The Way of Kings Read Along Part I

Stout as a bookstand.

Stout as a bookstand.

Welcome everyone! This is quite the big turnout for a read along and I am ever so glad folks came out of the woodwork for this one. You can check out the schedule HERE if you want to jump in and join us. We’re taking this large book at ~100 pages per week. Also, make sure to swing by my coconspirator’s realm – Anya from On Starships and Dragonwings to check out details on a giveaway sponsored by Tor Publishers.

Bloggers playing along, leave your link in the comments so we can all jump around and visit each other.

Now, on to the fun stuff! This week we covered The Prelude through the end of Chapter 6. Spoilers for this section reside below!

1) Is this your first Brandon Sanderson experience? Any expectations going into this read along?

No, actually. I have read his Mistborn trilogy, Legion, and Warbreaker. A few years ago, the very first Sanderson book I read was this one. And now is the perfect time for a reread before Book 2 in this series comes out in March. I expect, since I am taking it slower this time, I will remember more of it.

2) In the Prelude to the Stormlight Archive, we see that Talenel (Taln) died and his sword is unaccounted for. Jerzien and company have decided it is best for 1 to suffer instead of 10. What do you make of this scene?

I think these are the 10 Radiants we hear referred to throughout the book, usually in a legendary, mystical, or religious sense. I also want to say from this scene, that these Radiants are reborn when they are needed. So which of our characters may indeed be reborn Radiants?

3) What did you think of Szeth’s fighting abilities and the fight scenes? Any thoughts on the crystalline sphere and King Gavilar Kholin’s last words?

When I first read this book, I found the rules that governed Szeth’s fighting abilities a little confusing. But a similar mechanism is used in the Mistborn trilogy (linked more to metals). So reading it the second time for this read along, it was much easier to picture. Oh, and his opponents are fucked. That is all.

As to Gavilar Kholin’s last words, I don’t remember what they mean…but since Book 2 is titled Words of Radiance, I want to say we may find out in Book 2. As to the sphere, I am sure it will cause some mystery, grief, and consternation.

4) Each chapter proper starts with a few words from a dying person, their station, and status in life. Any thoughts on what these portend?

It seems that someone is recording them for perhaps a scholarly purpose. And each seems to describe some impending, cataclysmic doom. I don’t recall if we get any real answer to these entries this book. But by now I know enough of Sanderson’s works to know that nothing is frivolous; it all means something. Given the dark nature of these phrases, I expect that at some point in this series our heroes will have to face something huge.

5) Kaladin went from warrior to slave in a matter of the first 2 chapters. Care to speculate on the details of how his life changed so drastically?

I am guessing that Kaladin managed to piss off someone of importance in his quest for glory and his desire to get himself and his men transferred to the Shattered Plains. Still, slavery seems pretty harsh for some battlefield slight. I don’t recall the particulars as to how Kaladin ended up this way, but I do know we eventually get the whole story through flashbacks. He seems pretty disillusioned with Light Eyes and their honorable word. Someone screwed him over thoroughly.

6) Sylphrena (Syl) the Windspren seems attached to Kaladin. Are you enjoying her character? Do you like the Spren in general in the worldbuilding so far?

There seems to be two kinds of Spren. Windspren and Stormspren seem to have some free will and can move about as they like, even affecting their surroundings (such as playing little jokes on people). Then there are the fear spren, the pain spren, etc. These seem to be attracted by certain emotions, but not causal. The Spren in general do add another element to Kaladin’s world. If you are afraid or angry or sad or in pain, but want to hide it, how do you hide it from the Spren? Which also means, how do you hide it from the world because everyone else can see the spren gathering around you, feeding (?) on your fear/anger/pain.

Syl is great. I remember her from my first reading and I really like how she starts out like any other Spren. But then, little by little, her character grows. Kaladin seems a little mystified with her. After all, she does chat with him, which other spren don’t do.

7) Shallan Davar has finally caught up to Brightness Jasnah Kholin and her soulcaster. Jasnah and the jeweled fabril can change stone to smoke; what else do you think it can do?

Shallan talked of most soulcasters could only do smaller things, like changing stone into food. Her father had a secret one and seemed able to create minerals worthy of mining. So, the fabril can be used to transform one kind of rock into another. Supposedly, Jasnah is the strongest soulcaster living. can stone be made into anything with a hearbeat? Into flame? I really don’t recall the limitations on this one. I am going to say that flame may be possible, but not things with a hearbeat.

Other Tidbits:

Safe hand? Like for washing? Putting on makeup? Eating?

Bridge 4 crew! Perhaps someone could have given Kaladin the slightest warning.

Did I read that right? The storms make seasons near impossible. One can only hope for a few weeks of this weather or that. Makes for crazy plants, and even crazier animals that feed on the plants. Diving air eels!

Yarb Yalb. Go on, Say it out loud. Yarb Yalb. I am going to name a future cat or dog Yarb just so I have an excuse to shout it out loud. Yarb Yalb! Stop piddling on the rug!

My fellow Shard Bearers:

Over the Effing Rainbow

Coffee, Cookies, and Chilipeppers

Caffeinated Life

On Starships & Dragonwings

Novel Reflection

Lunar Rainbows

Doing Dewey

Lynn’s Book Blog

Musings on Fantasia

Bookvulture’s Perch

Tethyan Books

43 thoughts on “The Way of Kings Read Along Part I

  1. Isn’t it Yalb…?

    Heh, still. Yalb!! That is kind of fun. Makes me wish I had a pet. :P

    I’m really enjoying this, and still kicking myself for ignoring it for so long! I may have to dive into the next section soonest instead of leaving it until the weekend like I’d planned to. :D

    • nrlymrtl says:

      Yes, it is Yalb. Sorry, I am doing the audio and I sometimes misspell names.

      It is an excellent read. I have had to lock the audiobook in the car so that I didn’t race ahead!

  2. Mike Knight-Roberts says:

    I loved how the first four prologues and chapters sort of descended in terms of epicness. We get god-like warrior beings seemingly giving up on the world; an awesomely powerful assassin, with powers not seen in a millennium, fighting a king armed and armoured in ancient magical relics; a battlefield scene and then finally a slave in a cage. It felt to me like Brandon was promising the reader that we will be dealing with world shattering cataclysmic events in this series, but that first we had to sink to the lowest levels of society to start the story.

    I was really pleased to see those epigraphs at the start of each chapter. I really liked that device in Mistborn and I’m sure it’ll be fun to find out what they’re all about. I wouldn’t be surprised if we have to wait a few more books before we get to fully understand their significance though.

    Did anyone else think that the world building had a sort of final fantasy type feel to it? The spren (particularly the life spren), the shardblades, the unusual beasts of burden, the shattered planes and the storms. I like it, but then I like final fantasy and plenty of anime. I can see some fantasy traditionalists not being moved by it though.

    One final note: I loved the twist at the end of Shallan’s chapter, where she revealed her intention to steal from Jasnah. It was cheating a little bit to leave that reveal to the end of the chapter, given that she had been thinking about her plan to save the family periodically throughout, but it worked really well. I was lulled into thinking that it was going to be a typical master-apprentice type situation; the reveal added immediate tension, subverting what might have otherwise been a fairly standard sort of a plot line.

    I don’t remember the word Yarb. Where did that come in? I’m also really keen to know what the deal is with the safe-hand thing. It seems really odd but intriguing.

    • nrlymrtl says:

      I hadn’t really thought about it until you pointed it out, but yeah, we start hugely epic, move to merely epic, to typical battlefield, to slave pen. Sanderson draws us down into the story that way.

      I’ve watched only 1 Final Fantasy movie and haven’t played the games, so I am not sure how this book compares to it in terms of world building. But I love the world building in this story. I really feel that I have been sucked into a different world.

      I messed up on Yarb. It is really Yalb, the sailor who escorts Shallan around. I am listening to the audiobook and didn’t double check the spelling of his name in my hardback.

      • Mike Knight-Roberts says:

        To be honest the name of Yalb hadn’t stuck firmly in my head anyway. I’m pretty terrible with names and I certainly can’t ever remember how to spell them, not even in the stuff I’m writing myself.

        I do admire how Brandon launches himself so fully into building a complete world. He does so much less historical borrowing than most of his contemporaries. It’s been impressive in his other stories too but this book so far has been on another level.

        • nrlymrtl says:

          Totally agree with you on the world building. It is another level, and borrows so little from historical settings. He is truly a master writer, and at such a young age. Which means many, many years of Sanderson Awesomeness to come!

          • suecccp says:

            2. Yep – I’m also keeping my eyes open for possible reborn hero types. At first I thought that Kaladin might be one, but once we got inside his head it did not seem like he was . . . unless they are unaware of their former lives . . .

            4. I assume that we are heading to another epic Desolation battle like the one on the Prelude . . . shades of Wheel of Time’s Tarman Gaidon . . .

            6. I can see how the spren will make it very difficult to hide some emotions, which could be good or bad, but they are all used to it, so it probably doesn’t worry them very much.

            I also want to know why it is called the safe hand. Perhaps it is something like Arab culture where one hand is used for eating and the other for wiping your bottom, which seems like an excellent way of improving hygiene.

            There is a character in the film Hot Fuzz called Yarp, because that is all he can say . . . :D

            • suecccp says:

              Doh! This was meant to be a general reply, but WordPress was being all pissy about publishing it!

            • nrlymrtl says:

              Yes, there does seem to be a cycle, and a great, world-ending battle at the end of each cycle. Shades of Wheel of Time? Perhaps.

              I had forgotten about Yarp from Hot Fuzz. Maybe that’s why I got Yalb’s name wrong (Yarb….oops).

  3. Liesel Hill says:

    I said in my post that I had a hard time getting into the first part of the book, and I think it may be at least partly because the rules governing Szeth’s abilities were a bit confusing, so I’m with ya there. Yeah the safe hand thing is pretty weird. And that bridge crew is downright brutal! Excited to read farther over here. :D

    • nrlymrtl says:

      It was much easier this second time around, partially because there are similar rules in the Mistborn series. This time reading it, it was not a foreign concept.

      • suecccp says:

        After chapter 1 I had to set the book down for a bit just to let everything sink in because I was feeling a little overwhelmed. I find Mr Sanderson relatively easy to read, but he certainly doesn’t stint on the details!

  4. Ooh, your post just reminded me that I haven’t read Legion yet! *makes note to self to check it out*

    I enjoyed reading your answers! I never thought about the possibility of one of our POV characters being a reborn Radiant (or two). That would make things extra interesting as events unfold…

    I love how the storms really convey a lot about the world that this story is set in. Makes everything harsher, grittier somehow, but just as intriguing.

    My post for this week :)

    • nrlymrtl says:

      I love how everything, EVERYTHING, in this world has had to evolve to deal with the storms. I love it when authors make the environment like a large, over arching character in the book. The environment influences the people, and hence the plot. Sanderson really shows his mastery of that here in this book.

      • suecccp says:

        Yep – my inner biologist is always happy when we get a non-Earth environment with an ecosystem that makes sense.

  5. Haha, the title of book 2 makes so much more sense now that I’ve started book 1!

    That is an excellent point about the emotions spren. Everyone might as well be completely honest about their feelings since they’ll show no matter what!

    I love how the grass has adapted to the seasons and storms, such a cool element to include :D

    Here are my answers: http://www.onstarshipsanddragonwings.com/2014/01/01/way-kings-read-along-week-1/

    • nrlymrtl says:

      Should be interesting watching some characters lie, or try to. I wonder if some folks can control their emotions so well that the spren don’t gather.

  6. Nikki says:

    Ahhh, I’m so excited for this readalong! It took me so long to finally pick up Way of Kings, after being a Brandon Sanderson fan for a while. I’m loving it so far. :D

    I am really unclear about the whole Radiants thing though. I’m excited to learn more about them, because obviously they are incredibly important. The little teaser in the beginning was just not enough!

    I continue to be in awe of Sanderson’s ability to invent truly unique magic systems. Szeth’s fighting abilities blew my mind – I didn’t find them terribly hard to follow what was going on, since (like you) it reminded me a bit of the steel pushing/iron pulling in Mistborn — but I did have issues actually visualizing it in my head! Totally mind-boggling. And yeah, Szeth’s opponents don’t stand an icicle’s chance in hell. LOVE IT.

    The chapter-intros are interesting. I can’t say I love them, because we’re obviously still really unclear on what that’s all about, and I have no clue as to what it could be. Can’t wait to find out more – I guess in Words of Radiance, if nothing else!

    KALADIN. I have so many Kaladin feels. I’m actually farther along than this first readalong post covers, but I remember immediately loving him the moment he showed up. And a lot of my feels are related to him and Syl. They are such an awesome pair.

    The spren in general are SO fascinating to me. I can’t imagine living in a world where you can’t really hide your emotions because of some external proof of what you’re really feeling. Though I guess I’m still a little unclear about whether spren really show up in force for just one person, or if it’s more of a “this huge group of people are feeling this one thing”, which draws spren? Maybe one person, if they’re really controlled, wouldn’t draw them? Still, those little details are sure to clear up soon.

    The fabrial is so interesting. It seems like it can be used to change one substance into almost anything else – if it’s not living? I’ll be really interested to learn more about it and how it works. Shallan herself still hasn’t really grown on me a lot, but I can see a spark there that I might like… Really looking forward to getting to know her better. :D

    This is such a perfect way to get ready for Words of Radiance! Thanks for these great first questions, Susan!

    • nrlymrtl says:

      Hi Nikki, so glad to have you on the read along!

      Kaladin. Yeah. From his first page presence, I am routing for him. No matter what task he takes on, I want him to succeed. But I think he already has a little cheerleader in Syl. She’s something good, even innocent, and special – just of him since no one else can hear her words.

    • suecccp says:

      “No way they could ever film these books and do them justice!” was what I was thinking! :D

  7. I’m about brain dead at the moment, so I don’t have a lot to say other than leaving my link. I’m lame, I know. >_>;;

    http://novelreflection.wordpress.com/2014/01/01/the-way-of-kings-read-along-week-one/

  8. Miss Mimz says:

    Oooh I can see this one being worthy of a re-read at some point. There’s a lot to take in in terms of world-building and going in for a second read must really clarify some bits! I’m REALLY enjoying this so far – Sanderson always blows me away in terms of magical-systems and world building and WoK certainly is no exception! I hope we learn more about The Radiants and the Spren!!

    http://www.lunar-rainbows.com/2014/01/the-way-of-kings-read-along.html

    • nrlymrtl says:

      I’m finding this an excellent way to reread the book as it forces me to slow down and enjoy the weekly sections. I remember borrowing this audiobook 2 or 3 Xmases back and my man and I both listened to it and then went out and bought the book and the audiobook. At the time, it was the biggest audiobook I had ever listened to. It was also my first Sanderson novel. It rocked my world.

  9. lynnsbooks says:

    Better late than never! New Year’s day is always a wipe out for me. Anyway, here’s my link and I’ll check out your answers now.

    http://lynnsbooks.wordpress.com/2014/01/01/the-way-of-kings-by-brandon-sanderson-week-1/

    Lynn :D

  10. lynnsbooks says:

    This whole ‘hand’ thing is quite fascinating – no idea what it’s all about though.
    The bridge scene was horrendous – what a horrible way to die and what a horrible way to be treated!
    Lynn :D

  11. Bookvulture says:

    It took me a while to work out how to get my post done, but now I have a link:

    http://bookvulture.livejournal.com/758.html

  12. tethyanbooks says:

    My internet has been down since Dec. 30th till now, so I’m a day late on the kickoff :(. Anyway, first post is here! http://tethyanbooks.blogspot.com/2014/01/read-along-way-of-kings-by-brandon.html

    I was wondering about the safe hand thing. Wasn’t it only for women? I was thinking maybe it had some religious significance. There are so many details of the world, I’m sure I’m misunderstanding some of them right now! I’m not sure I get why there’s both elemental-style and emotion-style spren, for instance.

    • nrlymrtl says:

      Even though this is a reread for me, I can’t remember if the men have safe hands too. But we do have 9 more weeks of Sanderson goodness to get some of these details down.

      • Mike Knight-Roberts says:

        The safe hand thing was women only. I liked how Brandon used this to help establish difference between how Shallan and Kaladin think (he mentions his mother wore a glove, which seemed practical in his opinion). It was minor but a good example of using viewpoint to establish character.

        I remember in particular because I always get nervous with treatment of gender in fantasy. Some writers stick to their inevitably skewed impression of traditional historical roles and end up with few interesting women in their stories (eg. David Gemmel). Some create a reactionary empowered female culture in their worlds, presumably in order to provide some kind of balance, which usually breaks vermisilitude (I felt this way about Rothfuss’ Adem in A Wise Man’s Fear). Some take a historical approach but keep women at the forefront of the story, which can be great but is inevitably full of hardship that makes they stories less like escapist entertainment and more like hard literature (I’m thinking of Robin Hobb’s Liveship Traders and some of Kate Elliot’s stuff – the way some women were treated by their societies in these stories made me want to burn things).

        Some just remove most gender roles altogether, featuring men and women in all sorts of positions in society (Scott Lynch’s Red Seas is a good example). While this last is probably my preferred option, and it’s how I’m trying to write, it’s really hard to get all the details straight (example: Scott still has lots of gender language that doesn’t make sense in the context of a truly equal society).

        Brandon seems to be trying something different here: It seems he’s developing full gender roles from scratch that don’t have an exact historical analogue. With the risk of getting a bit real world political, I get the impression he’s creating what some conservative commentators claim really existed in European history: a gendered split of roles and responsibilities, with roughly equal levels power and oppression between both.

        I hope it works. I know Brandon wants his work to be inclusive and non-judgemental, so I don’t doubt he’s thought about it at length. Actually, just googled the subject and I see that there is an interview on youtube where he apparently talks about gender roles so I’m going to have to watch that when I get home (can’t see it from work). URL, for anyone else interested, is: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLC2108D48CB204ABD&feature=c4-feed-u

        Wow, sorry about the length. It seems I can’t write anything about this book without running to at least a few hundred words.

        • nrlymrtl says:

          Thanks for all the commentary! I’ve read about half the authors you mentioned, and I really enjoyed books from those authors, even though they treat gender roles differently.

          So far, I am completely OK with how Brandon Sanderson is handling the gender roles, because he has characters from each gender that are fully fleshed, with motives, character flaws, etc. No cookie-cutter characters here.

          Thanks for that You Tube link. Will have to check that out.

          • suecccp says:

            It is interesting to read a man’s perspective on gender roles in Fantasy literature, so thanks for your views. I often find myself feeling sorry for writers who are criticized for how they depict women when I don’t find myself offended by their work. I guess the best example of this is George R.R. Martin, although I am not sure if the criticism is really a reflection of the TV series rather than his books.

            So far I have been quite impressed by Mr Sanderson’s egalitarian approach to women in the titles I have read, so I wasn’t overly surprised that he took a new approach to it here.

  13. […] welcome to the readalong for Brandon Sanderson’s The Way Of Kings. Our host this week is Susan at Dab Of Darkness. You can find her opening post at the link, and my A’s to her Q’s below the cut […]

  14. Auraya says:

    1. I’ve read just about every Sanderson book so far and he hasn’t dissapointed yet. So it’s fair to say I came into this with high expectations.

    2. It’s seems that the 10 of them were responsible for saving the world and in between fights they go tortured, possibly by the enemy. So I understand them giving up, but they left one of their own behind. The fact that they told everyone they’d won, will probably have huge repucussions. After all, no one will be prepared for one of these ‘Desolations’.

    3. Szeth’s fighting abilities can be compared to some of the Mistborn metallurgy. It’s not exatcly the same, but similar, so I could picture the fight very well. Seems cool and a good previeuw of things to come.

    4. I remember from my first read how they were collected. And damn that was horrifying. I’m not even going to speculate on their importance or how the dying know these words, but It’ll prove important. I have no doubt about that.

    5. He killed a lighteyes. Someone probably wasn’t as happy about that as he’d beleived. (That at least was my theory on the first read.)

    6. Syl is great fun. I look forward to WoR exploring the origin of the spren.

    7. From what is implied it can change anything to anything else, maybe with preervation of mass.

    Tidbit. It was interesting that on one hand there are these trict rules for women to dress and on the other only they should read. Study is encouraged for women apparently.

  15. Auraya says:

    1. I’ve read just about every Sanderson book so far and he hasn’t dissapointed yet. So it’s fair to say I came into this with high expectations.

    2. It’s seems that the 10 of them were responsible for saving the world and in between fights they go tortured, possibly by the enemy. So I understand them giving up, but they left one of their own behind. The fact that they told everyone they’d won, will probably have huge repucussions. After all, no one will be prepared for one of these ‘Desolations’.

    3. Szeth’s fighting abilities can be compared to some of the Mistborn metallurgy. It’s not exatcly the same, but similar, so I could picture the fight very well. Seems cool and a good previeuw of things to come.

    4. I remember from my first read how they were collected. And damn that was horrifying. I’m not even going to speculate on their importance or how the dying know these words, but It’ll prove important. I have no doubt about that.

    5. He killed a lighteyes. Someone probably wasn’t as happy about that as he’d beleived. (That at least was my theory on the first read.)

    6. Syl is great fun. I look forward to WoR exploring the origin of the spren.

    7. From what is implied it can change anything to anything else, maybe with preervation of mass.

    Tidbit. It was interesting that on one hand there are these trict rules for women to dress and on the other only they should read. Study is encouraged for women apparently.

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