Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Way of Kings: Thoughts & Updates As I Read

Hey, y'all! As of right now, I'm about to set off on an epic endeavor. I'm about to read THE LONGEST BOOK I'VE EVER READ.

Guys, it's like... 100 pages long. SO LONG.

Wait. I'm sorry. Slight typo there. Did I say 100 pages? My bad, my bad. 
I meant 1000 pages long. 

Yep, I'm delving into the epicness that is The Way of Kings. Just to catch you up rather quickly, if you're unfamiliar: The Way of Kings is the first book in what will eventually become a 10 book high fantasy series. The series is called The Stormlight Archive, and so far only this first book and its sequel (Words of Radiance- also 1000 pages) have been published. This series, like with all of Sanderson's adult works, takes place within a universe called the Cosmere. For more info on the Cosmere, you can check here because I'm definitely not the most knowledgeable person on the topic. 

I want to do a regular full video review once I've finished the book, but I also kinda wanted to document my thoughts as I was reading, and not just as updates on Goodreads. So I decided to do this written review(ish thing). Below, you will find my thoughts on the book as I was experiencing everything. Enjoy.

June 15, page 21: So, we have both a prelude to the Stormlight Archive and a prologue?

June 15, page 37: I have to say, so far this has started out feeling much more complex/confusing than Sanderson's other books. Not that the others are worse/simplistic or that this feels overcomplicated, but I'm realizing that I'm going to need to pay extremely close attention to understand everything and to be familiar with this world. Good thing I'm taking notes.

June 15, page 72: I'm not sure how I feel about Shallan right now. The whole "I have to be proper" thing is one of my biggest pet peeves ever (probably because it flies completely in the face of everything about me. Bye, gender norms!) so I'll be really glad if/when she stops worrying about that. Knowing Sanderson, I have faith that she'll eventually throw "proper" to the wind, so I'm remaining optimistic because she seems like a really cool character otherwise. 

June 17, page 112: Yikes, I'm a fast reader and it seems like it takes forever to make any progress in this book. I guess that's mostly because there's so much to digest in this series (seemingly, much more than is typical of Sanderson's books). I find that I'm reading a bit slower and trying to catch everything so that I'm never confused, but it's taking quite a while. Also, I feel like I shouldn't already be 100 pages in. Not that it hasn't taken a while to get here, but it still feels like the very early setup. Which makes sense given that this book is so long, but that's just something I'm going to have to get used to with this book.  

June 17, page 126: OK, so we just met Brother Kabsal and I could be dead wrong, but I have this weird feeling that maybe he's not actually an ardent. But I like him a lot and hope that we see him again. 

June 17, page 145: I want to take a brief moment just to essentially make a note of some of the world things that have potential to confuse me(or possibly are already confusing me...). So, there are lighteyes and darkeyes, and then there are the Parshendi who are completely separate. I think. I know that they have black/red marbled skin. Which sounds really cool. Also, I believe the Alethi are lighteyes, but I'm not sure whether they can also be darkeyes? In my memory, Alethi has been used when describing lighteyes, but I'm not sure if it's supposed to be the term for humans in general or specifically for lighteyes. All I know is that within the world, lighteyes is preferred and darkeyes is looked down upon. 

And then payment is in gemstones (emeralds, etc) but also spheres? And those spheres can also be used as light sources? This seems to be the case, but doesn't make much sense. Are these spheres made of glass? Maybe I missed something. Are the gemstones in the spheres?

Then there are soulcasters-- a name for both a device worn on the hand and for the person who uses said device. Not sure as of yet whether anyone can use the device or if you have to have some sort of power already within you. And then there are people like Szeth who can wield Stormlight but we've yet to see him again or to understand how many people can wield it. Also, he has a Shardblade, which also seems pretty rare but not quite as much as wielding Stormlight, since some nobles have Shardblades. Are these the 10 blades from the beginning? Because shardblades don't seem that rare but based on descriptions, I thought they were the blades from the beginning. 

Also, in addition to this, the way that Shallan is able to draw people seems somewhat magical as well. Because yes, she's a talented artist, but she makes Memories and then the Memories leave once she's drawn them. 

And I think that's about all I have right now. Sorry this was so long-winded, but I just needed to voice all of my confusions. 

June 19, page 220: OK, time for me to be really honest. I like this book. Quite a bit. As always, Brandon Sanderson has created an incredibly rich world with incredibly compelling characters. But. I'm not invested yet. I'm 22% of the way through the book and I'm not invested yet. I'm not quite sure why. I don't feel compelled to pick up the book and read- I didn't read any yesterday, and I forced myself to read today. Although I'll definitely attribute part of that to the fact that I'm binging on Big Brother and related podcasts. 

My favorite POV so far has been Shallan's. Despite the annoying gender norms and the need to be proper, I really like her character, and I'm intrigued by her current quest. And although I enjoy the other POVs, I'm not sure why I don't find them quite as compelling. I think one thing that's throwing me off just a bit is that so far, all of the Sanderson adult books I've read have had a healthy mix of political maneuvering and action. Admittedly, I haven't read very much "typical adult high fantasy" but the action scenes in this one seem to fit that bill. And what I mean by this is not that I think that the story is unoriginal or typical, but that if I were to go to a used bookstore and pick up a cracked-spined mass-market paperback from the fantasy section, this is the type of story I'd expect to find within that book. Like I said, I don't mean this in a bad way, but in some ways this book is giving me vibes of a more classic fantasy novel, while I typically associate Sanderson with fresh new takes on things, so I'm just having to adjust my expectations. Apologies on my long-windedness and for probably making no sense, but this has just been on my mind and I wanted to voice it.

June 21, page 295: OK, so the other POVs are finally getting more interesting for me, because Kaladin's and Dalinar's POVs are beginning to come together. Plus, we're getting these rather mysteriously connected excerpts at the beginning of each chapter. I didn't even notice them at first because I began to skip the opening excerpts (not because I thought they were unimportant, nor was it on purpose. I didn't even realize I was doing it until I noticed the 3rd connected chapter excerpt and wondered what I'd missed). So what I'm going to do is compile them either below or at the end, just to keep track of what the whole thing says so that I don't have to backtrack.

As of right now, my immediate thought is that it's either written to or by Hoid. The mention of the cosmere immediately alerts this as something having to with something larger than just this world, since I've never seen any of the characters inside of one of his stories mention the cosmere, even if they live in it. I'm assuming here that someone is writing to Hoid, based on some stuff that I've skimmed online, but I clearly can't be sure at this point. The mention of an "element" and protecting its safety like it's his own skin makes a clear connection to allomancy for me, so I immediately wonder if this is the lost final metal (I'm blanking on the number. Is it the 11th?) so that's really interesting. And finally, I feel like I'm being dumb, or maybe it's just the speed at which I'm reading this, but... Rayse? I've heard that name elsewhere, right? Why am I blanking? Should I know who that is at this point?

June 25, page 430: So obviously I've neglected my reading and updates quite a bit over the past few days. Anyway, I'm trying to finish by the end of the month, so hopefully I can catch up. That's beside the point, though. I'm starting to get more invested in this. Finally. I mean, right now, I'm 43% of the way through, so you'd think I would've been invested sooner. Either way, I'm glad I'm finally going to get Shallan's POV again soon because her story has been the most interesting to me so far. But Dalinar and Kaladin's POVs have grown on me too. We're getting some really interesting world-building at certain points, and that's definitely interesting. Back to reading...

June 25, page 524: I finally made it to the halfway mark! Yay! So, I wanted to go back and touch on the stuff that confused me before talking about my current opinions.
-Right now, it's Alethi vs. Parshendi. Parshendi are a totally different, non-human creature, while Alethi are humans from Alethela. Humans can either be lighteyes or darkeyes. True lighteyes are people who carry shardblades (& have shardplate??) and based on what I'm seeing, darkeyes can become lighteyes by acquiring shardblades.
-Spheres are the payment method and within each sphere is a gem that can be infused with stormlight. Sapphire is the most expensive. These can also give off light when infused with stormlight.
-Presumably, anyone can use a stormcaster, but you have to learn how to. Still no explanation for wielding Stormlight. We haven't gotten a ton of Szeth's POV and nothing that we've gotten from him has explained how that works.

OK, so thoughts. Finally, finally, finally, I'm invested. Things have gotten really interesting. I think this is assisted by the fact that I've gotten a lot of Shallan/Kaladin back and forth and their stories are the ones I enjoy the most. (Side note: I need a Shallan/Kabsal ship name immediately. Shallsal? Kaban? IDK but I love both of them) Shallan is hands-down my favorite character, so I really enjoy her plots, and Kaladin's have started to pick up with some of the more interesting things going on. Even the Dalinar/Adolin plots have picked up a bit. It seems a bit late to be getting invested, since I am halfway through, but BSand is coming through once again. I hope to sail through the next 500 pages and enjoy all of it.

June 26, page 557: OK, so what on Roshar just happened? Now spheres can heal too? Obviously the stormlight within them is what is healing Kaladin but we just got this whole other dimension added to the story and Teft as a character. What are the Envisagers? Can just any spheres heal? I'm so confused.

June 27, page 600: Hi, just a quick note to say that I'm incredibly invested in this stupid, wonderful book at this point. It's really good.

June 28, page 699: WHAT JUST HAPPENED?! This whole thing with Brother Kabsal is confusing me so much. I mean, I understand what happened, but why? I'm not sure if this is because I really liked him, or for actual other reasons, but I still feel like something isn't right here. Like maybe he isn't actually dead or maybe he wasn't actually the person who was trying to poison her. I guess that doesn't make sense given that his actions suggest that he knew about the poison, and obviously we have Jasnah saying that he was definitively dead, so I'm guessing that's legit. But I'm of the mindset that no matter what, if the character does not ascertain the death themselves, there's always a possibility that the "dead" character is actually not dead. So yeah, this turn of events is really messing with my head and I hope that some miracle happens and Kabsal is not actually dead and was not actually a bad guy. We're looking at a .000000000001% chance here, but I'll still take it.

June 30, page 751:  HOID SPOTTING! This is really curious. Like.. what's going on with him? And why has he taken on the role of Wit? Like, I feel like I need to read back through all of Wit's scenes just to see what Hoid was doing/saying.

July 2, FINISHED: Hey there. So, clearly I didn't update for the last ~250 pages. So allow me to discuss my final thoughts/my thoughts about the last quarter of the book. We had so many revelations within these pages. We learned that Sadeas truly was betraying Dalinar. We learned that Jasnah has powers that are completely unrelated to the Soulcaster, which is a decoy. Also, were we already aware that Shallan killed her father? I didn't think we did, but the reveal was rather nonchalant and I didn't find myself that shocked, so did we already know? (Sorry if I'm already forgetting things-- there's a lot of info within these 1000 pages) Also, the Parshmen/Parshendi have something to do with the Voidbringers. I believe that the Voidbringers were imprisoned as Parshendi but I didn't totally understand that explanation, so don't quote me on that.

Here's that letter that spanned across the beginnings of the chapters mid-book:

 Old friend, I hope this missive finds you well. Though, as you are now essentially immortal, I would guess that wellness on your part is something of a given. I realize that you are probably still angry. That is pleasant to know. Much as your perpetual health, I have come to rely upon your dissatisfaction with me. It is one of the cosmere's great constants, I should think. Let me first assure you that the element is quite safe. I have found a good home for it. I protect its safety like I protect my own skin, you might say. You do not agree with my quest. I understand that, so much as it is possible to understand someone with whom I disagree so completely. Might I be quite frank? Before, you asked why I was so concerned. It is for the following reason: Ati was once a kind and generous man, and you saw what became of him. Rayse, on the other hand, was among the most loathsome, crafty, and dangerous individuals I had ever met. He holds the most frightening and terrible of all the Shards. Ponder on that for a time, you old reptile, and tell me if your insistence on nonintervention holds firm. Because I assure you, Rayse will not be similarly inhibited. One need only look at the aftermath of his brief visit to Sel to see proof of what I say. In case you have turned a blind eye to that disaster, know that Aona and Skai are both dead, and that which they held has been Splintered. Presumably to prevent anyone from rising up to challenge Rayse. You have accused me of arrogance in my quest. You have accused me of perpetuating my grudge against Rayse and Bavain. Both accusations are true. Neither point makes the things I have written to you here untrue. I am being chased. I believe they're still lost, following a false trail I left for them. They'll be happier that way. I doubt they have any inkling what to do with me should they actually catch me. If anything I have said makes a glimmer of sense to you, I trust that you'll call them off. Or maybe you could astound me and ask them to do something productive for once. for i have never been dedicated to a more important purpose, and the very pillars of the sky will shake with the results of our war here. I ask again. Support me. Do not stand aside and let disaster consume more lives. I've never begged you for something before, old friend. I do so now. 

So that's it for this post with my updates on The Way of Kings as I read it! I hope you enjoyed this little insight into my brain, especially since I intend to do another of these when I read Words of Radiance!

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