The Stormlight Archive

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The Stormlight Archive
TheWayOfKings.png
First cover of The Way of Kings, the first book in the series.
Author Brandon Sanderson
Cover artist Michael Whelan
Country United States
Language English
Genre Fantasy
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 release of the second book, Words of Radiance, was delayed until March 2014 due to Sanderson's commitment to writing the final book of The Wheel of Time.[1][2]

Book release history[edit]

From June to August 2010, Tor Books published sample chapters from The Way of Kings on its official website, along with an introduction by Sanderson.[3] In its first week of release, The Way of Kings was #7 on The New York Times Best Seller list.[4] In subsequent weeks the book was #11,[5] #20,[6] and #25.[7]

In October 2010, Brandon Sanderson revealed that his tentative plan was to release the second book in the series in 2012, approximately two years after the release of the first book, due to writing the final book of The Wheel of Time, followed by the third book about a year later.[8] However, after completing the first draft of A Memory of Light, Sanderson revealed the book would be pushed back to a 2014 release, almost four years after the first book.[1][2] The second book was initially titled Highprince of War[8] (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.[9]

Books in the series[edit]

# Title Pages Chapters Words Publication date Notes
1 The Way of Kings 1008 75 386,470 August 31, 2010 Focus on Kaladin
2 Words of Radiance 1088 89 417,142 (est.) March 4, 2014 Focus on Shallan
3 Stones Unhallowed Spring 2016 Focus on Szeth; working title[10]
4 Focus on Eshonai; not yet confirmed[10]
5 Highprince of War Focus on Dalinar; working title[10]

Ten books are planned in the series, broken down into two sets of five books each. Sanderson describes the planned story arc of the second set of five book as a "sequel" to the first set, with some appearances of characters from the first set.[11]

Concepts[edit]

Class structure[edit]

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[edit]

The Knights Radiant originated through spren copying the abilities which the heralds obtained through their Honorblades. 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 bond gives the spren sentience, while giving the human surgebinding abilities. Two examples are Sylphrena, an Honorspren, that shares a bond with Kaladin, giving him the power to Surgebind, and Shallan, who created a bond with Pattern, a Liespren (Cryptic) to Soulcast. The Knights Radiant lived by their order's Five Ideals, the First Ideal being the same for every order: Life before death, strength before weakness, journey before destination. The other four 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. Near the end of Words of Radiance, Kaladin whispers the Third Ideal for the Order of Windrunners: I will protect even those I hate, so long as it is right.

Orders of the Knights Radiant[edit]

  • Windrunners - Manipulate the surges of Adhesion (atmospheric pressure) and Gravitation.
  • Skybreakers - Manipulate the surges of Gravitation and Division.
  • Dustbringers/Releasers - Manipulate the surges of Division (Destruction) and Abrasion (Friction).
  • Edgedancers - Manipulate the surges of Abrasion and Progression.
  • Truthwatchers - Manipulate the surges of Progression (regrowth) and Illumination.
  • Lightweavers - Manipulate the surges of Illumination and Transformation.
  • Elsecallers - Manipulate the surges of Transformation and Transportation.
  • Willshapers - Manipulate the surges of Transportation and Cohesion.
  • Stonewards - Manipulate the surges of Cohesion and Tension.
  • Bondsmiths - Manipulate the surges of Tension and Adhesion.

Races[edit]

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.
  • Unkalaki (Horneaters) - A relatively rare race, Horneater is actually a term used by other races as they consider animal horns and claws to be a delicacy. They possess reddish hair and dark skin, and stand well over seven feet tall. The Unkalaki homeland is in the mountains of Jah Keved.
  • Parshendi - A proud, tribal race native to the Shattered Plains which possess a warrior culture. The Parshendi are viewed by many other races as inhuman savages. They have marbled red and black skin that forms patterns unique to each individual, and are at war with the Alethi during the novel's main timeline. They take on many different forms, each with a unique appearance, suited towards specific functions. Examples of these forms include warform, nimbleform, and mateform.
  • Shin - A race native to the region of Shinovar, Shin have large eyes and bald heads, and stand shorter than most others, averaging roughly five feet tall.
  • Azish - Native to the nation of Azir, the Azish have dark skin and hair. Azish storytellers (Worldsingers) travel the world, spreading knowledge of other lands and cultures.

Religion[edit]

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 upon death the soul continues in its past role, but towards the regaining of the Tranquline Halls. In Alethkar, a man's highest calling is as a warrior in life to remain 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). Vorinism gave the Knights Radiant the moniker "Lost Radiants" 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[edit]

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 or maim with a single cut by the blade passing through the living soul. They can also 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.[12] The blades are rare and highly valued, and there are estimated to be fewer than one hundred known blades in the world.[13]

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.[14] 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 a long time.[15]

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. Additionally, the number of Blades and Plate worn by the Radiants is much greater than the 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. An Honorblade is a sword that gives the user Surgebinding abilities. It is used by Szeth and allows him to Windrun. The Shardblades used by the Knights Radiant can be summoned in less than ten heartbeats.[16] They can also change forms. For example, Kaladin changes his Shardblade into a spear when fighting Szeth.

Shardblades are actually dead spren that come alive for a period of time by attuning themselves to their owner's heartbeat.[16] Because of this, Knights Radiant can only use Shardblades that are given to them by their spren.

Soulcasting and Shadesmar[edit]

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 it 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.[17] 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,[18] 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.[19] 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.[20]

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.[21]

Spren[edit]

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."[22] With the exception of Syl, Pattern and Wyndle, 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, an Honorspren, who shares a bond with Kaladin, giving him the power to surgebind; Pattern, who created a bond with Shallan, allowing her to soulcast; and Wyndle, who bonded with the thief Lift, allowing her to surgebind. Dalinar Kholin also binds a spren, the Stormfather, though he does so in an unconventional manner. Jasnah also states that soulcasting was associated with two orders of the Knights Radiant. Some spren, such as flamespren, 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. As revealed in the second book, Spren are "concepts and ideas" given physical form by the human collective subconscious. Among the many forms of Spren, some are intelligent, possess self-awareness, and have even built their own cities. They reside naturally in Shadesmar, and often cross over into the physical realm. This comes at the cost of most of their self-awareness for the higher, more exalted spren, which they can regain by making bonds with humans.

Surgebinding[edit]

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 a Spren, 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[23] 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.[23]

The only individuals in the book seen to use Windrunning are Szeth-son-son-Vallano,[14] Kaladin,[24] and through the visions of Dalinar, members of the Knights Radiant.

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.[23]

World[edit]

The world of The Way of Kings is one periodically assaulted by highstorms, storms characterized by a very violent storm front followed by weaker rains. Flora and fauna have evolved to cope with this condition.[25]

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.[25]

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.[25]

Audiobook[edit]

An audiobook version of The Way of Kings was released in August 2010 and read by narrator team Kate Reading and Michael Kramer.[26] Words of Radiance is also read by Kramer and Reading.[27]

Reception and sales[edit]

The Way of Kings[edit]

In its first week of release The Way of Kings was #7 on The New York Times Best Seller list.[28] In subsequent weeks the book was #11,[5] #20,[6] and #25.[7]

An early review from the website Unshelved gave The Way of Kings a positive review.[29] 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.[30] 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.[31]

SF Reviews pointed out, "The ride is luxurious, the scenery is often breathtaking, but The Way of Kings is truly a long and winding road."[32] KeepingTheDoor.com commented, "The Stormlight Archive is a series that, like Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time, George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire and Robin Hobb's The Realm of the Elderlings epics, every fantasy fan worth their salt must read and be familiar with. This will be one of the giant series that will help shape the entire scene. Take a week off work now and go and buy The Way of Kings. You won't regret it."[33]

Words of Radiance[edit]

In its first week of release, Words of Radiance debuted at #1 on the New York Times Hardcover Fiction Bestseller list.[34] It also reached #1 on the combined print/ebook bestseller list and the Kobo Bestseller list.[34] It was at #3 on the National Indie Bestseller list, and at #6 on the Southern California Independent Bookseller Association bestselling hardcover fiction list.[34] The U.K. publisher of the book, Gollancz, debuted with Words of Radiance at #2 on the Sunday Times of London Bestseller list.

A review written by io9 called the book "an old-school, '90s fantasy-style behemoth",[35] also commenting, "While Sanderson continues to build his characters and reveal who they are (especially in the case of Shallan's past) it still clings to one overarching plot that drives relentlessly to an ending that can only be described as 'epic'."[35]

Another review published by Tor Books commented, "Words of Radiance capitalizes on the groundwork provided by The Way of Kings, building up the world and system while revealing many more potential points of speculation."[7] It also said, "So to you, lucky reader, who have the choice of whether or not to buy the book, I give this advice. The journey will be worth it. Yes, you should buy this book. Yes, this is a series worth following to the end. I'm glad to be taking this journey, and I hope you will as well."[7]

Awards and nominations[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Sanderson, Brandon. "Tweets Dec 19-21 2011". Retrieved Jan 2, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b "Words of Radiance Release Date has Moved". Tor.com. July 30, 2013. 
  3. ^ "Preview THE WAY OF KINGS on Tor.com". Retrieved 2010-06-10. 
  4. ^ "The Way of Kings is a New York Times Bestseller". Retrieved 2010-09-08. 
  5. ^ a b "Best Sellers: Hardcover Fiction." The New York Times, 17 Sept., 2010. 4 Oct., 2010 [1].
  6. ^ a b "Best Sellers: Hardcover Fiction." The New York Times, 24 Sept., 2010. 4 Oct., 2010 [2].
  7. ^ a b c d "Best Sellers: Hardcover Fiction." The New York Times. 1 Oct., 2010. 3 Oct., 2010 [3].
  8. ^ a b "The Brandon Sanderson Interview: A StompingMad YetiHatter Collaboration". The Mad Hatter's Bookshelf and Book Review. 17 September 2010. 
  9. ^ Sanderson, Brandon (February 28, 2013). "The Title for Brandon Sanderson’s Second Stormlight Archive Book Has Been Revealed". Tor.com. 
  10. ^ a b c "Brandon Sanderson Q&A Session". October 2013. Retrieved February 28, 2013. 
  11. ^ http://www.reddit.com/r/Fantasy/comments/1lhf1e/worldcon_flash_ama_brandon_sanderson/cbzhinq?context=3
  12. ^ Sanderson, Brandon (2010). "13". The Way of Kings. Tor. 
  13. ^ Sanderson, Brandon (2010). "52". The Way of Kings. Tor. 
  14. ^ a b Sanderson, Brandon (2010). "Prologue". The Way of Kings. Tor. 
  15. ^ Sanderson, Brandon (2010). "56". The Way of Kings. Tor. 
  16. ^ a b WoK-Chapter 86
  17. ^ Sanderson, Brandon (2010). "5". The Way of Kings. New York: Tor. p. 90. 
  18. ^ Sanderson, Brandon (2010). "29". The Way of Kings. New York: Tor. p. 456. 
  19. ^ Sanderson, Brandon (2010). "36". The Way of Kings. New York: Tor. p. 534. 
  20. ^ Sanderson, Brandon (2010). "70". The Way of Kings. New York: Tor. p. 969. 
  21. ^ "Interview with Brandon Sanderson on Stormblessed.com". Retrieved 2012-04-23. 
  22. ^ Sanderson, Brandon (2010). "37". The Way of Kings. Tor. 
  23. ^ a b c Sanderson, Brandon (2010). "Ars Arcanum". The Way of Kings. Tor. 
  24. ^ Sanderson, Brandon (2010). "67". The Way of Kings. Tor. 
  25. ^ a b c "Re: Post Questions For Brandon Sanderson Here!". Barnes & Noble. Retrieved February 27, 2010. . The book has 75 chapters, along with a prelude, a prologue, an epilogue, and nine interlude chapters.
  26. ^ "The Way of Kings: Book One of The Stormlight Archive [Unabridged] [Audible Audio Edition]". Amazon.com. 
  27. ^ "Words of Radiance (Stormlight Archive) Audiobook CD, Unabridged". Amazon.com. 
  28. ^ "The Way of Kings is a New York Times Bestseller". Retrieved 2010-09-08. 
  29. ^ "Unshelved review of "The Way of Kings"". Retrieved 2010-08-27. 
  30. ^ "Elitist Book Reviews: The Way of Kings". Retrieved 2010-09-10. 
  31. ^ "SF Reviews.net: The Way of Kings / Brandon Sanderson". Retrieved 2010-09-22. 
  32. ^ Wagner, Thomas M. (2010). "The Way of Kings 2010, Brandon Sanderson". Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Reviews. 
  33. ^ "Brandon Sanderson's The Way of Kings review". keepingthedoor.com. 12 September 2010. 
  34. ^ a b c http://www.tor.com/blogs/2014/03/brandon-sandersons-words-of-radiance-debuts-at-number-one-on-the-new-york-times-bestseller-list
  35. ^ a b http://io9.com/words-of-radiance-brings-epic-back-to-epic-fantasy-1541600095
  36. ^ a b "Whitney Awards 2010 Winners". whitneyawards.com. Retrieved April 16, 2013. 
  37. ^ "2010 Goodreads Choice Awards: Favorite Book of 2010". Goodreads. 
  38. ^ "The David Gemmell Legend Award for Fantasy Previous Winners". gemmellaward.com. Retrieved April 16, 2013. 

External links[edit]