I first stumbled onto Sanderson’s writing through the Wheel of Time series. Wheel of Time was my absolute favorite growing up, and I really appreciated the job that Sanderson did finishing the series. Sure, not everything was perfect, and some characters seemed different without Jordan behind the wheel, but I was so glad to read the ending of that epic story.
Now Sanderson’s writing his own Wheel of Time, and by that I mean an epic fantasy series. It’s called the Stormlight Archive and it’s awesome.
The Stormlight Archive takes place in a universe called the Cosmere. Book one, The Way of Kings, is an excellent introductory volume in what I expect will be a far-reaching series at least a decade away from completion.
The story follows a few central POV characters, but as in many epic fantasy series, there are a wealth of different characters. Each of the Stormlight Archive books so far focuses on one main character’s backstory, and the Way of Kings features Kaladin’s personal history. Kaladin, a surgeon’s son, finds himself sold as a slave to the bridge crews of the shattered plains. The bridge crews are a unique piece of worldbuilding and a really crushing reality that Sanderson brings to life. I found the action of the bridge crews interesting and horrifying simultaneously.
Other POV characters include Shallan Davar, a woman trying to enter into a wardship under Jasnah Kholin, an infamous heretic and esteemed scholar. Shallan’s intentions aren’t entirely academic, however, as she needs to steal something valuable from Jasnah to save her family.
The other main POV character is Dalinar Kholin, a once famous warlord and revolutionary called the Blackthorn, who is plagued by visions every time the weather gets bad.
The story is sweeping, epic and intriguing with lots of likable and interesting POV characters. The Way of Kings is incredibly inspirational, particularly Kaladin’s journey of love from apathetic slave to people’s champion.
The magic system in this series is really awesome, and there are lots of other really cool fantastical elements. The concept of Spren, which are like little spirits of human thought, really blew my mind the first time I read the series. Shardplate and shardblades are also really cool concepts. Shardplate is very rare, very powerful armor, and shardblades are the most badass swords ever. They can cut through stone and kill with a single cut.
One thing I really appreciate about the Stormlight Archive is just how accessible the writing is. This is an epic fantasy with excellent pacing and seamless, immersive world building. I love the structure of the first book. We get to see Kaladin in a very tough situation, and then the book flashes back and shows us how he got there and where he came from.
My only real gripe about the series is that it’s being published too slowly! I would like to read the next book today if I could.
I highly recommend the Way of Kings to anyone who loves epic fantasy.