Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson Read Along: Week 1

You can head over to Dab of Darkness to see what everyone else thinks.

This week we read up to the end of Chapter 6.

1) Is this your first Brandon Sanderson experience? Any expectations going into this read along?

This will be my fifth title from Mr Sanderson: I read Warbreaker and the Mistborn trilogy in 2012. Mistborn was my second ever Read Along and was a great introduction to this author, so I jumped at the chance to read the other titles as Read Alongs as well.

I find Read Alongs are the best way to read dense books, and Mr Sanderson’s titles are deceptive in their complexity. Although they are relatively easy to read, they are densely detailed, so the slower, more considered reading needed for a Read Along is perfect when approaching them. I find the discussions and slower reading rate help me to absorb the details and digest the wonderfully imaginative concepts that make these titles so amazing.

2) In the Prelude to the Stormlight Archive, we see that Talenel (Taln) died and his sword is unaccounted for. Jerzien and company have decided it is best for 1 to suffer instead of 10. What do you make of this scene?

Well, apart from the fact that it was unutterably cool, I liked the way that this placed us in a totally alien world, with hints at amazing animals, races and cultures. We are in a world with a god, or gods, that use humans to play out some sort of cyclical battle, which suggests that religion and metaphysics are going to be very important in this series as will rebirth and destiny.

I was surprised that the eternal warriors were sent back to damnation and torture after each battle, and I want to know why that is their fate. I also want to know how they can simply not return without the deity tracking them down. I will also be constantly trying to guess if one of our main characters is one of these immortal warriors.

3) What did you think of Szeth's fighting abilities and the fight scenes? Any thoughts on the crystalline sphere and King Gavilar Kholin's last words?

Again, this was so incredibly cool! It did remind me a little of the fight sequences that we saw in the Mistborn series, but is yet another unique magic system from Mr Sanderson: how does he imagine all them all? I love the way that he outlines the mechanics of his system, which is so elegant in its basic concept but so devastating in its application. There was so much to admire in this chapter, so much cultural information that I had to sit and think for a little time to let it sink in. I loved the way that the assassin had to be seen coming and so wore white and made sure that he was noticed: this was such an interesting twist on the standard ninja trope. The fight sequence itself was so visual and yet I cannot imagine that it could ever be filmed, something that it shares with Mistborn. I loved the idea of Stormlight and its many uses: so very, very cool!

I have no idea what the king’s last words mean, but as the next book is called Words of Radiance, it is obvious that those words will be vitally important. The orb is equally mysterious: perhaps it can be infused with large amounts of Stormlight, but it does not seem to be a gem so I might be wrong about that. I want to know what Szeth does with it because he seems to take it with him even though he leaves the message for the king’s brother.

4) Each chapter proper starts with a few words from a dying person, their station, and status in life. Any thoughts on what these portend?

The words of the dying are obviously very important, as we saw with Szeth leaving a copy of the King’s words to his brother. This is going to get a little boring as I keep saying it, but this reminded me of Mistborn, where significant details are revealed in the short quotes at the beginning of each chapter. Apart from having some sort of ominous overtones, they do not seem to reveal anything portentous so far, but that may be revealed as we see more of them.

5) Kaladin went from warrior to slave in a matter of the first 2 chapters. Care to speculate on the details of how his life changed so drastically?

At the end of Chapter 1, we see Kaladin trying to protect Cenn from a shardbearer in full armor, so I was a little surprised that he was still alive in Chapter 2. I had expected the whole squad to be killed by the shardbearer, but somehow Kaladin survived. I can only see this happening in three ways: he escaped, was taken prisoner by he enemy or defeated the shardbearer. However, none of these alternatives fit with the fact that Kaladin blames the army’s commander, Amaram, for his change of status. I suspect that something strange happened that caused Amaram to want to get rid of Kaladin: hopefully we will find out at some point.

6) Sylphrena (Syl) the Windspren seems attached to Kaladin. Are you enjoying her character? Do you like the Spren in general in the worldbuilding so far?
I know that I am getting a bit repetitive, but how cool are the Spren??? I loved the little detail in Chapter 1 with Cenn relieving himself before the battle and noticing fearspren crawling all over the place. I assume that they are something akin to elementals, but it is the inclusion of such details that I find so delightful about Mr Sanderson’s work.

Syl reminds me a little of Tinkerbell from Peter Pan, in that she is not a straightforwardly ‘good’ character. It would seem that she is just as confused as Kaladin by her interest in the man. I am intrigued by the fact that she is invisible and inaudible to everyone else, which suggests that she is probably not as unusual as he thinks: if only a select few can detect these larger, more sentient Spren, then it makes sense that he has never seen one before. I also suspect that his ability to see her is an unusual talent and this might suggest that he has some sort magical skill. Possibly this explains why he was such a successful soldier, and I can understand why his talent would appear in a time of such trauma.

7) Shallan Davar has finally caught up to Brightness Jasnah Kholin and her soulcaster. Jasnah and the jeweled fabrial can change stone to smoke; what else do you think it can do?

We know that soulcasters can make buildings and food, so it seems that they can transform one substance into another. However, it could be that the fabrial is merely a focus or amplifier for the person’s own skills. This might explain why Kaladin has abilities that are not obvious: he does not have a fabrial to magnify them.

Other Points of Interest:

Argh! The whole chapter carrying that damned bridge gave me the creeps because it was so claustrophobic and harrowing. What a criminal waste of human life!

I have to wonder what happens to dark-eyed children born to light-eyed parents and vice versa, although I suppose that prolonged breeding within the two ‘castes’ should keep these incidents to a minimum.

I loved the unusual nature that we encountered. The skyeels sound somewhat implausible, but very cool and elegant. I loved the idea of the chulls: giant crabs acting like cattle to drag carts, although the biologist in me seems to think that crustaceans that size would not be able to support their own bodyweight in air. Then there is the ‘shy’ grass that withdraws into burrows when disturbed.

In general, I think I can sum up my experience so far in two words: SO COOL!!!!


  1. Great post! You thought of quite a few things that I haven't thought while reading through this book. I sum up the experience so far reading this just as you did, it's amazing!

    Plus, isn't it just crazy to think that there are still 9 more books planned in this series? And at a length of 1000 pages each most likely?! Yup, I know exactly what you are thinking .. that still isn't enough .. haha.

    1. Fortunately, Mr Sadnerson writes relatively quickly, unlike some other authors I could mention . . . yes, I am looking at you George R.R. Martin! :D

  2. Hi
    No.1 - completely agree with this sentiment. It makes these chunksters much easier - plus you get other thoughts and views which help you to develop your own ideas as well. It just seems to help me with the names and place as well.
    2. - so the internal damnation - did they all go back after each battle? I suppose that's why they decided to break the pact maybe?? Bit of tough luck for Taln as I thought he'd already gone to the place of damnation as he'd fallen in battle?
    3. I couldn't help thinking of Mistborn whilst I was reading - it can't be helped I suppose. I do think he writes the fight sequences so well though.
    4. No idea what these are for just yet - very mysterious though.
    5. The Kaladin/Amaram puzzle - it actually makes me just want to storm my way through the rest of the book - but I'm not going to! I'm going to let it all sink in nice and easy and see how it plays out. Savour it a little bit for a change.
    6. The spren reminded me of Tinkerbell too - I think it's probably just Syl because she takes a female form - plus you sort of get the impression that she can be tricksy which is true of Tink. I love that particular character though.
    The bridge building scene was awful wasn't it!
    Can't wait for the next few chapters.
    Lynn :D

    1. 1. I have been surprised at how well I am assimilating the millions of words in the Wheel of Time series during the Read Along, and I'm sure it is due to the slower pace of reading and the crazy discussions.

      2. Yep - it doesn't make a great deal of sense to me just yet . . . hellfire - fight - hellfire - fight: does't seem like much of a life.

      3. I suspect that we will keep thinking of Mistborn throughout this book, but that is no bad thing.

      6. I love the spren - they are such a great idea . . . but there are so many wonderful touches to this book so far that I am in danger of geeing out completely. I have already told my husband to get reading it! :D

  3. My current guess on the prelude is that the cycle is a side effect of a neverending war and having the technology to resurrect dead soldiers. I've seen that in a lot of stories recently. But then again, if it is only happening to the Knights Radiant, maybe it is some other situation.

    There are so many mysteries right now, and so few answers! I can't wait to read more :).

    1. I know - so many questions, too much information - my poor brain was starting to struggle! But I love that about Mr Sanderson's writing: it lends itself to this slower, more deliberate style of reading . . . a little like the Silmarillion but less likely to put me to sleep! :D

    2. Aww, I loved the Silmarillion :D. I guess that's a good sign for this book!

  4. Excellent thoughts on the dying words. They seem to be held near reverence in some ways. Even the assassin holds Kholin's dying words of importance and risks being caught to take the time to fulfill his last wish (take the orb) and leave his words for his brother. Though it must have been a bit creepy for the brother to find those words written in his blood.

    I will say that you are right to look towards Aram for Kaladin's current predicament. I won't say anything further as I don't want to spoil anything.

    I love the Spren. They are so telling (fear spren, pain spren, etc. ) and then we have the elemental spren, like Syl. Windspren at least seem to be tricksters. They add so much to the atmosphere of this book.

    It was the same for my inner biologist. I loved all the flora and fauna. And maybe the chulls only resemble giant crustaceans but actually have internal skeletons. Convergent evolution, is that the term?

    1. Yes - I don't think I would be all that happy to find a message written in anyone's blood, let alone my sibling's.

      True - the chulls' biology might not be precisely like crabs. Plus, I am quite happy to cut Mr Sanderson some slack because he is so damned entertaining! :D

  5. Wonderful feedback as far as Sanderson + read-alongs go! This is my 4th Sanderson book but my 1st ever read-along so I'm quite pleased :D I also found that Szeth's fight scene brought to mind some of the more memorable Mistborn fights scenes - but this still managed to be completely unique and stand on it's own! Sanderson is a freaking genius isn't he?! You're right: the prelude was beyond epic but also chilling and tragic! I have a feeling their decision to sacrifice one will come into play again in a serious way for our current set of characters at some point...Oh and YES, the Spren are awesome!!! Love them already and can't wait to learn more about them!!


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