Second Group Read Discussion on The Way of Kings

It is time for the second group discussion on The Way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson.  This discussion focuses on the second book in the novel.  Please note that there will be spoilers in this post and probably in the comments as well.

This group read is hosted by Polishing Mud Balls and all of the discussions can be found here.  The questions for this week were provided by Carl.

Here we go:

1.  In a recent interview Brandon Sanderson mentioned that the interludes are meant to show us parts of the larger world since much of the action is focused in one or two places.  What do you think of the first two sets of interludes?  Any characters or situations stand out to you?

I’ve enjoyed the interludes, however, one of my favorite characters is Szeth and I’m a little bummed that he only shows up in the interludes and the prologue.  I’m fascinated by him.  Part of him seems peaceful to me.  But he is also an exceptional and gifted killer.  I’m having a difficult time figuring him out.

Now that I’ve aired my complaint, I do think that the interludes help me understand the bigger picture.  They remind me a little of The Grapes of Wrath.  Steinbeck had interchapters that focused on the land, the economy, and the social implications of the Dust Bowl and Great Depression and how these factors were causing devastation for his characters in the novel.  I’m enjoying how Sanderson is focusing on certain characters, but he hasn’t forgotten the larger picture and how it matters to explain the how and why for his story.

In the second interlude he introduced Axies and he seems like another fascinating character who I would like to learn more about.  I would like to know why he is trying to discover different types of spren.  Is he trying to collect them for fun, to learn, or to gain power?

2.  In small increments Brandon Sanderson is revealing the geology and ecology of Roshar.  What are your thoughts on what has been revealed thus far?

I’m surprised by the focus on geology and ecology and this is due to my ignorance.  I haven’t read a lot of science fiction and fantasy novels.  This is my second group read.  The first was Dune which focused a lot on environmental factors and now this novel also includes a lot as well.  I’m passionate about the environment.  These novels are making me a fan of these two genres and I would like to explore them more.  (Carl this is your cue to add more books to my reading list :))

I’m fascinated by the highstorms.  Also I’m curious about the creatures that roam the land.  He is creating a world that is highly evolved.  And I think everything that he is creating will play a vital role in the series.  I love how the environment is becoming a major player in the story.

3.  This second section of The Way of Kings featured two distinct story lines, those of Dalinar and of Kaladin.  How do you feel this section of the book compares with the first section and what are your thoughts on either or both of these story lines?

At first I was a little confused since the first section concentrated on Shallan and Kaladin.  I wondered what happened to her.  But Sanderson is tying all of the characters together beautifully.  I’m liking that Jasnah is the king’s sister and Dalinar is their uncle.  Also the chapters on Dalinar are introducing some of the key players in the war and I’m loving the power struggles that are going on with the highprinces.  I love politics and I enjoy political struggles, the back stabbing, and the intrigue.  I don’t like it in real life (even though it is always prevalent), but it is fun in fiction.

For me it seems too early in the book to compare the first two parts.  I know we have read a decent chunk of the book, but it still feels too soon to decide which I like best.  I feel like there is still so much to discover and to understand how and why he brought us to certain characters.  Even though this book is a mammoth of a book, I don’t feel that Sanderson wastes words or description.  Everything seems planned and important. 

4.  In the interview set out earlier in the week Sanderson talked about the Stormlight Archive being a series about the return of magic.  What are your thoughts on this, particularly in relation to the visions Dalinar is having during the highstorms?

The visions are intriguing.  Since they are related through Dalinar’s perspective I feel that the reader takes them as true happenings even though everyone thinks that he’s going crazy.  There are times when I get frustrated that Dalinar follows the advice from his visions.  What if the visions are wrong?

Magic is a fun aspect to this book.  Wouldn’t it be fun if people in today’s world believed in magic?

5.  There has been a change in this second section of the nature of the quotes prior to the beginning of each chapter.  What are your thoughts on the opening lines featured in both sections of the book to this point?

The quotes add an extra element to each chapter.  When I read them I try to see where the author is taking me.  They offer a hint, but it isn’t completely clear.  I feel like Sanderson wants us to solve a riddle and it is a fun aspect to the novel for me.

6. In the questions for these first two sections we’ve talked about characters and the story lines and the world that Sanderson has created, but there are a lot of interesting flourishes and touches to The Way of Kings thus far (shardplate, spren, the actual Way of Kings book, highstorms, etc.).  Talk about some of the non-character/non-setting things that you are finding either fascinating or annoying (or both) in the book thus far.   

The spren are fascinating characters.  If it wasn’t for the evolution of Syl though, I think I would find the spren annoying.  However, I am curious as to why Syl is starting to think, feel, and figure things out.  What makes her different from the other spren and why?  And can the others learn?

I would love to see one of the highstorms since they sound like a fierce act of nature.  Also, considering this year many people in today’s world have been impacted by nature, such as earthquakes and tornadoes, I’m loving how Sanderson is including the environment in the story.  The environment is an important factor in all of our lives, even if we aren’t always cognizant of it.  I appreciate that Sanderson is aware of this and is giving the environment respect.

And what is the connection between the highstorms and Dalinar’s visions?  Are they connected to the Way of Kings book?  Is the book magical?

I’m looking forward to another great week of discussions.  Last week was awesome and I’m really enjoying getting to know other book lovers and to hear their ideas.  Thanks everyone!

About TBM

TB Markinson is an American living in England. When she isn’t writing, she’s traveling the world, watching sports on the telly, visiting pubs, or reading. Not necessarily in that order.
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22 Responses to Second Group Read Discussion on The Way of Kings

  1. Grace says:

    I find Dalinar to be very intriguing. I still haven’t figured out if the visions are real, but at the same time, the visions tell him to act honorably and have a lot of deeper truth to them. It makes me wonder if it really matters whether or not he is going insane, as his perspective on the war makes a lot of sense to me.

    • TBM says:

      The visions are intriguing. I think we will learn about about the past and present though Dalinar’s character. I’m curious how far Sanderson will take his visions and how far he will take Dalinar’s awakening about the war and the massive killing and destruction.

  2. “What if the visions are wrong?” An interesting question, but like you mentioned, since the visions are told through Dalinar’s POV, I have to take them as “truth.” Though it sounds atypical of fantasy novels, the visions seem like they’re prophetic, warning Dalinar to unify the people and prepare for the coming storm.

    Still, since we don’t really know enough about the world, perhaps someone could be infiltrating his thoughts (especially since he somehow had certain memories erased) and making him think crazy things.

    Can’t wait to see his character (and Adolin’s & Renarin’s) develop more.

    • TBM says:

      Ooooo…I didn’t even consider that someone could be controlling his thoughts. That is a great connection with how some of his memories are erased. Thanks so much for pointing that out.

      I love the elements of mystery in this novel. The author gives our brains so much to ponder and to figure out.

      I’m hoping Adolin and Renarin start to play larger roles.

      • Grace says:

        I’m thinking that maybe the visions are foreshadowing, even though it’s the past. I think that magic used to be more powerful, mostly because shardplate used to glow (according to the visions, at any rate). I’m thinking that maybe the voidbringers will make a comeback, and that the Alethi armies will be completely unprepared because they are so used to squabbling with each other. They can barely handle a chasmfiend fight gone wrong, so I somehow doubt that they’d be able to actually defend their kingdom if necessary. Of course, I could be wrong.

  3. Memory says:

    I also wish Szeth played a larger role. I find him a fascinating character, and I’d love a longer look into his life. I can understand why Sanderson backs away from him after the prologue, though. Szeth is actively trying not to be an important person, so his story is still mostly separate from the other characters’. Still, I hope he takes centre stage at some point.

    • TBM says:

      Poor Szeth, trying not to be important, but he keeps getting pulled back into the killing. I do want to learn more about him.

    • Yeah. It’s looking like Szeth’s new list of hits contains some high-ranked lighteyes and whatnot. I can’t help but think he’s on a collision course with Dalinar/Sadeas/Elhokar, just as Kaladin surely must be running towards the same path.

      I’m thinking we’ll be seeing more of Szeth, either in this book or subsequent ones. He’s too important not to focus on.

      • TBM says:

        I found the last part of Szeth’s chapter fascinating. Who are these people? Who is the new master? And who is on the hit list? Pretty exciting stuff for sure.

        I’m loving how it seems like all of the characters are on a collision course.

  4. TBM says:

    Hi Grace. I think the Voidbringers will make a come back, especially considering that Jasnah is looking into them. And yes I can see how the Alethi may not be prepared. The squabbles I think will increase dramatically in the coming pages. I still can’t figure out how he will bring everything together, but I can see signs.

  5. Carl V. says:

    Szeth is a very interesting character, but I am enjoying the less is more aspect of him for now. I’m worried that at the moment his character might not hold up over long chunks of time, or wouldn’t have until this very latest interlude where he was given an assignment which could obviously carry him over several chapters of writing. He is a great character, but there will have to be more done with him besides a series of angst followed by killing followed by angst for him to remain interesting over a sustained period of time.

    Isn’t it wild how coincidences work? I mean we pick two completely different novels for group reads and both end up having environmental and geological factors that are integral to the story and are characters in and of themselves. Its fun.

    I agree with you about Sanderson not wasting words. I think there are details here that we as readers have just read past that will come up later and it will dawn on us that we read some little snippet about it previously. It is going to be great fun to watch him slowly tie things together.

    The visions could certainly be wrong or they could be someone else controlling him, or they could truly be what he thinks they are. At any rate I think it makes sense that Sanderson has him wanting to follow them. His whole world changed with the death of his brother and he is beginning to see the futility of the Vengeance Pact and is longing for a return to their home land. I think those things along with him aging are naturally creating a desire for something different. I think the visions simply increase that desire and are giving him some purpose to cling to.

    • TBM says:

      I am dying to know how he ties everything together. He is quite the storyteller!

      Do you think the visions will help save only him or everyone? The visions are interesting. What all will they reveal? They are another mysterious element. I feel like there are a lot of riddles and puzzles we as readers have to solve.

      • Carl v. says:

        It is hard telling. As someone else suggested the visions could be coming from someone or something using him to open a pathway to the evil that is reportedly coming. I would be sad for Dalinar to see that happen and yet it would make for a dramatic story.

  6. TBM says:

    It would be sad for Dalinar but you are right, it would make for a dramatic twist to the story. But who could be controlling the visions? I hope we learn more about his brother and what his final words meant.

  7. Shelley says:

    Szeth is intriguing and in Sanderson’s interview he made it sound like he’s one of the main characters that we will see in the series. Right now it seems like we know just enough to feel loads of compassion for him as he reluctantly kills.
    Great G of W comparison. One of my favorite books! I loved Axies.
    My instinct is to trust the visions, but then when they say to trust Sadeas, and then I doubt. Just one of the things that keeps me questioning.

    • TBM says:

      I hope Szeth will play a larger role in the series. Steinbeck is one of my favorite authors. I couldn’t help myself.

      Axies is interesting! There is something about the visions that make me cautious. Part of me wants to believe they are true and part of me is screaming “watch out!”

      • Shelley says:

        I also love Steinbeck. I don’t know if you are aware of it, but there is a Steinbeck tour going on right now through the Classics Circuit blog. Sanderson has done a good job of sowing the seed of doubt in the reader. Especially when Gavilar begins to doubt himself.

  8. Caroline says:

    I find also quite amazing that both group reads turn out to have ecological factors as key elements.
    You reminded me that I have the Grapes of Wrath on my TBR pile…

  9. TBM says:

    Hi Shelley! I actually stumbled across the Steinbeck tour yesterday. What a great writer.

    Yes I agree that Sanderson is excellent about making the reader question what is true.

  10. ibeeeg says:

    I agree with you, Szeth does seem peaceful yet an exceptional killer. I am very much intrigued by him. Like you, I would love to see more of his story. We must remember, this is book one so there could be more Szeth in other books too. I think he is an important character in some way through out this series.

    Again, I agree with you, it seems that Sanderson has written without waste – I have not yet felt like he could have shaved “this part” from the story or “that part”. It is all working, so far.

    I am curious about these visions. There is much unknown. While I tend to believe that he is not going crazy, you are right, why does he take the advice so easily? Still, the advice is good. I quoted one on my post. “Act with honor, and honor will aid you.”

    I am finding the quotes in the beginning of the chapters to be a mystery, and the the second section of quotes seem to be a story within itself. Fun reading before diving into the chapter.

    • TBM says:

      I would like Szeth to play a larger role in the upcoming novels. I was thinking last night, I can’t wait for the next book to come out and I usually don’t read series so maybe I am turning a new leaf.

      I am amazed by how he does not waste words. You would think with such a large novel he would wander a little but I haven’t noticed it.

      Great quote. All of us could heed that advice.

      Whenever I think I’m starting to understand that quotes at the beginning of the chapters he changes the formula a little and I start questioning their purpose again. A little frustrating, but also fun to figure it out.

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