Posts Tagged ‘Tor’

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Review: ‘The Way of Kings: Book One of the Stormlight Archive’ by Brandon Sanderson

December 8, 2010

The Way of Kings: Book One of the Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson

Introduction From the Back Cover:

I long for the days before the Last Desolation.

The age before the Heralds abandoned us and the Knights Radiant turned against us. A time when there was still magic in the world and honor in the hearts of men.

The world became ours, and we lost it. Nothing, it appears, is more challenging to the souls of men than victory itself.

Or was that victory an illusion all along? Did our enemies realize that the harder they fought, the stronger we resisted? Perhaps they saw that the heat and the hammer only make for a better grade of sword. But ignore the steel long enough, and it will eventually rust away.

There are four whom we watch. The first is the surgeon, forced to put aside healing to become a soldier in the most brutal war of our time. The second is the assassin, a murderer who weeps as he kills. The third is the liar, a young woman who wears a scholar’s mantle over the heart of a thief. The last is the highprince, a warlord whose eyes have opened to the past as his thirst for battle wanes.

The world can change. Surgebinding and Shardwielding can return; the magics of ancient days can become ours again. These four people are key.

One of them may redeem us.

And one of them will destroy us.

What Drew Me to the Book:

As anyone that’s visited Following that Raven in the last couple of years has likely surmised, Brandon Sanderson is currently my favorite modern fantasy writer so to say that I was looking forward to The Way of Kings would be something of an understatement. And even if I wasn’t already a huge fan, who could look at that epic Michael Whelan cover and not be drawn to the book!? It’s one of the strongest covers I’ve encountered and I suspect that more than a few readers will be gained gazing into the possibilities it suggests in its striking color and detail.

The Review:

Let me clarify that I will be reviewing The Way of Kings based on the Macmillan audio performance by fan favorites Michael Kramer and Kate Reading. I purchased the large tome for my library shelves as well, and am very impressed by the production values, illustrations, and reference material that it contains and will be referring to it often in the future to heighten my experience with the series no doubt, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to listen to the book as read by these two veteran voice actors that I already enjoy so much. Truthfully, it may have been their best performance yet. Whatever the case, they certainly brought their “A” game and I highly recommend that fans of the book (or potential fans) give the audio version a listen if at all possible.

The Way of Kings: Book One of the Stormlight Archive is the inaugural entry in a 10-volume epic, and it hits the ground at a sprint, thrusting the reader right into battle following an impressive prologue/prelude set-up which sets a grim mood following the wake of an apparent betrayal amongst immortal warriors, bringing desolation to the land of Roshar. The battles that ensue are fought not only by highly trained soldiers in the Alethi and Parshendi armies (the two warring sides in a 6-year struggle) but on a larger scale between great warriors donning coveted armored carapaces with superhuman capabilities, likewise by unarmored individuals able to harness the Stormlight prevalent in a world of high storms, granting them preternatural abilities, and one of Sanderson’s best magical “systems” yet. I can also say right off the bat that Sanderson crafts these clashes (and, yes, there are many) with meticulous care and outside the characters themselves the scenes of battle were the strongest part of the novels for me, rich in detail and never losing sight of the excitement that should be implicit in such scenes, particularly those involving close combat.

Following four principle characters throughout, The Way of Kings provides strong characterization in each case: Szeth is a reluctant assassin whose great power is as mysterious as his past and he gets the ball rolling quickly in the book with a thrilling battle and the death of a king, Shallan is a young woman who rides the high seas seeking an opportunity to apprentice under a gifted scholar, and heretic, named Jasnah; but there are motives underlying her quest that will have great repercussions the both of them, particularly as she begins to confront herself. Dalinar, the “Blackthorn,” is an aging Alethi high prince, a wielder of  Shardplate armoer, and a commander in King Elhokar’s army who awakens to visions of a cryptic “final desolation” while striving to unite his fellow high princes as a unified force to win the war against the drawn out war against the Parshendi and prepare for its coming. Finally, Kaladin, a great military man (and former surgeon’s apprentice) in the Alethi army tragically finds himself a slave to the very army in which he was enlisted after having been betrayed by a “light eyes” he once trusted. His trials as a bridge-runner (a job with a rather high mortality rate) provide the bulk of the narrative, and seeing him awaken to the potential within himself in this dire situation is a joy to behold throughout the narrative, particularly as his and Dalinar’s story begin to run parallel, ultimately converging.

Roshar is world whose hard landscape is filled with ever present danger, be it the constant threat of death on the shattered plains in battle, terror at being confronted by one of the many massive beasts that roam the chasms, mistrust and deceit among companions and peers, assassinations around every bend, or even the elements themselves that ravage the landscape with consistent high storms to deadly consequence. The characters that inhabit this world have to have a bit of grisliness in them simply in order to survive and while I have run across the minor criticism that the main players are cut a little too rigid in this mold, offering black and white morality in their roles, it is a criticism that I cannot level as I readily found what I perceived to be real “character” in both the righteous and deplorable actions of notable players (never having been one to believe that “character” is necessarily found in the gray areas) and real concern for the sticky situations that certainly provided the reader opportunities to fret over the actions they took and the consequences that followed. You’ll root for and against the principle and supporting cast and that certainly indicates something worthwhile to me. Additionally, there’s a lot to be said for supporting characters like Jasnah, Sylphrena (“Sil”), Navani, Wit and Saddeus (among others) that populate the novel. At times they outright steal the show and, along with the particulars of Sanderson’s magic system, make the world a much richer, more interesting, place to visit.

The tale interweaves through each character with ease as they come into spheres of influence one with another, the story working its threads skillfully toward a cohesive whole despite a few unanswered questions at the novels end — but such is the case with this being the first in a large multi-volume series and I was not unsatisfied at the conclusion. To the contrary, I was champing at the bit for the next novel. With my studies ramping up I knew that 2010 would be a hectic one and that I wouldn’t be able to read nearly as many novels of my own choosing as I’d like, but I am glad to have been able to finally experience this one and am glad to say that it’s definitely a journey worth taking — incidentally, something the novel itself has more than a little to say about.

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The Way of Kings (Audio Reminder)

October 27, 2010

Like so many other Brandon Sanderson fans, I pre-ordered The Way of Kings: Book One of the Stormlight Archive in tome form, and was extremely impressed with the production values that went into the hardcover (though how my shelves will hold the weight of this hefty multi-volume series is beyond me) but with Michael Kramer and Kate Reading (of Wheel of Time fame) providing voice work  for Macmillan’s audio version of the series I couldn’t help but purchase it in audio as well to experience what they bring to the table.

Eleven chapters into the audio book and I think these two fine voice actors have manged to get even better since my last outing with them in the Wheel of Time series, they’ve really managed to bring the characters to life with their incredible ranges, and it’s been a joy all this week to get in the car and listen for an hour or two each day on my drive to and from work (it’s also been a great way to get my mind off of this week’s mid-terms, if for a little while).

If you’re interested in experiencing the book this way, remember that Audible.com has the book for only 1 credit (a book of this length usually costing 2) until October 31st. Happy Halloween!

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The Way of Kings, Ch. 4-6 Audio From Tor.com

July 8, 2010

Well that was quick! And look who they brought to the party…

From Tor.com:

Last month, we released a sneak peek of The Way of Kings only to registered Tor.com members. Now, thanks to our friends at Macmillan Audio, you can come listen to chapters 4-6! Michael Kramer and Kate Reading, who tackled the Wheel of Time together, pair up again to satisfy your curiosity.

You can still read the prelude, the prologue, and chapters 1-3 on the site; just remember that you have to be logged in to do it.

Listen to The Way of Kings Chapters 4-6 audio here.

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The Way of Kings, Future Audio

July 1, 2010

For several weeks now (and by no means “news” to 90% of you) Tor.com has had the prelude, prologue, and the first 3-chapters of Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings available to read, but by way of a brief update, author Brandon Sanderson has made mention on his blog that at least “one of the upcoming previews” will likely be available in audio form, as well:

Remember how last year Tor.com previewed the second chapter of the audiobook of THE GATHERING STORM? Well, at least one of the upcoming previews of THE WAY OF KINGS on Tor.com is going to be in audio form, and Wheel of Time audiobook fans should be pleased with who you hear reading the chapters.

So, not only do we get to preview more of the book but we’ll also be able to do so from the comfort of our favorite electronic devices  (as read by someone many fans will certainly appreciate) — which means I’ll be able to multi-task and enjoy it while trying to accomplish the umpteen other things I’ve got to get done.

And, as with most of his releases, The Way of Kings will ultimately be available in complete audio book form, so many of you can look forward to that as well. Great news all around, and thanks to Brandon Sanderson and Tor for all their efforts to reach their fans.

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More on Brandon Sanderson’s Epic, The Way of Kings

March 17, 2010

It’s been really nice to have a little extra time as of late to spend reading, and thinking about speculative fiction literature again (following one of the most hectic chapters in my life thus far) and to spend some time just meandering the net in search of information on what looms on the horizon. Well, on March 16th, Sanderson provided readers a bit of perspective on his upcoming fantasy epic, The Way of Kings, including a little wisdom as to what we should and should not expect from the upcoming novels.

“KINGS is what you might call my baby, the grand epic I’ve been wanting to tell for many years. I now feel my writing skill is capable of doing the story justice.”

Some insight then, from Sanderson’s blog:

POINT ONE: This book is the start of a longer epic.
KINGS stands at 425,000 words right now. I’ll be trimming that down to (hopefully) 380–390k when I do the next draft. (Which will be the final draft.) That will put it at roughly double the length of MISTBORN or ELANTRIS. The series is called the Stormlight Archive, and Tor purchased four books from me. I’m not planning that to be the end, though I’m cautious at locking myself into a certain number of books. (Though I do have the entire series plotted, and am fairly certain I know exactly how many books it will be.) For now, let me just say that it won’t be as long as the Wheel of Time, but will be longer than anything I’ve attempted so far.

POINT TWO: It is not a replacement for the Wheel of Time.
I will be sorry to see the Wheel of Time end, just like many of you will be. It will be difficult for me on two levels, both as a fan and as a writer. I’ve been reading these books since I was fifteen. More than half of my life, now, has been spent with Rand and company. My career has been shaped by them, and several years of my life recently have been dominated by their stories.

However, I don’t intend to replace the series. I have to be my own person, approach storytelling in my own way, and write with my own voice. To intentionally set out to replace the Wheel of Time would be monumentous hubris. The Wheel of Time doesn’t need replacing. It’s still there, on our shelves, just like it’s always been. Once it’s complete, that will be (in many ways) even better. We’ll be able to read it straight through, beginning to end, without waiting.

POINT THREE: I think KINGS is one of the best books I’ve ever written.
I think the characters are incredible, the magic imaginative, the scope and history of the world impressive. I think the story is exciting, and has a depth beyond what I’ve been able to do before. I’m trying some new, exciting things for me—some nonlinear storytelling, some great internal artwork, and layers of depth to the storytelling.

POINT FOUR: However, the book is just a book.
My editor, bless his heart, compared THE WAY OF KINGS to DUNE and LORD OF THE RINGS in the catalogue copy that he wrote. He’s a wonderful man, but I cringe when any new book is compared to masterworks like those. DUNE and LotR have proven themselves over decades, passing the test of time. They had monumental influences on their respective genres.

No new novel has the right to claim such a comparison out of the gate. If you go into KINGS expecting the next LORD OF THE RINGS or DUNE, you will be disappointed. I am not Tolkien or Herbert. I am what I am—a largely unproven writer still in the early days of his career.

Early in my drafting process for this book, I fell into some traps by putting too much weight upon the future of this novel. I began to think that KINGS would be the book that would define my solo career, and I began to worry (with all of the recent eyes that have been watching me) that this book needed to be something incredibly jaw-dropping and earth-shattering, otherwise it would be a failure.

That’s a bad way to be thinking as you write a book, and probably an even worse way to be thinking as you start reading a book. The Wheel of Time didn’t start to really make its mark until book three or four; it was the same for Harry Potter. Series like this take time to build. Beyond that, you can’t go into a series with the mind-set that it needs to be a huge blockbuster to be successful.

I’m not sure what I want people to think about this book. I want them to read it, enjoy it, and say nice things about it. I want them to anticipate it and talk about it on blogs, waiting for the day it is released. But in the end, it’s just a book. Let’s not hype this thing to death.

POINT FIVE: Have I mentioned that it’s big?
I started working on THE WAY OF KINGS fifteen years ago. I wrote the first version of the book in full back in 2003. It was always planned to be big. You don’t grow up reading Robert Jordan, Tad Williams, and Melanie Rawn without wanting to do your own big epic. When I showed it to my editor back in ’03, he thought it was too ambitious to be published, at least as my second novel.

There are thirty magic systems in this world, depending on how you count them, and around six thousand years of history I’ve mapped out. There are dozens of cultures, a continent of enormous scope, and a deep, rich mythology. However, when I say things like that, you have to realize that very little of it will end up in the first book. The best fantasy epics I’ve read begin with a personal look at the characters in the early books, then have a steady expansion into epic scope.

I’ve spent many years thinking about the epic fantasy genre, what makes it work, what I love about it, and how to deal with its inherent weaknesses. And so I’m trying to make use of the form of the novel (meaning how I place chapters and which viewpoints I put where) in order to convey the scope without distracting from the main stories I wish to tell.

Anyway, I don’t jump between dozens of characters in this novel. There are three central viewpoints, with two or so primary supporting viewpoints. I intend the first book to be its own story, focused and personal. I don’t want this to be the “Wow! Thirty Magic Systems!” series. I want it to be a series about a group of characters you care about, with a lush and real world that has solid and expansive depth.

We all wrestle with hubris, and it’s a credit to Sanderson’s character that he bares his worries for all to see — where the promotion of these books are concerned — striving to keep our expectations in check, but to simultaneously expect something great if we can keep things in perspective (i.e. not expecting the next Tolkien). But as far as hype goes, it is certainly my belief that the majority of readers are able to see beyond the hyperbole and form worthwhile conclusions on their own independent of what someone else has to say, be it a cover blurb, review, or publisher’s press piece and that Sanderson probably needn’t worry about Kings own comparisons with other grand epics. It’s been done to death before and will certainly be done again and again. I’d reckon it can be deemed an honor that his turn has come. Whatever the case, based on what we know so far and on its own merit, I’m really excited for this.

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The Way of Kings, Book One of the Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson

March 2, 2010

Preliminary Sketch by Michael Whelan

I’ll admit to being awfully impressed on 3 different  fronts here:

That (1) writer Brandon Sanderson can create these fantastic worlds as quickly (and by all I’ve witnessed they are fantastic), (2) that Michael Whelan’s cover is as majestic and awe inspiring as ever and (3) that Sanderson’s fans can read these tomes as fast and furiously as they do. I just can’t keep up (as I’ll struggle to have finished Warbreaker by the time this is released, much as I want to).

But when has that ever mattered, and behind or not, this appears to be another one for the ages come August!