Warning: this post may contain spoilers for Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings, first in the Stormlight Archive
Technically, this is not a new book to me. In fact, this is at least my fifth time reading The Way of Kings. It is one of my go-to books when life looks particularly bleak, or when I need to remind myself of what epic fantasy should be. This time, my excuse for rereading was the release of the newest installment in this series, Rhythm of War. I don’t do that for all series, especially not ones with which I am already as familiar as I am with Stormlight Archive, but these books are simply so good that it makes a great excuse. Since I have not yet reviewed the books here on the site, I decided it was also an appropriate time to rectify that gross negligence.
I don’t like to pick favorites, or make lists of my favorite things, or otherwise engage in superlatives, but if someone were to pin me down and convince me that I really must choose a favorite book, it wouldn’t be difficult: I would pick The Way of Kings. To me, this book is everything that epic fantasy should be. It has a wildly unique world, with its own ecosystems, culture, and rich history. Its characters are unique and amazingly well built, with compelling stories and potent flaws that are more than just token character development arcs. Its magic system is fascinating. Its politics, philosophies, and ideas are compelling and relevant. The writing is uniquely structured and well-executed, and the story is captivating. Actually, I have to try not to embarrass myself in this review by making my praise too effusive.
Though I love all of the books in Stormlight Archive, I think The Way of Kings is the strongest, maybe in part because I find Kaladin’s arc so compelling, and this is the installment that focuses most on him. I could go on and on, but ironically I find that I don’t know what more I should be saying about this book. It’s the kind of book that I dream of being able to write someday – not this specific book, obviously, but something that tugs on similar chords. It is brilliantly imagined, completely unique, beautiful in its complexities. The other Stormlight books are also fantastic (and we’ll be reviewing those here on the site in the next few weeks, including the new release, Rhythm of War), but to me this one stands above even them.
Unabashedly, without reservation, this is a five star book. I would rate it six stars if I could, except that I’m already stingy with my five star reviews. Very, very few books I read get rated as five stars, and this is one of them. Not just one of them – it stands above those other few. No caveats, no qualifiers, no amendments. If you haven’t already, you absolutely need to go read The Way of Kings.
Just make sure to clear your calendar and warn your family first, because you’ll find it hard to do anything else until you’ve finished.