This is the second part of the Way of Kings, the first novel in the Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson and the start of an epic series. As this is the second part of a book, it makes sense that you read the The Way of Kings Part 1 first.
Starting to read this second part it becomes clearer why Sanderson split the books where he did, it was just the right place and before long we are reunited with our reluctant hero Kal where his infamy seems to be growing as fast as his new found abilities.
Where the first book concentrated on setting up the world, characters and introduced the main plot elements this second part has a faster, more energetic pace. There are still a number of flashbacks inter-spaced through the book and we finally learn what actually happened to Kal's family and why he became a fighter rather than a surgeon which not only provides a rich background to the protagonist but also manages to act as mini interludes to the main plot arcs.
One of the things I love about this series is the bleak atmosphere that pervades the fellow bridge builders, that feeling that the only release from their harsh existence is death on the field of battle while carrying a bridge that must way a few tonnes. Kal's own introspection and then refusal to give in despite the odds is brilliantly described and one of the real highlights of the book. This is cleverly offset against the priveledged life that Shallan leads, a leisurely pursuit of knowledge and socialising with the upper echilon of society even though there is the constant fear of her families predicament lurking in the background.
The richly detailed and unique world that surrounds the story is also an incredibly well developed vision, I just love the fact that this world is so different to our own and yet so easy for the reader to visualise thanks to the quality of Sanderson's prose.
In this second part we learn more of the enigmatic Spren along with more of the strange flora and fauna that make up the world of Roshar. The level of detail is excellent and yet Sanderson manages to keep a fairly even and moderately quick pace throughout by using flashbacks more than exposition. There we a few times though where the change from present to past did annoy a little - mainly with the Kal plot line where I was hanging on to the every word waiting for the planned big event - but those times were few and far between. We are also introduced to a few other characters but it's still unclear how some of these will play a part in future events.
The story itself does move much faster in this second half and we finally get a glimpse of the untapped talent that both of the main protagonists have hidden inside them. The fight scenes are top notch, the dialogue gripping and the characterisation exemplary.
The Way of Kings is a very strong start to what promises to be an excellent series with all the hallmarks of becoming a classic, a richly detailed unique world described with a creative flair and filled with unforgettable characters, highly recommended.
Written on Wednesday 27th July 2011 by Antony.
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