Sunday, September 04, 2011

Group Read - A Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson - Part 4 & 5

Brandon Sanderson, widely acclaimed for his work completing Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time saga, begins a grand cycle of his own, with The Way of Kings, Book One of the Stormlight Archive.

Roshar is a world of stone and storms. Uncanny tempests of incredible power sweep across the rocky terrain so frequently that they have shaped ecology and civilization alike. Animals hide in shells, trees pull in branches, and grass retracts into the soilless ground. Cities are built only where the topography offers shelter.

It has been centuries since the fall of the ten consecrated orders known as the Knights Radiant, but their Shardblades and Shardplate remain: mystical swords and suits of armor that transform ordinary men into near-invincible warriors. Men trade kingdoms for Shardblades. Wars were fought for them, and won by them.

One such war rages on a ruined landscape called the Shattered Plains. There, Kaladin, who traded his medical apprenticeship for a spear to protect his little brother, has been reduced to slavery. In a war that makes no sense, where ten armies fight separately against a single foe, he struggles to save his men and to fathom the leaders who consider them expendable.

Brightlord Dalinar Kholin commands one of those other armies. Like his brother, the late king, he is fascinated by an ancient text called The Way of Kings. Troubled by over-powering visions of ancient times and the Knights Radiant, he has begun to doubt his own sanity.

Across the ocean, an untried young woman named Shallan seeks to train under an eminent scholar and notorious heretic, Dalinar’s niece, Jasnah. Though she genuinely loves learning, Shallan’s motives are less than pure. As she plans a daring theft, her research for Jasnah hints at secrets of the Knights Radiant and the true cause of the war.

The result of over ten years of planning, writing, and world-building, The Way of Kings is but the opening movement of the Stormlight Archive, a bold masterpiece in the making.

Speak again the ancient oaths,

Life before death.
Strength before weakness.
Journey before Destination.

and return to men the Shards they once bore.

The Knights Radiant must stand again.
I am a bit behind in answering the questions for the read-along. It's my fault. I am really bad with weekly posts. I also asked questions last week without even having finished the section they were about. I figured I had read enough of the book to come up with them, but I wasn't so sure about answering them. Now that I am entirely finished the book I can catch-up.

Part 4: The Questions I Asked

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 wasn't sure what to make of all the religious ideas in this book. In the beginning I was worried they would be too much of a focus and I wasn't sure if that was what I was looking for in a fantasy book. I have to be in the right mood to explore religious ideas and you wouldn't really be able to say the religious ideas in this book were not mirrored off our own world views. The religious ideas were a bit tweaked, but in many ways this book was exploring the people that make up our own world. I think that religion, especially at this part of the book, is largely unexplored. I expect a lot more will be said about it as the series progresses.

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?
One of my favourite characters in this book was Shallan. We had an insider look at why she did the things that she did, so even when they didn't go quite to plan; we understood where she was coming from. Here was this innocent girl, we think, who has gone out into the world to save herself and her brothers. I am looking forward to that playing out more as the series continues.

Kaladin was also a relationship that stuck in my mind. We get brief glimpses of Shallan's childhood, but with Kaladin we go back and replay the events as they happen. He joins a dangerous war to protect his brother. We are told over and over again throughout the course of the book that he failed, but it takes a while before we find out exactly what happened. All I know is that I felt terrible for Kaladin. He had his whole life ahead of him and one good deed starts a chain reaction that brings everything tumbling down around him.

As to some of the other relationships, I look forward to seeing Renarin explored a bit more. Right now he is sort of in the background when things happen. I am also curious to see what Adolin accomplishes. He is an impressive character so far. Jasnah and her brother, the king, are shown a lot separately, but they are not explored together much. Hopefully they will be back in the same place and we can see them together a bit. Then, there is Dalinar. His brother is dead, but he is having lasting effects on Dalinar's decisions and plans for the future. I look forward to seeing how things play out.

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 really enjoyed reading about Kaladin, so I am glad he played an important role throughout the book. There was a lot going on with him, so it was important to have so much time with him. He was just the son of a doctor who found his life getting very complicated. We got to go back and view his childhood and then watch him grow into the man he is by the end of the book. I think of all the characters in the book he is the most like the reader, so he is the easiest to relate to. He has a bit of an impressive power, but ultimately he is just a regular guy who has done impressive things and had a bit of bad luck along the way.

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?
I really enjoyed Syl. We learn a lot about her in the course of the book. We actually watch her grow and become someone. Every scene that she is in something else amazing has happened to her. Suey compared her to Tinkerbell and I have to admit a long the way I thought of her like that, too.

5. And, the big question, what do you think is going to happen in the last section? Any predictions?
I can't really answer this because I am behind and I actually know what happens, so... Next section!

Part 5: Suey's Questions

1. It seems like every main character had a little wrap up chapter in this section, with each section ending on a bit of a cliff hanger. What do you think? Do you appreciate these cliff hangers or do they make you crazy? Did you predict some of them, or have no idea they were coming? Did one of them stand out as most surprising?
Well, cliff hangers do always drive me crazy, but then I say that and half the time I don't read the sequel right away. If it bothered me as much as I say it does I would be a bit more timely! I was happy for the most part where things went and I am looking forward to seeing how they play out in the next book. I would have read it without the cliff hangers, though. There were a few surprises. I was surprised by who killed Shallan's father. I think that was my biggest surprise. Not to say it didn't make sense to me when I read it. I was more annoyed that there wasn't more elaboration. That's a big thing to reveal and then move on from. It is the centre to everything that Shallan has been doing the entire course of the book.

2. Did the book leave you with an overall satisfied feeling, or are you left with too many unanswered questions? If so, what are some of the questions bothering you the most?
I think the book wrapped up just enough for me. It leaves just enough things circulating in my mind to make me excited for the next book and everything playing out. I think the biggest thing I am wondering about is what I said above.


3. What did you think of the book ending with a Wit chapter? Did you understand what he was trying to say? What does this chapter mean in relation to the rest of the series?
I enjoyed the way the book ended. It was just the author saying there is more to come in the next book, so be prepared. I also like Wit as a character, so I look forward to more from him. In many ways he makes me think of the Fool from Robin Hobb's books and I always enjoyed him, too.

4. If someone asked you what this book is about... how would you answer them? In just two or three sentences!
um.... Evil question! I have a hard enough telling people what books are about in unlimited words.

This book is about a huge cast of characters who are all finding that they are things that even they didn't know about themselves and are coming into their own. The book looks at each of their stories, but also addresses the larger issues of the world around them. It has pretty much any element you could hope to find in a book, but it does it in such a way that you don't feel overloaded.

5. And finally (even though I suspect I know everyone’s answer) will you be reading the rest of this series? Will you be there the day it comes out? Or just whenever? Will you be recommending this to others?
Yes, I will be reading the rest of the series. Maybe not when it comes out, but soon afterwards. And, yes, I strongly recommend this book to others. It will be on my Best of List for the end of the year.

Previous Weeks:

8 comments:

  1. It will be on my Top Ten list of the year too!

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  2. I was quite please with the way the book ended. Some questions answered, some left open. And some surprises!

    The Shallan confession about her dad was a huge surprise to me.

    I will recommend this book to many people and I'll be on board for the next installment.

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  3. **Suey: It was so great!

    **TBM: I look forward to the next book!

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  4. Shallan's confession wasn't a big surprise to me as I suspected that all along. We knew she had some bad secret and she intimated that her father was a bad sort and I kept expecting that to be revealed. Actually I thought the timing was good to. Sanderson has said that the next book will see Shallan as the main thread, like Kaladin was with this one. That being the case I'm wondering if we'll get Kaladin-like flashbacks to Shallan's life that eventually reveal to us just why she did what she did.

    I also read that Sanderson said each book will have a different character with that main focus and that we will get another Kaladin book at some point.

    I like that idea, of having one character who gets examined a little more closely with each volume.

    I'm not big on cliff hangers either and I am the same as you. The book has to be very special for me to run out and read it right away, and even some of my absolute favorites get put on the shelf until I feel more in the mood to read it.

    I want it to work out for us all to group read the second one when it comes out. Hopefully it will be in the spring of 2013, not the fall, so that we could read it for Once Upon a Time (presuming I'm still hosting that).

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  5. **Carl: I guess with Shallan I was constantly thinking about how she kept saying she was his favourite. It never occurred to me that meant she had killed him, but in retrospect it makes a lot of sense. When I got to think it made her sound guilty, so I missed that beforehand.

    I know! I will probably buy a copy when it comes out, but that doesn't always mean I will read it right away. It's hard to say what will be happening in my life that far into the future for that matter.

    Like I said on your own blog, I am looking forward to Shallan being the central character for this next book.

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  6. I'm curious too how the revelation about Shallan fits in with the dynamic we've seen with her brothers. Do they know?

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  7. I can't wait to find out the backstory on Shallan, and would love to find out much more about Renarin. I hope he gets more attention in the next one.
    I was also completely surprised about Shallan and her dad. I definitely want to know more about that.

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  8. **bookswithoutanypictures: Exactly. I want to say no, but you never really know for sure... She might have had a very good reason that they support. Or, she may think she killed him and that isn't the case at all. Lots of unanswered questions there, really.

    **Shelley: I hope to see more from Renarin, too. He received his fathers' shardplate, so hopefully he will have more of a role. I assume that either his father or one of the brothers will be a central character for one of the books. There are a lot of unanswered questions about them, too.

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