1001 pages: Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings

Behemoth Book Review

Today, I finished Brandon Sanderson’s 1001 page book The Way of Kings. OMFG. 1001 pages. You think The Rent’s Too Damn High is the new political meme? Well, in literary circles, the new meme is The Book is Too Damn Big.

Seriously.

On left there, is My Immortal Assassin by Yours Truly, which looks pretty puny there. In the middle is The Rise of Magic in Medieval Europe, a hardcover book which checks in at 402 pages. On the other left (right) there is The Way of Kings. 1001 pages. On the inside, there’s no header with the book title or author’s name on every page, which is usually the case. Because if there were this book would have been even bigger. You won’t be surprised to hear I read this book pretty much exclusively at home. But it was not comfortable to read in bed and it was downright unwieldy on the treadmill. In fact, this book was a PITA to read anywhere. It’s a damn good thing it’s a great story. I really wish I’d bought the book in a digital format because then my hands wouldn’t have been going numb or my back and neck getting all kinked up trying to get comfortable reading it.

But Wow!

I almost forgive Sanderson for the ending of the Mistborn Trilogy. Almost.

At first, I thought, holy hernia, this book is really only good. I kept reading because it was a good read, well-written and I’m all about that with my reading. Pretty soon it was damn good and then there were mostly parts that were fantastic and three days later I was done. And I want more. More More More! There were a couple of places where it got a wee bit preachy, but only a couple and it was still interesting and fascinating. The sad part is, I’m pretty sure I’ll end up buying the next one in hardcover unless, please god! they release the digital version at the same time. But maybe book 2 won’t be as freaking big.

Some Thoughts

I loved the world and the main characters. Sanderson builds a detailed, rich world and populates it with real people. I loved the world beyond all reason and I’m sorry I won’t be going back tonight. The magic was in some ways traditional, but this volume only sets the scene, so I expect more developments. Kaladin was by far my favorite character. By a HUGE margin. His story was epic and the stakes were enormous for him and, well, I’m just a total sucker for the common hero who develops/transforms into something amazing. I know it’s cliche, but that’s part of the point of epic fantasy and I LOVE it. Love it. In Kaladin, Sanderson delivers in a major way. My second favorite character ended up being the warrior highprince Dalinar, though for a long time he was third favorite. Shellan was my second favorite for a bit, then she dropped to 3rd on account of a major issue I will discuss in a bit.

One of my favorite parts was the way Sadeas (a cohort of Dalinar’s) was portrayed as noble and worthy when we were in the point of view of Dalinar and others from the same country but in Kaladin’s POV, Sadeas’s actions and decisions do him no credit and must naturally call into question the nobility shown and presumed in other chapters. Sanderson never makes any authorial reconciliation of that, which in my opinion, was a brilliant decision. Show don’t tell.

I felt there was a major lapse in the subplot with Shellan because she never considers an action I thought was completely obvious. I’ll have to give a mild spoiler here. Shellan convinces Jasnah (a woman) to take her on as a student (am understating here) with the ulterior motive of replacing a broken magical item with Jasnah’s functioning one and without Jasnah’s knowledge. Ulterior motive stories (AKA “the Lie”) rarely work for me. I always end up wondering why the person doesn’t just come clean before they really make a mess of things. Here, Shellan has a broken gizmo. Her boss, a genius, has a working one. Why doesn’t Shellan ever show Jasnah the broken one and ask if she knows how it can be fixed? If the answer turns out to be, sorry, can’t be done, then maybe she could have made the switcheroo. That really bugged me.

Something else That Bugged me

Another thing that bugged me was the way women took such a huge backseat in this story. A chasm. Jasnah is an awesome amazing, brilliant woman and if there were any chapters from her POV, I can’t recall them. Shellan was the only female major character. And she’s young and innocent, interesting, but basically undeveloped, with an ulterior motive that was a flaw for me. That’s it. 1001 pages and all but two women played the traditional fading into the background role of women in High Fantasy.

In this world, only the women read and write. The men, by and large, don’t. If a man needs to know the contents of a book, he needs a woman to read it to him. Women are also, it seems, the engineers and inventors. Huh. And yet women play essentially no political or economic role in this world. Everything is still run by men. How is that? All the information and technological/magical advancement is in the control of women and they aren’t running the show? Really? I mean, really?

I understand that this is to be a 10 book series. I could see that Sanderson appeared to be at least laying some groundwork for some major gender-role upsets and I certainly expect Jasnah to eventually be a major character, but this first volume made me sigh in sadness to see women play no major role in the political stakes of this story.

Sex?

Nope. None. There’s this wonderful, complex world that’s full of dirt, death, murder, crime, adventure, magic, unfairness, war, nobility, honor, intrigue, thrills and chills and one of the most powerful reactions known to humans — sexual desire has this itty bitty little part. All these noble warriors walking about and if any of them have lovers, it’s not on the pages. Sexual passion is almost entirely absent as a part of the emotions and reactions that drive a character. Why? The cynic in me says it’s because that sort of thing is too sissy for a boy book. There’s one kiss in 1001 pages.

Noble warriors apparently can’t have sex or sexual desire. At least the bad guys weren’t perverts (just to prove they’re bad.) The one character who is in anything like a potentially romantic relationship is Shellan and that has a completely expected result, in my opinion. I don’t count Dalinor’s “relationship” because it comes in very late and play a minor part in the development of his character and the plot. The relationship could have been written out of the story with NO impact. The same, however, is not true of Shellan and her relationship. Write that out, and a major portion of her plot goes away. Shellan, however, has no sexual feelings toward the man. She is being manipulated and used through this relationship and well, I found that one of those pernicious cliches that abounds in fiction for men.

Retrench

I feel like I need to retrench a bit because it’s sounding like I didn’t like the book or that there are major flaws. But I LOVED this book and the things I’ve pointed out about the roles women play are not the kind of ham handed BS that pervades material in the hands of lesser writers. It’s just that the gaze of the book is very very male and after the wonderful way women were major players in the Mistborn trilogy, I was not so secretly hoping for something more from the women in this book. I have every hope that this will happen in subsequent volumes, which I fully intend to read.

Other Observations

This book had art. Yay! Interesting art that mattered and enhanced the story. And it was more than maps! I loved that. Inside front and back Sanderson got COLOR art. Now, I love maps. I do, but it was fun to have other art. Yay for art! I wish there had been more.

In Conclusion

If you like High Fantasy, this is great stuff. Go read it. As a digital book, unless you’re weight training.

Share

Tags: ,

2 Responses to “1001 pages: Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings”

  1. Meljean says:

    Oh, I’m glad you said that. I planned to get this and am still buying half-print/half-digital, and since you can find print cheaper than ebooks half the time (even hardcovers) I might have gone that way.

    But, yeah — I don’t want to lug something like that around.

  2. On believe, me you don’t!

    But you DO want to read this book. On Amazon, the eBook is I think $2 cheaper. Let me know what you think when you’ve read it.