Monday, August 08, 2011

The Way of Kings Group Read: Week One

I bought Brandon Sanderson's Way of Kings the week it came out, nigh on a year ago.  The man writes excellent fantasy novels, with captivating characters, fascinating magic systems, and a well-paced plot.  But for some reason, I never started the tome.  Other books kept cropping up or something else came along that prevented me.

Now, though, with the help of a few other bloggers, I've joined in on a group read.  Together, we'll explore Sanderson's seminal volume of The Stormlight Archive, and each week those of us participating will discuss what we've read, as well as any thoughts/theories we may have.  If you want to get in on this group-read, it's not too late.  Just head here and get yourself started.

Ibeeeg (of Polishing Mud Balls) has put together this weeks round of questions.  The main group read-along blog, Polishing Mud Balls Read-Along Page, is here.  Follow it for the rest of the bloggers taking part of this epic undertaking.  Now, without further ado...
Before I started reading The Way of Kings, I did have some thoughts on how I would like this story; did you? If you did, how is The Way of Kings actually comparing to those thoughts?
I had no fears of Sanderson letting me down.  Everything of his that I've read--the Mistborn trilogy, Warbreaker, and Elantris--has been highly enjoyable.  I remember Sanderson saying that The Stormlight Archive is his baby, that it's the story he's worked on the longest and has planned out for years.  I was also intrigued by the up-front clarification that this is a ten volume series.  If it's ten books each a thousand pages, that's quite an adventure that I could not afford to pass up.  Plus, with Sanderson's killer work ethic and expediency at book releases, the time expected to wait between novels isn't too long.  There was no way I'd miss this journey.
What do you think of the pace of this story? so far. And what do you think of the prose? Do you think the prose is too descriptive? Not descriptive enough? Give me your thoughts on the writing thus far.
The pacing has been quick.  Very quick.  The opening scene of the battle was breathtaking, and most of Kaladin's stuff has been so far, too.  Shallan's scenes are more like a pot that's simmering, a bit slower, but definitely filled with enough to keep me curious.

The prose is lean, but not too much.  Sanderson's descriptions are perfect for setting the tone that he's portraying.  In battle, there's little description.  In the lull times of traveling, there's more.  For me, it's a perfect balance of a high, epic fantasy with the brisk pace of something lower.
What was your favorite part of this first section?
My favorite part so far (I'm up to 14% complete on my Kindle, or around pg 150) is either Kaladin's labor of carrying the bridge or the curious breaking of the Oathpact at the "Prelude" of the book.  I felt like the bridge carrying ordeal was a grueling and horrifying experience, and the fact that Kaladin couldn't even see as he ran most of the way was wonderful.  And yet I keep thinking back to the Prelude, curious from the characters and the plethora of questions unanswered.
Which character(s) do you find most interesting and why?
I'm really digging the spren.  Fearspren.  Windspren.  Flamespren.  Creationspren.  Anticipationspren.  Logicspren.  So many different spren, and how they just appear at different events (whether seen or not) is just plain cool.

I'm also curious to see how Shallan will accomplish her goal of stealing the Soulcaster.  Surely she and Kaladin are on a destination to meet.  In all of Sanderson's works, his female protagonists are always characters I rally for.  As of yet, I'm not necessarily pulling for Shallan, but I'm intrigued by her ambition (and her Memory magic(?)).

I also hope to see more of Szeth-son-son-Vallano.  His assassination of the king in the prologue was awesome, and I don't think I fully understand the aftermath of the murder and the king's last words.

Kaladin, though, is definitely the most interesting person to read about right now.  He seems like a genuine, stand-up kind of guy, and I'm assuming he'll be the series' hero.  We'll see.
All right, what I really want to know is... what do you think of this book overall? so far. Are you finding the story easy to follow? Are you fascinated, interested? Is the book holding your attention? Are you Bored? Indifferent? Please share your overall thoughts.
Overall, I'm very pleased so far with the read.  The story is fascinating and complex, and I think it'll be a book that I can re-read as the series progresses through the years and take away completely different thoughts.  The unique environments and creatures are interesting; the magic, while currently vague, is nonetheless exciting.  I've stayed up late reading quite a few nights already.  I suppose the easiest way for me to say this is that I've put off reading GRRM's Dance with Dragons until September just so I could read Sanderson's work (and blog with a few others, too).  If I weren't enjoying the book, I'd pick up Dance without a second thought.  As it is, I've not even touched it.


bookswithoutanypictures said...

I'm also a huge fan of the spren, and really curious as to how Syl became sentient.

TBM said...

I agree with you and Grace, the spren are fascinating. And I really like Syl's evolution.

I really liked how you put this: "Shallan's scenes are more like a pot that's simmering, a bit slower, but definitely filled with enough to keep me curious." That is a great way to describe her chapters.

Jay Belt said...

As a huge fan of this book, I am looking forward to reading these in-between thoughts you have as you read along.

And you are not going to go read Dance instead. I can promise that. TWoK has some amazing pacing, one I wish was present in a couple other 1000 page novels I've read in the past year.

Carl V. said...

Nice opening thoughts, Logan.

I initially thought the spren would annoy me. But once Kaladin started having a personal interaction with one particular spren I got really interested and have liked their presence in the other parts of the book much more since then. I imagine they will become more and more interesting as the story moves forward.

In some way's Kalandin's interaction with this creature reminds me of the elfin creatures that the protagonist had dogging him at every turn in Gene Wolfe's excellent Wizard Knight two-book series.

Shallan's scenes are a nice slow-building suspense contrast to the more gritty, visceral experiences that Kaladin is currently having. The description of the bridge moving was agonizing and reminded me of the way I feel whenever I watch war documentaries and sit in awe and wonder at the physical endurance that these men and women had to have in order to do what they did. I feel the same way when I used to watch the Eco Challenge races. I'm not sure I could push myself to that point of physical endurance. I feel far too much of a weakling by comparison.

Like you, I was intrigued by Sanderson's admittance that this was his "baby" as you said. It made me desire to read this more than starting with any of his other work. I am also happy with the upfront honesty about how long this is set to go. I wish it wasn't that long, but at least we know he has an end planned, even if it is far from being "in sight".

Abbie Josephsen said...

oh my goodness Logan, how can you just read it in pieces?!?! I devoured it in less than 3 days, it was too good to put down!!! Kaladin is definitely my favorite character, and his story will slowly come to light as you keep reading, which was definitely very cool because as it got closer and closer to finding out key background, I was reading faster and faster to find out what happened :) Enjoy it!!! keep us posted on your thoughts :)

Abbie Josephsen said...

oh, and the bridge building experiences were definitely very well done! I totally felt like I was apart of it, like I was on the line risking myself to carry those bridges. Sanderson is awesome :)

logankstewart said...

@books...: Indeed. It'll be cool to see how the spren affect everything else in the world Sanderson's made. I'm sure they're vital somehow.

@TBM: Thanks!

@Jay: Heh, I suppose if I've waited this long for the Dragons I can wait a bit longer. ;)

@Carl: In part, the thrill of being at the onset (relatively) of such an ambitious project is exciting enough. Unlike you, I don't mind long series', and 10-volumes from an author like Sanderson is too good of a thing to wait around for.

@Abbie: Three days! Wow. The last book I, uhm, ate so quickly was Deathly Hallows, or maybe Mockingjay, but neither of those compare with the word count here.

Suey said...

I'm reeling at the three days thing! Wow! That makes me think there will be no bogging down moments at all with this book! Awesome news!

Enjoyed your thoughts here, I had many of the same ones. And now I'm anxious to really get into the second part.

TBM said...

3 days! That is impressive. I just don't think I could do that. But like Suey said that is great news to know that the story continues the same intensity.

Abbie Josephsen said...

Logan - ditto about Hunger Games and Mockingjay. Those were great books as well!

I don't think any of you will be disappointed at all. Good stuff. And Logan, you had a good analogy about Shallan's scenes. They were the only parts where I slowed down a bit. But since Sanderson does a good job of mixing everyone's stories together, it didn't slow down the story that much. And as you get to know her better, you definitely start to like her more :)

Carl V. said...

I'm just glad that Sanderson is young, sounds like he has plans for the next two books to come out soon (2012 and 2013) and has no doubt learned a lesson from what happened to Jordan, particularly since he has been intimately involved in the aftermath of that situation. I think that will also motivate him to work hard to not just start but complete this project which is obviously very dear to his heart.

ibeeeg said...

I think the battle scenes were great. I like battle scenes but I am not certain if I have liked battle scenes as well I did with the ones in this part of the book.

I agree, Shallan is like a pot simmering; good way of putting it.

I think Kaladin scenes are pretty cool; I like him very well.

The sprens are pretty cool. I really like how they are written into the story especially the one that is hanging around Kaladin. Do you have any idea of what that one is up to? I have no idea but have a feeling there is something important going on. (I am behind on my reading so maybe this has been revealed already)

I got a huge kick of what you said: "I suppose the easiest way for me to say this is that I've put off reading GRRM's Dance with Dragons until September just so I could read Sanderson's work (and blog with a few others, too). If I weren't enjoying the book, I'd pick up Dance without a second thought."
I am so right there with you.

ibeeeg said...

Abbie - Wow! Three days! very impressive. He does seem to be doing a great job going back and forth between the characters. I am liking that a lot and it is easy to follow.

Carl _ i agree with you... a good thing that Sanderson is young. To take a series of this length on means that I wish the very best health to the author. :) Of course, I wish him well regardless. :)

Shelley said...

This is the first thing I've read by Sanderson, but I've heard great things about the Mistborn series. I'll have to get the that soon...
The spren are fascinating. At first they gave me kind of a claustrophobic feeling, like having too many people in a crowded room (even though they are small), but I'm getting used to it and wondering why Syl is different.
The breaking of the oathpact in the beginning is interesting to me, especially when he says that it's better that one should suffer than ten. I'm wondering if that will be a dominant theme in the book, or rather the opposite--I see Kaladin as one who would not let even one suffer.

TBM said...

Yes! Kaladin does seem like the type of person who wants to save everyone.

Memory said...

I'm loving the spren too. They're a fascinating concept.

logankstewart said...

@Shellie: Aye, definitely pick up Mistborn. The series is such a fantastic work of fiction. And great point about Kal. He definitely wouldn't let anyone suffer.