Beware! Minor spoilers here!
I just finished a re-read of one of my favorite books, The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. The main complaint I’ve heard about this book is its length (387,000 words). But aside from a few points where Kaladin’s sufferings are a bit repetitive, the book is an amazing journey. And it’s only the start, considering it’s the first of a ten-book series. Hardcore Sanderson fans love it because he reveals more about his universe in the Way of Kings than any of his other series’. But every fantasy fan should love it for the depth of worldbuilding and great characters.
Although the story primarily revolves around Kaladin, my favorite sections are from Dalinar’s point of view. In a world full of people with no integrity, Dalinar stands apart despite his internal conflict and the possibility that he’s going mad. I was hoping Book two would be mainly from Dalinar’s point of view, but it looks like Sanderson has decided to do it mainly from Shallan’s. Shallan is an interesting character, if only because we find out more about Jasnah (Dalinar’s heretic niece) from her. But Dalinar’s journey was the most emotional for me in the Way of Kings. Even on a second read, I teared up a bit during his internal thoughts when Sadeas abandoned him to die on the Tower Plateau.
One of the other things I love about the Way of Kings is that it breaks the rules. The book is divided into five sections, with interludes in between. With the exception of Szeth’s storyline, these interludes introduce new characters and places in short chapters that we never see again in the rest of the book. Craft experts say to never do this because it draws the reader out from their deep connection with the main characters. But in fantasy, the world is a character, and I say give me more of it even if it diverges from the main characters.
And then there’s Szeth. Poor, tortured Szeth. We know so little of him and why he’s forced to kill for his masters, yet in the few sporadic chapters we see him, he steals the show. Well, him and Hoid. Hoid is a character who can travel between Sanderson’s worlds somehow. He’s not the only one who can do this, but of these world travelers he gets the most air time in each of Sanderson’s books. He poses as the kings Wit, a person who’s job is to insult everyone around the king with witty comments because such a thing is beneath kings. Yet, he’s so much more. He gets the final chapter of the book, and his observations are profound.
I guess what I like most about the Way of Kings is it’s a huge, arcing epic story with multiple plot threads woven together. People complain about its length, but I say give me more. Sanderson has created an amazing world and the only sad day will be when he reaches the end of telling us about it. I started writing because I love to read a great epic story. My hope is that I can do the same thing for my readers that Sanderson did for me.
So, what about you? Do you like shorter stories or do you need a big epic fantasy to get you going?