To kick off review month, I’ll talk about a book I read during the course of last month and really loved, but couldn’t talk about (because I was too busy praising my wonderful friends!) -Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. Funny story: I was on the plane on my way to Amsterdam, delayed, when I decided to browse for books on my iPad to read on the flight. It turned out that very day Way of Kings was released, and since I really enjoy Sanderson’s fantasy novels, I picked it up.
Way of Kings is a fantasy epic, first in a series – you are probably familiar with this style of book from Wheel of Time, Song of Ice and Fire or even Harry Potter (kind of). Sanderson is an amazing world builder; Kelly, Laura, Nik, Rebecca and I joke that he actually is just creating role playing game systems and the novel(s) are secondary. There were three major things from Way of Kings that I found sweet, that tie together well and are the reasons I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys epic fantasy: the development of the world across the novel, the “magic” in the world and the descent into fantasy.
Sanderson does a really good job of pacing the reader’s view into his world as the story progresses. Some of this is flashback, some is alternate character perspective, but primarily it is his excellent show-don’t-tell style that increases your understanding of the nature of his fantasy world as you learn more about what’s going on with the characters and plot. As he is doing this, it shifts slowly but surely from what you might consider “swords and sorcery” fantasy into something more more complex and deep: a kind of magic rooted in how the world’s history evolved, and kind of a “hide in plain sight” model where the obvious magic obscures the rarer and more secret “actual magic.”
Add to this a really neat way in which Sanderson moves you from the stuff is identifiable fantasy tropes (soldiers, knights on horses, magic swords) into stuff that is wholely his own (regular mystical storms, crablike beasts of burden, visible spirits that represent emotion) and you have a recipe for an excellent book – and hopefully an excellent series! Really my only complaint is that I can’t afford to be waiting for another series to come out with its next book!
Engrossment Level with World, Story, Characters: B+
Sanderson Factor for “Roleplayingsystemability”: A+