Wednesday, June 04, 2014

The Way of Kings

The Way of Kings is long - fantasy long. And this is only the first of a multi-volume saga. This was much harder to really get "into" than Sanderson's other books. It does, however, seem to borrow from some of his other ideas and even names. (Occasionally, I think I remember a character or event, only to realize it was from another book.) By the end, I was eager for the next book in the series.

The novel is told from the point of view of a number of different characters that (at least initially) seem to be unrelated. I found the story of Shallan to be my favorite. I was eager for more "installments" of this arc while going through other sections. Shallan is attempting to steal a Soulcaster from Jasnah, a heretic nobel academic. She apprentices herself to Jasnah to become close to her. In the process, she comes to become attached to her master and enjoy her studies. She also gains feelings for the ardent Kabsal. However, it turns out Kabsal was trying to kill Jasnah with poisonous bread. (The antidote is in the jam - Jasnah is known to not like jam.) Jasnah soulcasts the jam into something else, and Kabsal ends up being the one that dies. (Jasnah soulcasts Shallan's blood to heal her.) From this episode Shallan begins to learn that Jasnah and herself can soulcast without a soulcaster.

The other arcs involve an assassin, a nobel who has dreams, and Kaladin, a slave. Kaladin was initially the son of a "dark eyes" surgeon. (In the society, light eyes were nobles. Another society was mentioned where leadership is entirely based on age. It seems very open, until one realizes that the dominant clan simply kills off other pretenders before they get too old.) He joins the army to help protect his younger brother who was drafted. However, he gets in trouble, especially as his powers begin to manifest themselves. Eventually, he helps train a lowly "bridge crew" to be brave fighters. They come back and rescue the army of a rival ruler (even though they could have just escaped to freedom.) After doing this the ruler buys their freedom and gives them a spot in the military.

These arcs all go together for a large story about a society that is cycling through a fall. They are fighting a human-like class of people called parshinde (who happen to be similar to their docile servents the parshmen.) There are, of course, some magical and supernatural powers. And there are a number of philosophical questions involed. Many of the characters are torn by situations that do not have clear cut black and white morality. (Is it okay to harm somebody to prevent them from harming other people in the future?) The philosophical interludes slowed the action, but they could often be more interesting.

My biggest complaint of the novel is the bizarre names. This seems to be an issue with all Fantasy works. There are so many "odd" names that I have trouble telling them apart. With the many different stories going, I'd think the names were the same, when they weren't (or that they were different, even though they were the same.)

I also see elements of many of Sanderson's other novels here. You could almost create a unified universe by adding in Mistborn and even the Alcatraz series. Alas, this is "long fantasy". But, as far as fantasy goes, it is pretty good.

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