The Way of Kings Group Read, Part 4

Howdy folks.  Another weekend has come and gone.  For us involved in the group read of The Way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson it is time for our discussion on Part 4.

The questions for this week were provided by Kailana.  If you would like to follow all the discussions please visit this page.

As always, there will be spoilers in this discussion and probably in the comments.

Here we go:

1. One thing that I have thinking about during the course of this book is what Brandon Sanderson is trying to say about religion. Jasnah is an atheist. Shallan believes, but is still trying to find herself. Dalinar believes strongly in the ‘Old Ways’. What do you think of this idea?

I’m not too surprised by the inclusion of so many different beliefs in Sanderson’s novel.  Many Americans pride themselves on the fact that religious freedom is part of our rights.  Now this doesn’t mean that some religions or beliefs aren’t attacked here but it doesn’t deny the fact that freedom of religion is part of the bill of rights.  And since the author is American and has, from what I can see, liberal views on women it makes sense to me that he has liberal views on religion.

What I like about his commentary on religion is that not only does he have liberal views but he is realistic.  During most times of strife, many people look to other explanations to figure stuff out.  I feel that Sanderson is allowing his characters to look for other explanations.  So you have Jasnah who is looking into facts and history.  Shallan is questioning what she believes and is incorporating beliefs to fit her thoughts. Yet, she still has her beliefs.  And Dalinar is looking to his visions for guidance.  This has happened throughout history and I like the way he is including it in his story.

2. The relationship between siblings is an important part of this book. Adolin has always been at the forefront of Dalinar’s two sons, but Renarin is important, too. What did you think of the two brothers? Going back a generation, what do think of Dalinar and our glimpses of his brother? Then there is Kaladin who joins the war to protect his brother and fails. And Jasnah whose brother is King. Or Shallan who puts herself in a dangerous situation to help her brothers out following her fathers’ death. What do you think of these relationships? Did any stick out for you?

Well as the baby of my family, I’m not too happy that the younger siblings like Renarin and Tien are not as “strong” as their older brothers.  However, I don’t see this as Sanderson’s goal.  Renarin has not had a lot of play in the first book so far, but I sense his intellect may play a larger role later on in the series.  What I appreciate about the families in the novel is that all of them have their own personalities.  I marvel at his character development, even for the bit players.  And since they all have their personalities it is easy to keep track of everyone.

The relationship that sticks out the most is Shallan and her family.  I really don’t like her brothers and she is putting herself in grave danger to help out her family.  It is refreshing to have a writer who is bold enough to place the sister of the family as the savior for the brothers and she doesn’t have to sleep with someone or marry some dude from a powerful family.  Instead, she has to use her brains.  But her brothers are jerks.  They are looking to her to find an “easy” way to save their money and power.  I have a hard time respecting them.

I enjoyed reading about Kaladin and Tien.  Tien is that wonderful little boy who you can’t help but love.  He is sensitive and sees things differently than most around him.  I loved when he gave the carving to Kaladin.  And how he collects rocks and each rock has significance for him.  He’s a sensitive soul.  All of us can learn from these sensitive souls.  

3. Kaladin has been included in every section. Why do you think this was? Did you wish to have a break from him, or did you enjoy knowing he would be explored with every section?

I see Kaladin as the one character that is pivotal to story.  He’s like the glue.  For some time you could see that Dalinar, Adolin, and Kaladin were on a path to meet.  They were on the same front of the war.  I didn’t tire of his story at all.  And I think his flashbacks helped me to understand the larger picture.

4. One of my favourite characters in the book is Syl. What do you think of her and her development throughout the course of this book?

Syl has also been one of my favorite characters.  I’ve enjoyed watching her evolution.  And I really like the mystery surrounding her.  She has slowly figured things out about herself, but not everything is explained. Her strengths and powers aren’t completely explained.  I love how Sanderson keeps me guessing about her.  And she is such a part of Kaladin’s life and his realization of his role to play in the war.

5. And, the big question, what do you think is going to happen in the last section? Any predictions?

I actually couldn’t put the book down last week so I finished it.  Given that, I won’t answer this question.  But I am excited for everyone to finish the book so we can all discuss the whole novel.  This book was an exciting read.  I will be late to next week’s discussion since I will be out of town until Tuesday.  I’ll have to wait an extra day to find out what everyone thought.

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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37 Responses to The Way of Kings Group Read, Part 4

  1. Carl v. says:

    Reading your answer to the religion question has brought to mind that I don’t feel any of what Sanderson has done with that feels contrived. It doesn’t feel to me like he is trying to make one dominant statement about religion but is instead presenting a much more realistic and authentic view of what a people would be like, with varying degrees of devotion, doubt, skepticism, acceptance, etc.

    In thinking about Tien it amazes me that Sanderson has put so much effort in creating a character who from early on we know is dead. It fleshes out the story so well, especially Kaladin’s story, for us to learn more and more about what a wonderful young man Tien was and to feel his loss. I agree with you about how the young are portrayed now, but it certainly appears that Renarin has the potential of growing into a very strong and vital character.

    I don’t like Shallan’s brothers either, but it wouldn’t surprise me if in future volumes Sanderson does something for me to at least empathize with them more. We have yet to know what they’ve been through. They disgust me now, and if Sanderson never fleshes them out beyond that I will be okay with it, but Sanderson has me expecting all sorts of things now that I’ve finished the book.

    • TBM says:

      I really enjoyed his view on religion. He doesn’t pressure. He doesn’t preach. He allows his characters to explore on their own. I agree. That is very realistic for readers in today’s world. All of it flows, like the other aspects of his book.

      If we didn’t know about Tien to the degree that we do, I don’t think Kaladin would be such a powerful character in the story. In order to know Kaladin, you have to know Tien. I wish I knew Tien. I would love to learn from the little guy and search for rocks with him and more importantly to learn from him. Sometimes I get so busy I forget to step back and see the little things in life and to appreciate the little things. Tien is the gentle reminder for us to remember all the innocents who are victims of war.

      I do believe that Shallan’s family will play a larger role in the future. I have an issue with her brother who tortures animals. I don’t think I could like him because of that. I may eat those words in the future, and you have a good memory so you can call me out on it. But it would be good to learn more about her family and how they fit into the big picture.

      • Carl v. says:

        Oh I don’t think I’ll ever like the brothers, but I would be somewhat surprised if all of them remained one dimensional characters and we didn’t learn at least something that might make us feel a little empathy. Then again I like having characters in a book to not like.

        I agree about Tien, and we got some of that with Cenn too. I think it was very clever to do it in flashback format, with us knowing that both of these characters died. It kept the emphasis clearly on Kaladin while still allowing us to feel something for both young men.

      • Maybe I’m a softie, but Tien’s death was so darned tragic. Even though I knew it was coming, it was nonetheless gut-wrenching and heart-pounding. I was screaming with Kaladin at his helplessness, watching his baby brother butchered just because. How terrible. Between that and Amaram, no wonder Kal has trust issues with the lighteyes.

        Agreed with you both, though. Sanderson’s method for revealing Tien’s death was very well done, with the flashbacks and parallel death of Cenn at the beginning.

      • Grace says:

        @Logan I agree. I think the fact that Sanderson goes to such length to develop Tien’s character makes it so much harder every time we return to the fact that he is dead. We can feel Kaladin’s pain, and we see Tien not just as some guy who died but as a real person.

        As far as family dynamics go, I think that it was interesting to see Dalinar comparing Adolin with himself. While Dalinar obviously sympathizes with Renarin, who is the younger brother, he seems to identify a lot of Adolin because he was so much like that in his younger days.

  2. TBM says:

    Yeah Shallan’s brothers would be interesting. And it would be fun to have more characters to cheer against. You can’t like everyone or it would be boring.

    Oh poor Cenn. That battle was gut wrenching for me. I felt his terror. So far I’m impressed with his writing and the techniques that he employs to develop his characters and story.

    • That’s a great point. “It would be fun to have more characters to cheer against.” Other than Sadeas, who do we have to cheer against? Kaladin’s old bridge commander whatshisname? Speaking of, what did happen to whatshisname?

      I can see Shallan’s brothers selling her out. We don’t know enough about their father, but he was obviously cruel and abusive, so they’ve likely inherited his temper. Combine that with Shallan’s apparent exclusion from abuse, they’re surely out to get some revenge.

      • TBM says:

        Hi Logan. I don’t think you are a softie. I thought the way Tien and the others were used as bait was awful. And what a horrible way to go. I felt for Kaladin the entire time. That is something none of us should witness, especially when it is someone you love. War is hell. I can’t imagine it.

        What did happen to Gaz? They mention that he’s “gone” but how. And I didn’t think of it, but I can see that her brothers would sell Shallan out. I would like to know more about her father and their dynamics.

        Hi Grace: That is an interesting point about Dalinar and Adolin. I didn’t think about that at first. I wonder if Dalinar’s brother was still alive if he would see himself more like Renarin.

      • Grace says:

        @TBM That’s a distinct possibility. I think it’s neat how he sympathizes with both sons, but in different ways. You know how parents always say that they love all their kids equally, but differently? With Dalinar we can see exactly how much that is true.

        I think the brothers already have sold Shallan out, to be honest. They’re using her to try to steal a powerful fabrial, and it’s clear that they’re being pressured by someone in turn, otherwise they wouldn’t be so desperate. I mean, what kind of debts did the father owe that it would ruin the lives of the children to admit he was dead? Who are the brothers so scared of? It seems like something waaaaay beyond the scope of normal farmers/lower aristocracy. I wonder who is behind it all, and I’m hoping Sanderson explores that in greater depth.

  3. TBM says:

    It can’t be easy to be a parent to two men who are very different. Dalinar, so far, seems like a good father. He wants to help both sons achieve what they can. He allows Adolin to make decisions in the field and he wants to protect Renarin so he can flourish.

    I agree. Shallan’s brothers probably already have done something to put her in an even worse situation. I wish we knew who was pressuring them about the fabrial. Yes there are so many questions about her father, her family, and what kind of trouble they are in. And good point, they are low on the food chain so why are they important.

  4. Carl v. says:

    If you are a softie, Logan, then I am right there with you. Those scenes with Tien were heart-breaking.

    One of the things I found interesting in this book was the fact that Sanderson kept you guessing about who you might want to cheer against. I didn’t know how I would feel about Jasnah. I wasn’t in favor of Shallan being a thief because I did not like her brothers and wondered if I would find myself cheering against her. Sadeas seemed obvious but then there were red herrings there. I have to admit that while I think Szeth is an interesting character I am cheering against him, or at least the way he is now. I haven’t spent enough time with him to be sympathetic to his commitment to his oaths. From what I’ve seen so far it feels like he is just making excuses and wallowing in self pity. I do know there is more to it than that but not enough of it has been revealed to make me want to care about him. Not yet. At the moment I just want to slap him and tell him to stand up for himself and make his own choices.

    • TBM says:

      He does like to surround some of his characters with mystery. All of them have their own motives and are willing to pursue them. I haven’t quite figured out Jasnah and Shallan. I think there is so much more to discover.

      Poor Szeth. He hates killing. Or I think he hates to kill. And I have to cheer against him. I keep hoping he just walks away and didn’t do as directed. I haven’t sensed that he is wallowing in self pity, but I will pay closer attention and see if I can sense that. Would you really slap him? I wouldn’t slap a skilled killer.

      • Carl v. says:

        If I had to hang around with him in person for the amount of time we did in the book and listen to his internal whinging about his lot in life then I think the temptation might be overwhelming! 🙂

    • As I read the Szeth sections I felt pity for him, but also horror and revulsion. I can’t wait to discover his backstory, the way his religion affects his choices, the Oathstone, and whatnot. He’s a cold-blooded, whining butcher, but dang it, I can’t cheer against him.

      • TBM says:

        I also felt pity for him. I didn’t see him as the uber-whining killer that Carl saw. Yes he complained. And he complained more than normal, but I didn’t feel the need to slap him. It will be interesting to learn more about him. It will be hard to cheer for him or against him.

  5. TBM says:

    LOL…you better get some shardplate and hope for the best.

  6. Caroline says:

    It seems as if you really liked the novel. Good for you. It’s a series, right? Will you read on? Are the other books out already?

    • Grace says:

      I know that I’m continuing when the next book comes out. Sanderson hasn’t even written it yet though… it’s due to come out in 2012/2013.

    • TBM says:

      Hi Caroline. It is the first of ten books. When I started this group read I thought I would just read the one to be part of the group. Now I’m hooked and can’t wait for the next book to come out hopefully next year. You should give it a go. It’s large, but a quick read.

  7. Carl v. says:

    If I had to hang around him and watch all that bloodshed and then hear him lament about it, death might be a preferable option. LOL!

    I have already mentioned to TBM that I am hoping we can keep this reading group together for the next one and so on. Would love to see people jump on board the read a long when book two comes out.

    I would say “yes” he has started writing the next book, at least in some sense, because he did mention in that interview that the next book will be more Shallan focused. Then again he may just have outlines, but if this book is any indication I would be he has some pretty detailed outlines and plans for the entire series. There is no way he could coordinate such exquisite details and coming together of story lines without a lot of planning and a good idea of exactly where this series is going.

    • TBM says:

      Hi Carl, as of now, I am in for the next book. But who knows what life will be like then, but I’m really hoping to join the fun once again.

      I hope he’s started writing. I have some questions and I need answers! I would love to see his notes and the room he writes in. I’m picturing a room with maps and outlines everywhere and papers everywhere. I bet he’s organized but surrounded my his work. I could be wrong, but in my head, that’s how I picture it.

      • Carl v. says:

        He mentioned in that interview that he is so prolific because he is really disciplined, writes every day, and does not suffer writer’s block. I got the impression just from those few statements, and the fact that Logan mentioned that he annotates his novels on his blog, that he is indeed a very organized person.

  8. TBM says:

    He would have to be super organized to create this complicated world. He never suffers writer’s block. I hope this trend continues. How awful if on the last one, he’s does. Oh man that would suck.

  9. TBM says:

    Hi Grace. You are making me nervous. How long will we have to wait?

  10. Carl v. says:

    Sanderson has already said it will be late 2012 or early 2013 for book two in this series to hit shelves. He has the last Jordan book coming out mid-year next year so I imagine he is finalizing things on that before he can begin book two in earnest. But remember, it isn’t like he is starting a novel from scratch with no idea what he is going to write. He himself talks about his planning and his work ethic. I imagine he has scraps of story and plotted story lines all over the place that will be pulled together as he starts writing book two.

    And in the meantime we all have tons of other stuff to read.

    • TBM says:

      LOL…thanks for calming me down. I need to remember that he knows what he’s doing. And yes, we do have many wonderful books to read.

  11. Carl v. says:

    I’m sure I’ve oversold the whining thing. Don’t get me wrong, I like the character, but I quickly went from pitying him to wanting to either have a better explanation about why he cannot break his oath or wanting him to grow a backbone and make his own choices. I’m sure Sanderson will give us a worthwhile explanation and make him a more developed character in future books, but with what we were given in book one he is not someone I am sympathizing with like I was the first few times we met him.

    • TBM says:

      LOL…not sure if I should let you off the hook on this one. You said you would risk death to slap him.

      I didn’t totally understand why he couldn’t break his oath either. I would be like, heck no! I’m not killing anyone. And I wanted him to just walk away. What happens if he kills the one who is ordering him to kill? Like you, I need more explanation.

  12. celawerd says:

    I actually did not read your post because i just started the book myself, but I did skim it and it and I am glad you are enjoying the book. I can’t wait to finish it.

  13. Shelley says:

    I love your point about religious feelings during time of strife. I hadn’t thought about that in terms of the book, but it is so true.
    I’m the baby too, but I’m just so sure that Renarin will come out strong that it will show that younger siblings rock! It is amazing what a force Tien is in the book considering he is dead. It’s great that he is more central to the plot than the assassinated king.
    It is also interesting how our perspective of Szeth changes. I still feel bad for him, but as he gets darker and more bitter (understandably so) my feelings are mixed. I hope he gets to a breaking point and discovers somehow that he does have a choice.

    • TBM says:

      Younger siblings do rock!

      I don’t know if I would have thought of the religious feelings during time of strife if I wasn’t reading American Gospel right now, which is about America, the founding fathers, and religion.

      I hope we get to know Renarin more later in the series. I think he has a lot to offer.

      I still feel for Szeth but I would love to see him make a choice and I hope it is the right choice.

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