First Discussion on The Way of Kings

Last week I mentioned that I had joined another group read.  Today is the first discussion on Book One of The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson.  This event is hosted by Polishing Mud Balls.  If you would like to follow all of the discussions please visit this page.

Please note that my discussion below does include some spoilers.

1. Before I started reading The Way of Kings, I did have some thoughts on how I would like this story; did you? If you did, how is The Way of Kings actually comparing to those thoughts?

When I heard of this group read on Carl’s blog I hadn’t heard of the novel.  However, I enjoyed reading Dune with a group so I decided to join this one.  Saying this, I didn’t have any preconceived thoughts about this novel.  I guess you can say I was a blank slate.

2. What do you think of the pace of this story? so far.  And what do you think of the prose? Do you think the prose is too descriptive? Not descriptive enough?  Give me your thoughts on the writing thus far.

So far I am enjoying the novel, but there are times when I feel that the author is spending a lot of time building up a storyline that can sustain 9 more installments.  I’m wondering if this novel will be all setup for the following books and that nothing major will happen in this work.  I know that this novel is not a standalone novel but it would still be nice to have some type of denouement for this novel.  Obviously not everything can be resolved or there wouldn’t be a need for other novels in the series.

3. What was your favorite part of this first section? 

I really enjoyed the scene when Shallan is in the bookstore to buy the books to impress Jasnah.  At first she has to deal with the bookseller who is suggesting a romantic novel.  Shallan of course wants history and philosophy books to round out her education.  The bookseller believes she is too ambitious.  However, Shallan puts him in his place.  Then when she is ready to purchase the books the price seems too high.  That is when Yalb bursts in and pretends that he is from a different bookstore and that they accept her price.  I found the whole scene very entertaining.  And it shows how bright Shallan is but how she has so much to learn.  And I love Yalb’s line, “Anyway, conning men like him is almost as much fun as cheating guards.”

4. Which character(s) do you find most interesting and why?

I’m not sure if I have a favorite character yet.  Several of them intrigue me.  There is Shallan and Kaladin of course.  But there is still so much to learn about both of them.  The author hints about a lot of turmoil in Kaladin’s life and that he has lived through so much loss, but we don’t know all the details yet.  And we know that Shallan’s family is in trouble since their father is dead and the children are worried about losing their power, but we still don’t know the whole situation.   I do like how the book is following both of their storylines.  The one that intrigues me the most is Szeth.  What has he done and witnessed to choose being a slave in order to avoid his true destiny.  Was it just the murder of the king in the beginning that made him run or is there more?   And I like Syl.  I was sad when she left, but then she reappeared at the end of part one.  I would like to learn more about her.

5.  All right, what I really want to know is… what do you think of this book overall? so far.  Are you finding the story easy to follow? Are you fascinated, interested? Is the book holding your attention? Are you Bored? Indifferent? Please share your overall thoughts.

Overall I am really enjoying the book.  There seems to be so much going on. Kaladin is asserting his power on Bridge Four. Shallan is trying to steal from Jasnah.  Szeth is in hiding.  I do think that this book is pretty easy to follow.  The author has a way of explaining things but I don’t feel overwhelmed with detail.  I’m curious to see what happens in the next part.  And I’m curious to see how the others in the group are enjoying the work so far.

About TBM

TB Markinson is an American who's recently returned to the US after a seven-year stint in the UK and Ireland. When she isn't writing, she's traveling the world, watching sports on the telly, visiting pubs in New England, or reading. Not necessarily in that order. Her novels have hit Amazon bestseller lists for lesbian fiction and lesbian romance. She cohosts the Lesbians Who Write Podcast (lesbianswhowrite.com) with Clare Lydon. TB also runs I Heart Lesfic (iheartlesfic.com), a place for authors and fans of lesfic to come together to celebrate lesbian fiction.
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53 Responses to First Discussion on The Way of Kings

  1. Grace says:

    Poor Kaladin… I get the feeling that Sanderson enjoys torturing him.

  2. TBM says:

    LOL…I didn’t think of that. Do you think authors enjoy making their characters suffer? That would be funny if they did.

  3. @Grace: Ha, indeed. The bridge scene was probably my favorite part of this first section, yet it did seem like Sanderson was enjoying himself a bit too much making that poor man run without shoes or shoulder pads…

    @TBM: Good stuff, and I’ll be interested to see how you enjoy this book, especially since you’d never heard of it before starting.

    • TBM says:

      The bridge scene was pretty crazy. What an awful job. I know I wouldn’t have lasted. And running without shoes sounds so painful. Maybe you and Grace are right that Sanderson is enjoying himself by torturing Kaladin. He’s doing a great job if that is his intention.

  4. Adam says:

    I’m a huge fan of Sanderson’s work and I was really looking forward to this novel, even though it is primarily a setup for the rest of the series I thought that it worked on its own fairly well, Kaladin’s storyline comes to a good closing point, and Shallan’s storyline also ends with a major resolution.

    I agree that Szeth is probably the most interesting character of the first book, it was fascinating to read his sections, especially those towards the end of the book, he was wonderful.

    • TBM says:

      I’m excited to see what will happen with Kaladin and Shallan. Good to know that there will be some resolution even though this is the first in the series.

      Szeth is very interesting!

      • Grace says:

        Having a bit of resolution at the end would be nice, considering we’ll have to wait a while before the next book.

  5. Caroline says:

    I’m glad you are having fun and I’m a bit envious but it was the right decision for me, I couldn’t manage at the moment but it does sound like a book I would enjoy.

    • TBM says:

      I was sad to hear that you couldn’t join this one, but I know you have your own massive book to get through this month. Hopefully you can join Carl’s next group read! And I hope you are enjoying your book! It sounds like a good one.

      • Carl v. says:

        While it is sad not to have you as part of this Caroline, I’m happy that you went with your instincts. It would be much worse if you had decided to take this on and it ended up being the wrong time to do so. I too hope circumstances work out for you to join us in the group reading coming up in either Sept. or Oct.

  6. Carl v. says:

    So far so good with this one. I do agree that Sanderson is doing a lot of set up with this one, but I think he is handling it well as it is occurring in such a manner that you are getting to spend time getting to know individual characters and some “action” is happening with each one of them, or more accurately their stories are moving forward as opposed to there being a lot of stagnant world-building.

    I certainly think there are trends in any kind of literature and certainly one of the trends that has been happening for some time (GRRM is certainly one I would point to way back when he first wrote Game of Thrones) is a more gritty protagonist with questionable motives, morals, etc. Rothfuss’ characters are like this and I certainly see that in the Way of Kings. It makes for an interesting contrast to stories in which characters or situations are more black and white. I don’t prefer one over the other…a good story is a good story. I wouldn’t want to read one kind of book or the other all the time, it is nice to have some variety.

    • TBM says:

      I’m impressed by the way he is handling the set up. It isn’t too overwhelming. There is some action and I’ve enjoyed the pace of the novel so far. And I like how he is developing the characters. I hope Yalb resurfaces.

      I agree Carl, variety is nice. That is one of the reasons I joined both of the group reads. I’m breaking out of my “normal” books that I read. And it has been rewarding!

      • Grace says:

        Comparing it to Martin, I’m also really glad that he doesn’t overdo it on the perspective characters. He’s keeping it pretty limited, which makes it easier to focus.

  7. TBM says:

    It would be a tedious read for me if he drilled into our heads all the details about characters and story.

  8. Suey says:

    Very fun to read your thoughts, all of which I agree with. I forgot to add Szeth on my post as a character I’m intrigued by and I can’t wait to learn more about him!

    • TBM says:

      Suey: Hi! Szeth is pretty cool. Thanks for stopping by. I really enjoy having discussions with other readers. This is a great book to delve into with other people. I’m looking forward to the next section.

      Grace: I agree with you. Some resolution would be nice. I haven’t even looked into when the next book comes out.

  9. TBM says:

    2012…well that’s just around the corner. I wonder how long for the last book! He has quite a project going on. I really hope he can sustain it, but that will be a challenge.

    • I don’t think we’ve got to worry about Sanderson slacking. He’s released 12 books in 6 years or something like that, often coming out with multiple books each year. In 2010 he released Way of Kings, Towers of Midnight, and Alcatraz Versus the Shattered Lens, and two of those are gigantic books!

      Plus, I’m thinking once he’s finished with his work on WoT that he’ll have more time to devote to his own stuff. Ten books probably means ten years, but who knows. We can hope the man may crank out some gems in double time.

      • TBM says:

        12 books in 6 years. That’s amazing! How does he do it? Does he reveal any secrets in his interviews like not sleeping or something? Crank out some gems in double time—loved the way you put this.

      • Grace says:

        My boyfriend’s theory is that it has something to do with Sanderson’s living in Nebraska, where there isn’t much of anything else to do.

      • Suey says:

        He actually lives here in Utah, basically just up the street from me! But your argument that “there’s nothing else to do” could still hold true! 🙂 Actually, he’s extremely busy and travels a ton and does a podcast and talks at all the big conventions etc. etc. But… he also writes… A LOT! He may even have much of this series already written.

  10. TBM says:

    LOL…I’ve never been to Nebraska but if I can be more productive maybe.

  11. TBM says:

    What part of Utah? You guys have some great hiking and skiing there so I think I could find plenty to do to distract myself from work. That’s always been my problem 🙂

    You really think he has a bulk of this series done already? Did you hear that from an interview or is it just a guess?

    • Grace says:

      I hope he has the bulk of it done. I think that series tend to turn out better if the authors write most of it at once and can still change things around as they get new ideas.

      Apparently he used to live in Nebraska then, lol. I didn’t realize he was currently living in Utah. Good to know. 😛

      • TBM says:

        I haven’t read too many series. I know some authors have them all planned out when they start, but ten books…that is a lot to keep track of.

        Both you and Suey know more about him than I do. I didn’t know he lived in either state.

      • Suey says:

        I think he grew up in Nebraska and probably stayed here in Utah after he came to school here.

    • Suey says:

      The Utah County area, and yes we have mountains just five minutes away. Very nice.

      I’ve heard him speak several times at local events, and I’m pretty sure he said at least The Way of Kings was written quite a long time ago, and it seems like he said he had most of the series at least thought out and rough drafted or something. Anyway, I’m probably guessing a bit too, but it does seem like he said something to that effect.

      • TBM says:

        You live in a beautiful area! I miss the mountains.

        I’m pretty jealous that you’ve heard him speak. Carl has the link to a video but it sounds like you saw him in person. I love going to events like that. Way cool!

  12. Carl v. says:

    As a Nebraska native (now living in Missouri) I take huge offense! I mean really! We had corn fields and college football and…. 😉 In all seriousness I loved growing up there and was rarely bored, but I was always a reader and I don’t know many devoted readers who stay bored.

    According to the great vault of knowledge that is Wiki, Sanderson is planning the next book to come out sometime in 2012 with the third coming out in 2013. So if we get two books in the next 2-3 years that is actually pretty exciting.

    I hadn’t gotten through the first set of interludes before answering Monday’s questions, so I didn’t get much of a chance to talk about the characters introduced there, but I plan to with my set of questions. I also hadn’t gotten to the part where Syl rescued Kaladin and helped him set a new course for his “life” such as it was.

    Wow! That part was fantastic and has really solidified Syl as one of my favorite characters in the book thus far. I liked her already, but I am growing very attached to her now. That whole scene and the aftermath of it thus far in this second section has kicked Kaladin’s already fascinating storyline up several notches.

    • TBM says:

      Hi Carl. Do you have high hopes for your football team this year?

      Sounds like he plans on releasing one per year. That seems impressive but I hope I can remember everything for the last one if I stick to the series. I’m starting to get old.

      I loved that part with Syl and Kaladin. That is when she really started to grow on me. I can’t wait to see if she evolves even more!

      • Grace says:

        I get the feeling that Syl’s role is to tell Kaladin that he’s being emo and shouldn’t give up during all the times when he probably should. I also find it cute how naive she is.

  13. Carl v. says:

    I imagine if he does release those two that there might be a lull before the next one after that comes out, but even if we could average one every two years that would be something that the other big series authors have yet to accomplish.

    I’m not sure I have high hopes for the Huskers or the Chiefs this year. Both will have much tougher schedules than they are used to and I think the Huskers will be getting everyone’s best, trying to show the new kid whose boss and all that.

    • TBM says:

      Who’s the new kid? Ever since I moved away from the west I don’t hear too much about the football out there. I’m still trying to learn all the names of the East Coast teams. There are so many.

  14. Carl v. says:

    Nebraska is the new kid, they moved to a new conference this year and are no longer part of the Big 12. So I’m sure all the other Big 10 teams will be gunning for them this year, not wanting the newest member of the conference to have a great in-conference year. It will be interesting to watch.

  15. Carl v. says:

    She’s becoming less and less naive though and more and more knowledgeable about the ways of the world. It will be interesting to see how that changes her character.

    • TBM says:

      I love it when authors have characters develop their own sense of self. He has such a way of getting the reader to care about most of his characters.

  16. Dee says:

    I actually love Shallan, and Kaladin too 😀 I must go back and re-read this, as I read it in one go when it released..
    I’m following you so I can keep track of your discussion on this 🙂

    • TBM says:

      If you re-read it now sign up for the group read and join the fun. The more the merrier! I’m loving the book.

      When you say you read it in one go do you mean in one sitting? That’s impressive!

  17. ibeeeg says:

    I really liked the bookstore scene too. I like the interaction between Shallan and Yalb.

    The interesting part about Kaladin is that he seems so much older than he is… 19 years old. I was suprised when I read that; he seems wise. There is a lot more to learn about him and I look forward to it.
    I like Shallan but I am not feeling the love yet for that character like so many others are. I wonder if she will grow on me more as we go along.

    • TBM says:

      Yalb is a great supporting character. I’m with Carl, I hope he returns to the story.

      I have to keep reminding myself that Kaladin is so young. He does seem wiser than most kids his age.

      There is so much to learn about Shallan and her mission. I think I won’t know if I like her until I find out how she handles herself in her new role as a thief. Will she have honor or will she be corrupted?

    • Carl v. says:

      Yes, it is interesting to compare Kaladin with Paul from our recent Dune read. Both are young as far as their ages (if we assume their year is near the same standard that ours is) but both seem much older than their age indicates.

      • TBM says:

        Hi Carl. I’ve been trying to figure out why I’m OK with Kaladin being so mature and wise at a young age and I had a difficult time with Paul, who was younger but probably wiser and more mature. I think part of the reason is that Sanderson doesn’t show Kaladin’s adolescence as much as Herbert did. I forget that Kaladin is a teenager. But I am being unfair to Paul’s character. Herbert may have been more honest by making Paul a bit more cocky since he was so young. I’m not sure if this will make sense.

  18. Carl v. says:

    Part of it may be that our assumptions and understandings of ancient times (and although this isn’t set on per se I think it reads like a book set in our very distant past) is that childhood as we know it only really came about in recent times. Up until not all that long ago “kids” grew up quickly, were expected at early ages to be a working/functional part of the family, married early, went to work early, went to war early, etc. So Kaladin at 19 isn’t the same as my daughter who is now 19. I don’t see Kaladin having 12+ years of playing with family and friends followed by another 8 years of teenage angst, hormonal girl chasing and obsessions with video games.

    So in that sense it is more believable. And since reading Podkayne of Mars last year, in which the protagonist is 14 but their years are longer than ours so she is really past the “age of consent”, I tend to wonder about how long a standard year is in SFF books. We naturally assume it is a 365 day earth year, but that isn’t necessarily the case. This unsaid thing might just be a convenient excuse for an author to justify why a character seems older than they are, etc. or it might be something the author doesn’t think much about. In Sanderson’s case I would have to think he knows how long a year is in his universe, but I cannot recall him telling us that information.

    • TBM says:

      That is an interesting point. I didn’t even consider that it could be a different type of 19. Maybe his years are longer. I don’t remember Sanderson saying the years are longer or shorter. But we have 9 more books to find out!

      And yes I agree that Paul’s and Kaladin’s experiences are even more of an influence. Just in my own experience I didn’t have to live through a war and watch people around me suffer and die. I think this would help people grow up in a much quicker fashion. Now we have prolonged adolescence.

      • Grace says:

        Good points here. It really wasn’t until we paired child labor laws and mandatory schooling that we started to see the type of adolescence that we have today. There were a lot more channels then for incorporating young people into adult society, and life didn’t let you be coddled for too long. Kids of Paul or Kaladin’s age aren’t incapable of handling very adult situations, but there’s really no need for it in a Western society.

  19. Shelley says:

    I’m loving the subtle humor and witty dialogue like we see in the bookstore scene. Yalb is great! Shallan’s situation is interesting to me, because I want to root for her, but it seems like she and her brothers are going to continue with what her corrupt, power-hungry father started if she succeeds in stealing the Soulcaster. But I guess if that’s the only way for them to survive, I can’t judge. I like that it’s not black and white.

    • TBM says:

      I like Shallan but I am having issues with her character as well. I wonder if she will succeed in stealing the Soulcaster. Is it ok to cheer on a thief?

      • Carl V. says:

        I’m hoping that she’ll soon be forced to give up the idea of stealing the Soulcaster, largely because I see her a character who is so far above the petty things she is wanting to do and her family seems like a big bunch of losers looking for her to bail them out.

  20. TBM says:

    Hi Grace. Very good points about child labor laws and school. Also living in today’s society allows us to grow up at a slower pace. If we didn’t have the abundance that we have now we wouldn’t have such a prolonged childhood.

  21. Memory says:

    I agree that there’s a lot of build-up. It worked for me, though, because it’s all so interesting. I loved feeling my way around, figuring out how everything worked. I feel like Sanderson gives us more vital information in every chapter. Every detail adds to what we know about the characters and their world. It drew me straight in.

    • TBM says:

      He does give a lot of information in each chapter, but I don’t think he is making it obvious. I don’t feel like he is just dumping a ton of stuff on the reader. It feels more subtle to me. This is my first time reading a novel by this author and I’m appreciating his storytelling.

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