the way of kings by brandon sandersonI have time to get in one more book review before the end of the year, and The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson is a good one to end on. Sanderson is an excellent epic fantasy author, and he proves it again in this book.

Note that this is not a new book. It was published back in August of 2010, and, although I bought a copythen, I didn’t get around to reading it until this month. Why? The reviews I read indicated that not much happened in the book and that it was mostly a set up for the rest of the series. So I decided to wait until closer to the release date of the next book. The sequel, Words of Radiance, is scheduled for March, so I figured it was a good time to finally read it. A recent sale which dropped the price below $2 didn’t hurt that decision.

In brief (tough since the book is a monster), the book revolves between the seemingly unconnected lives of several characters. We see hints of a past war, with ripples extending to the present day. There are a few scenes from long ago introducing The Knights of Radiance, heroes who had fought an ancient enemy, which appears to be returning in the present day.

Wow, that sucked as a summary, I know. The Wikipedia entry, while longer, isn’t much better. That’s the problem with epic fantasy. Good ones are long and involved, making a summary challenging. Bad ones are even longer, more involved and almost impossible to follow and read. And even the best epic fantasies follow the basic plot line of “ancient evil returns and modern heroes need to defeat it.” It’s the execution of that basic plot that makes one good or bad.

So is this a good one or a bad one? Well, the reviews were correct. It is a set up book. Halfway through it, I realized that not much had actually happened. We’d met characters and seen events in their lives, but how they all fit together was still murky. Here’s the crazy part. I didn’t care. I was along for the ride and enjoying it. Never have I enjoyed so much a book where so little plot advancement happened!

Sanderson does one other thing well. Have you ever started one of those epic fantasies where 100 pages in you’re lost in the cast of characters and desperately wishing for a native guide? I have, and that’s usually where I quit. (Gardens of the Moon is a prime example of this for me.) I never got lost in the characters in this book. Even minor characters were vivid and memorable. I can’t remember the last time that happened in an epic fantasy. (Even Robert Jordan lost me on a regular basis, and he’s my favorite, after Tolkien.)

While I can’t give this one 5 eReaders, it’s certainly a solid 4. If you’re looking for a can’t-put-it-down page turner, this isn’t it. However, if you’re in the mood for a journey, and you’re not in a rush to get to the destination, this one will certainly satisfy.

Amazon Link: The Way of Kings