The Stormlight Archive
First cover of The Way of Kings, the first book in the series.
|Cover artist||Michael Whelan|
|Publisher||Tor Books (USA)|
|Published||August 31, 2010|
|Media type||print (hardcover & paperback)|
The Stormlight Archive is an ongoing epic fantasy series written by American author Brandon Sanderson. Planned as a ten book series, the first book, The Way of Kings, was published on August 31, 2010 by Tor Books in the United States. The second book was planned to be released approximately two years after the release of the first book due to writing the final book of The Wheel of Time. However, after completing the first draft of A Memory of Light, Sanderson revealed the book would be pushed back to a 2014 release.
Book release history
On June 10, 2010 the prologue and first three chapters of The Way of Kings were released, along with an introduction by Sanderson, as a preview on the Tor website. On July 8, 2010, chapters 4-6 were released in audio format exclusively on the Tor Website. On August 5, 2010, chapters 9 and 11 were released exclusively on the Tor Website. Tor wrote that they did not release chapters 7, 8, and 10 because they wanted to focus on the storyline of Kaladin, one of the main characters. On August 26, 2010, chapters 12 and 13 were released exclusively on the Tor Website. In its first week of release The Way of Kings was #7 on The New York Times Best Seller list. In subsequent weeks the book was #11, #20, and #25.
In October 2010, Brandon Sanderson revealed that his tentative plan was to release the second book in the series in late 2012 or early 2013, followed by the third book about a year later. The second book was initially titled Highprince of War (referring to Highprince Dalinar), but Sanderson decided to focus the second book on Shallan, tentatively titling it The Book of Endless Pages and eventually settling on Words of Radiance with Highprince Dalinar's book planned as the fifth novel.
Books in the series
- The Way of Kings (2010)
- Words of Radiance (forthcoming March 2014)
- Stones Unhallowed (working title book 3)
- no working title announced
- Highprince of War (working title book 5)
Much of the Way of Kings takes place within the nations of Alethkar and Jah Keved. Both of these nations divide their people into classes, primarily based on the color of their eyes. Those with dark eye colors are the peasants (and can even be made slaves). Those with light eye colors are the noble and ruling class. Within these classes there are further class distinctions known as nahn (for darkeyes) and dahn (for lighteyes).
The Knights Radiant
The 10 Heralds founded 10 orders of the Knights Radiant and gave them Shardplate and Shardblades to combat the voidbringers. The 10 orders specialized in different abilities linked to the Herald that founded the order. The Knights Radiant gained their power through spren by creating a bond to them, most likely the mentioned "Nahel bond" that Highprince Dalinar hears during his penultimate vision in the book. The only examples are Sylphrena, who is an Honorspren that shares a bond with Kaladin, giving him the power to Surgebind, and Shallan, who created a bond with the unnamed spren to Soulcast. The Knights Radiant lived by their 5 Ideals, the First Ideal being the same for every order: Life before death, strength before weakness, journey before destination. The other 4 ideals are different for each order. Towards the end of The Way of Kings, Kaladin utters the Second Ideal for the Order of Windrunners: I will protect those who cannot protect themselves.
The Way of Kings features several different fictional races, although they are often portrayed as different (albeit fictional) ethnicities of humans. Some of these races include:
- Thaylens - Renowned traders and merchants native to an island nation. Possessed of very long white eyebrows and white beards on the males.
- Alethi - Native to the nation of Alethkar, the Alethi are members of one of the four Vorin nations. They have a famed military heritage and are possessed of tan skin and dark hair.
- Veden - Native to the Vorin nation of Jah Keved, the Vedens are characterized by pale skin and reddish hair.
- Natanatani - Native to the Vorin nation of Natanatan, the Natanatani often wear gloves and have faintly bluish skin.
- Horneaters - A relatively rare race, Horneater is actually a term used by other races to describe them. They possess reddish hair, dark skin, and stand well over seven feet tall.
- Parshendi - A proud, tribal race native to the Shattered Plains which possess a warrior culture. The Parshendi are viewed by many other races as savages. They have mottled red and black skin that forms patterns unique to each individual, and are at war with the Alethi during the novel's main timeline.
- Shin - A race native to the region of Shinovar, Shin have large eyes, bald heads, and stand shorter than most others, averaging roughly five feet tall.
Much of the world follows the Vorin religion. Vorinism tells of a struggle between forces of the Voidbringers and humanity. The Voidbringers forced humanity out of its afterlife, called the Tranquiline Halls. They believe that when you die you continue in the role you are in, but towards the regaining of the Tranquline Halls. In Alethkar, a man's highest calling is as a warrior in life so they can be a warrior in the afterlife. The religion also tells of the Lost Radiants, an order who once fought against the Voidbringers during the wars against them on Roshar (known as Desolations). The name "Lost Radiants" is the name that Vorinism gave the Knights Radiant after they apparently betrayed humanity at some point in the distant past. The priesthood of the Vorin religion are referred to as Ardents. Those who reject the existence of the Almighty, such as Jasnah Kholin, are referred to as heretics. There are many different devotiaries (sects) of Vorinism, which vary greatly in their interpretation of the beliefs.
Other religions are mentioned in The Way of Kings, especially through discussions amongst members of "Bridge Four" at the Shattered Plains, which contains slaves who are from many nations and cultures.
Shardblades and Shardplate
Shardblades are powerful swords which have the ability to cut through any non-living matter with ease. When used on living creatures they can kill with a single cut, when the blade passes through the spine, or render limbs useless when they cut through them. The only known defenses against a Shardblade are Shardplate, shields called "half-shards", and another Shardblade. Those who own a Shardblade can summon their blade from thin air in ten heartbeats, and can make their blade disappear at will. The blades are rare and highly valued, and there are estimated to be fewer than one hundred known blades in the world.
Shardplate is full plate armor which both protects and strengthens their wearer. The armor provides protection against Surgebinding, as one wearing the armor cannot be "lashed" directly. Repeated strikes at the same spot on the armor by regular weapons or Shardblades can cause the armor to crack and break. The armor can be repaired or "regrown" though it takes long to do.
A full shardbearer, one wielding both Shardblade and Shardplate, is a force capable of turning the tide of battle on their own. Kaladin and Syl express a revulsion to the Shardblades wielded by the Alethi. During Dalinar's visions he sees the Knights Radiant wearing Shardplate and wielding Shardblades but he notes that, the plate when worn by the Radiants glow. and the number Blades and Plate worn by the Radiants is much greater than number left in the world at the main timeline of the "The Way of Kings". There are also references to "Honorblades" and "Dawnshards", though the terms are only applied to the weapons of the Knights Radiant, and only on occasion.
Soulcasting and Shadesmar
Soulcasting is a practice where objects are changed from one form to another. It has been shown to turn rock into smoke, purify the blood from poisons, and create food, and has many other uses. Soulcasting is done by means of a device called a soulcaster that is powered by gems imbued with Stormlight. The type of gem placed inside the soulcaster determines what the caster can transform. With each use there is a chance of the gem cracking and being destroyed, especially when a large amount of matter is changed. The main practitioners of soulcasting are the Ardents of the Vorin religion, however there are a few exceptions. Shallan's father's steward knew how to use a soulcaster, as he used Shallan's father's soulcaster.
Jasnah Kholin and, by the end of The Way of Kings, Shallan are capable of doing magic that has very similar effects as Soulcasting but does not require them to use a soulcaster nor be in physical contact with the object they transform. This book does not go into great detail but the magic involves mentally communicating with an unknown source to enter a place called Shadesmar. Shadesmar is described in detail in the book but mostly consists of a world made from tiny glass beads. Once within Shadesmar the power from a Stormlight infused gem can be used to manipulate objects. It is possible that this is a genetic trait as Shallan's father was capable of soulcasting but did not have a functioning soulcaster and Jasnah's brother is possibly seeing the same Spren that Jasnah and Shallan have seen observing them.
In an interview with Brandon Sanderson, Shadesmar is described as a cognitive realm connecting all the worlds in the cosmere. Sanderson confirms that Hoid is very good at using Shadesmar, that this is how Hoid moves between worlds, and that people on other worlds within the cosmere have ways of accessing Shadesmar different from the characters in this book.
Spren are spirits in the land of Roshar which either cause, or are drawn to, different conditions or emotions. There are thousands of them. One character, Hesina, the mother of Kaladin states, "Spren appear when something changes-when fear appears, or when it begins to rain. They are the heart of change, and therefore the heart of all things." With the exception of Syl, they are never shown to speak or have intelligence. Jasnah Kholin also mentions that the 10 orders of the Knights Radiant drew their power from spren, the only examples are Syl who is an Honor spren shares a bond with Kaladin giving him the power to surgebind and Jasnah also states that soulcasting was associated with two orders of the Knights Radiant, this indicates that Shallan created a bond with the unnamed spren to soulcast. Some spren, such as the fire spren, share characteristics with current observations in quantum mechanics, for example when they are observed they remain stable in the recorded state, but when tested more thoroughly, they change as though by random.
Surgebinding refers to a group of ten magic systems that stem from Honor, one of the three Shards of Adonalsium present on Roshar. Each of Surgebinding's ten systems revolves around 'binding' two natural 'Surges,' for instance gravity and air-pressure, to the Surgebinder's will. Surgebinding is powered by Stormlight, and the ability is granted to humans through bonding with an Honorspren, a type of elemental spirit native to Roshar. Only a handful of Surgebinding's branches are known by name, and only two, Windrunning and Soulcasting, are understood in any measure.
Windrunning is a magical ability where the wielder uses the power of Stormlight to affect gravity and air-pressure. It is described in three methods known as the "Three Lashings". A Basic Lashing changes the direction of gravitational pull for an individual (causing the person to be pulled towards another object or direction instead of towards the center of the planet). A Full Lashing is described as creating an almost unbreakable bond between two objects until the Stormlight dissipates. A Reverse Lashing causes an object to have a much stronger gravitational pull, causing other objects to be pulled towards it.
There are a total of thirty different magic-systems on Roshar, with ten tied to each of the three Shards of Adonalsium present on the planet; the ten branches of Surgebinding to Honor, ten as yet unseen systems associated with Cultivation, and the ten levels of Voidbinding thought to be tied to Odium.
In response to an attack by malevolent entities (known as Voidbringers), the Almighty fashions magical weapons and suits of armor, called Shardblades and Shardplates. The Almighty equips knights, known as Radiants, with these, and, eventually, the Radiants defeat the evil Voidbringers.
Then, for unknown reasons, the Radiants turn against mankind, ignoring their cause and vanishing. They leave their Shardplates and Shardblades for all who want them, thus creating wars and strife. The book begins at a phase where warlords have, for many years, been gathering armies around Shardblade-wielding fighters. These armies fight over possession of the remaining Shardblades in an attempt to acquire a decisive advantage.
Reception and sales
An early review from the website Unshelved gave The Way of Kings a positive review. A review from Elitist Book Reviews pointed out small problems with the book, (black-and-white characters, too much exposition) but gave an overall positive opinion of the book. The website SFReviews.net gave the book a mixed review, praising Sanderson's writing and creativity, but criticizing its extreme length and overall dearth of action.
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