I had only heard of Brandon Sanderson a few times prior to fall 2017, mostly in relation to his having finished the Wheel of Time series. I never paid very much attention to him, because I haven’t read that series and I kind of felt like I have had enough of white Mormon men and their novels for one lifetime (O.S.C. – I’m looking at you, FOREVER). However, when friends whose taste in books I trust started to get excited about the third in Sanderson’s Stormlight series being released, I decided to give him a try.
I actually started with the first of the Mistborn series, and that was pretty good. I decided to start on the Stormlight trilogy, the first of which is The Way of Kings. I was actually put off by the title, because it seemed like the name of a terrible mens rights activist group, but I didn’t want to look it up because I didn’t want to mess up my Google history looking up hot garbage.
This story is set in a world that is seemingly based on distinction and discrimination – people with light eyes vs dark eyes, ten classes within each of those groups, talents and vocations restricted by gender, and adult women subject to a social stricture that keeps them from functionally using their left hands for absolutely no reason at all. The weather is dangerous, the plants look like rocks, and most of society is tied up in a war of vengeance that is seemingly without end. There is a lot going on here.
The story focuses on a few characters of different perspectives and life experiences, each driven by a wish to try and save the world and the people within it, always with an eye on an earlier, idealized eye on a more noble time. In that way, The Way of Kings is not dissimilar from other fantasy series. However, I particularly enjoyed this one because I really enjoyed the women characters – Shallan, Jasnah, and Navani. They are of different ages, but each of them could be considered “difficult” and none of them is particularly sexy – beautiful (obviously), but not a sex object. I am here for it. I like these characters who are intelligent, complex and obviously important, but are not necessarily the most likeable people around.
While not as fluid or lyrical as I found The Kingkiller Chronicles, the world building was effective – the desolation of the Shattered Plains matched the desperation of the people living there. Sanderson doesn’t really overexplain everything, but doesn’t get bogged down in dreary details like one would find in the Malazan series. I was left very excited to read the second; I want to know more about these people.