ? (i did not read any).

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Posted 15 September 2010 - 11:04 PM

View Postharoos, on 15 September 2010 - 06:04 AM, said:

this whole story is set in the world of mistborn and warbreaker ? (i did not read any).


Neither. It is set in a completely new world called Roshar.
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#14 User is offline   Tarcanus 

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Posted 16 September 2010 - 04:29 PM

View PostQuickTidal, on 15 September 2010 - 11:04 PM, said:

View Postharoos, on 15 September 2010 - 06:04 AM, said:

this whole story is set in the world of mistborn and warbreaker ? (i did not read any).


Neither. It is set in a completely new world called Roshar.



But keep in mind that Sanderson is working all of these stories in the same Universe or something. I've heard things here and there about him having an over-arching plot that connects all of his books (Seriously, all of them) and that there are items in every one of his series that give hints that they're in the same Universe. So, while Roshar is a new world, Roshar is still in the same Universe as Mistborn, Warbreaker, and Elantris.
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Posted 16 September 2010 - 05:22 PM

Just read this, and it was very good. Definitely Sandersons best work by far, am looking forward to the next one.

Re: where it is set, it's set in a different world to elantris and mistborn, but it does suggest that it is in the same universe somehow (well a character called Hoid has appeared in all 3 series so far), though that isn't particularly necessary to follow the plot (though hoid does play more of a role in this one than others)
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Posted 01 October 2010 - 07:10 PM

Just finished it and loved it. Doesn't really come to a big conclusion, the ending is you basically just understand what the main characters are gonna be trying to do for the series. At least the main characters we've met like Dalinar, Kaladin, and Jasnah/Shallan.

I thought the short interludes were ok. Really all they did was flesh out the world a bit, they weren't enough information to make you feel like they were underdeveloped plots or hanging storylines.

I loved the part at the end where Syl remembered what kind of spren she was, "Do windspren cause wind? Or are they just attracted to it?"



p.s. Kaladin made me think of Kvothe a little bit (but more disillusioned and with people depending on him), anyone else get that?
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Posted 01 October 2010 - 07:18 PM

Bought it yesterday and I'm almost 200 pages in. It hasn't been mindblowing, but I'm enjoying it so far.
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Posted 01 October 2010 - 10:19 PM

almost bought it at the book store 2 days ago... wishing i had now!!
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Posted 01 October 2010 - 10:28 PM

It looks daunting as it is so big, but damn it's a fast read. I'm still thinking about it weeks later after finishing it. It really was so impressive.
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#20 User is offline   Tsundoku 

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Posted 01 October 2010 - 11:07 PM

It and Peter F Hamilton's 'The Evolutionary Void' are taking up staggering amounts of scifi shelf space in the local book stores at the moment, even more than when TGS or the last Harry Potter came out.

May get around to it at some point.

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