The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

I finished the Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson, and these are my thoughts. This is going to be an even more incoherent review than usual, be warned. I’ve split it into plot, characters, world building and flailing, which seemed like sensible categories.

The Plot
Ostensibly this is about a useless war in a continent, I guess, named Roshar. Roshar is split into countries, and the country of Alethkar is at war with the Parshendi, on the Shattered Plains. The book focuses mainly on three people, Kaladin, a former soldier, currently a slave, Dalinar Kholin, a High Prince of Alethkar and the king’s uncle, and Shallan, a young woman who is trying to train under a heretic scholar; Jasnah, who is the king’s sister. Shallan is sort of separated from the rest of the action, but since she is around Jasnah she is obviously affected by the war.

The story follows Kaladin and Dalinar as they go through the war on the plains and their internal struggles. It also jumps back in time and shows how Kaladin ended up as a slave in the army of another high prince Sadeas. The war has been going on for like six years, since the Parshendi killed the previous king, Dalinar’s brother, and it seems sort of pointless.

Shallan tries to become the ward of Jasnah to train under her and to find a way to help her family. She becomes more and more pulled into Jasnah’s world and her love for learning.

The characters
According to Sanaa from Inkbonesbooks on the YouTubes each book in this long ass series will focus on one character, although they tell the stories of others as well. So while we get multiple perspectives there is one “main character.” For the Way of Kings this is definitely Kaladin. He is the guiding star through the book. Kaladin is a slave who used to be a soldier. He is a bridge runner, which basically means he and his crew of about 30 guys, carry a bridge onto the plains and put it over chasms so soldiers can get to the battle. Which is the most horrifying use of people I’ve ever read. Kaladin is young, I think he’s about 21, and tough and he’s strong, and he is just an excellent main character. He has a long, and very interesting back story, and he has an interesting purpose. And I loved his backbone and his refusal to back down. Kaladin is just great. He has this moment where he wobbles and almost can’t go on, and the way he fights his way back is impressive and almost heart breaking in a way. It seems so exhausting.

Shallan is, I think, 19 years old. She is from Jah Keved, one of the other kingdoms, and she goes after Jasnah to try to help her House after her dad basically shafted them. She is a scholar in training and artist, which is a feminine art in Roshar. She is tougher than she seems at first. She is shy and careful and introverted, but she is also willing to do whatever it takes to help her family, which is very impressive. Shallan is a badass. It’s hard to explain her badassery, because she isn’t a huge part of the book. I hope she’s a bigger part of the next books. I really love her. There’s this reveal about her dad that is subtly hinted to through the whole book and when it was revealed I was both surprised and also going: I knew it. Because this book is bonkers.

Dalinar Kohlin is a high prince of Alethkar, and he’s the uncle of the king. He is also known as the Blackthorn and is known to be this absolute badass on the battlefield. He is currently feeling sort of uncertain because of how the war is going and he is losing some faith in himself. He is having visions and he is unsure what to make of them. His struggle was really interesting, to see this weathered and well-known prince sort of brought down by trying his best to do what he thinks is best for his country and the war. He is said to be the most, or possibly only, honorable lord in Roshar. He’s so honorable that I wanted to punch him, like, be pragmatic and smart at some point in your goddamn life Dalinar! Although some of his appeal is that he is unflinching.

World building
Sanderson is incredible at building worlds. He’s an incredible writer. I don’t think this is the best place to start with Sanderson. It is really complex, and complicated, and if you’re not used to fantasy or Sanderson I think it’ll be hard to follow along. You have to be able to just roll with it and deal with the fact that you won’t get everything and that for a while it’ll be very incomprehensible. You just have to power through that. It does become easier, and the story is interesting enough to keep going no matter if you don’t really get everything. Also, the characters don’t necessarily get everything either, so we were all confused.

The world Sanderson builds is extremely complex, with weird traditions, like women having a freehand and a safe hand, which they keep covered at all times, for no explicable reason. I don’t get it, but I’m intrigued. The men aren’t supposed to read, which is an incredibly interesting mechanism. It gives women power over men in many ways, because they have access to knowledge that men don’t have, but at the same time all the men in the book expect women to read to them, there is no way they wouldn’t, so in many ways it also gives men power over women. Since only women are supposed to read and write they have to be clerks and readers to men, or society would collapse. It’s truly fascinating. It’s such a weird constraint to put on your book, and I love it.

The magical systems are complicated and confusing. The most interesting is the use of shard plate and shardblades, which are pretty much impossible to explain, but they’re armor and swords that are basically magic and basically just belong to one person. That was a shitty explanation, but it’s hard to explain. You sort of have to read it.

Shards are an important aspect of religion and magic this series. Another important aspect is storms and Stormlight, which I won’t even attempt to explain, it feels very ethereal and inexplicable, like the Force. You can use it to do things, like speed up, or get stronger, if you have that ability, also like the Force. Not everyone can use Stormlight. I would like to formally apologize to Brandon Sanderson for my horrible comparison. Like he’d ever read this. The country of Roshar is ravaged by high storms, the timing of which can sort of be predicted and they are bad enough that if you’re caught outside in one you are pretty likely dead. The seasons only last for weeks, the opposite of A Song of Ice and Fire now that I think of it.


I love Sanderson’s writing. The writing is just so good and engaging, and I didn’t really care that I didn’t get what was going on for a while. I’m so very, very excited to read the Words of Radiance. I would flail more, but I don’t have the words. It’s so good guys.