|Cover artist||Michael Whelan|
|Series||The Stormlight Archive|
|Publisher||Tor Books (US), Gollancz (UK)|
|August 31, 2010|
|Media type||Print (hardcover and paperback), audiobook, e-book|
|Pages||1007 (first edition, hardcover)|
|LC Class||PS3619.A533 W375 2010|
|Followed by||Words of Radiance|
The Way of Kings is an epic fantasy novel written by American author Brandon Sanderson and the first book in The Stormlight Archive series. The novel was published on August 31, 2010, by Tor Books. The Way of Kings consists of one prelude, one prologue, 75 chapters, an epilogue and nine interludes. It was followed by Words of Radiance in 2014, Oathbringer in 2017 and Rhythm of War in 2020. A leatherbound edition was released in 2021.
Sanderson started working on pieces of The Way of Kings in the late 1990s and finished the first draft in 2003. Its publication was delayed when Sanderson instead decided to focus on his Mistborn trilogy. The original, non-canon version, entitled The Way of Kings Prime, is available on the official website of the author.
On June 10, 2010, the prologue and the first three chapters of the book were released, along with an introduction by Sanderson, as a preview on the Tor website. On July 8, 2010, the next three chapters (4–6) were released in audio format. On August 5, 2010, chapters 9 and 11 were released. 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. 
The story rotates between the points of view of Kaladin, Shallan Davar, Szeth-son-son-Vallano, Dalinar Kholin, Adolin Kholin, and several other minor characters, who lead seemingly unconnected lives.
4500 years ago, a catastrophic war known as the Last Desolation ended when mankind fought victoriously against their enemies known as the Voidbringers. Devastated by the war and mass casualties, The Herald Kalak meets up with his leader Jezrien while learning the other Heralds had renounced their Oathpact and left their Shardblades behind. Jezrien announced to Kalak that they must remain secret for their departure and left his Shardblade behind in despair while Kalak left his sword as well feeling heartbroken about their departure.
Szeth, a Shin man cast out by his people and condemned to obey his constantly changing masters, is sent to assassinate the king of one of the world's most powerful nations, Alethkar. As the story progresses, he continuously changes hands, doing his best to hide the fact that he possesses an Honorblade, a mythical blade used by the Heralds that can cut through any material. He also possesses access to powers that are no longer available to normal humans (“Surgebinding”), once possessed by the Knights Radiant and thought lost, making him incredibly difficult to defeat in battle.
Within the palace of Kholinar, Szeth sneaks into the hallway and uses his Lashing abilities to outmaneuver the King's guards. Within the headquarters, Szeth confronted the King wearing an armored Shardplate after learning that he was pursuing the wrong person. Szeth defeats the King by causing the balcony he is standing on to collapse, mortally wounding him. Szeth reveals to the King that he was sent by the Parshendi to kill him. Before Szeth flees the scene, a dying Gavilar gives the black Spheres to him and informs him to give his last regards to his brother Dalinar Kholin before passing out. When Szeth was sent to kill the Alethi King Gavilar, the Parshendi, a race similar to the docile parshman slaves of other nations, claimed responsibility for the assassination. Gavilar's paranoid son, Elhokar, declares war on the Parshendi for their treason.
- Part One
The story shifts to focus on Kaladin, a darkeyed villager with a burning hatred for lighteyed nobles. Trained in his youth as a surgeon by his father, Kaladin volunteered to go to war for the army of a local lord named Amaram, to watch over and protect his brother, Tien, on the field of battle. In his third battle, Kaladin fails to protect his brother Tien, who is killed. This drives Kaladin to become a better fighter, resolving to protect others from the same fate.
During a later battle, Kaladin succeeds in killing an enemy Shardbearer, and could claim the enemy's Shardblade and Shardplate by right, becoming a lighteyes himself. However, he rejects the Shardblade and Shardplate fearing what he might become, and is then betrayed by Brightlord Amaram, who takes the treasures for himself and brands Kaladin a slave to hide the theft. This event cements Kaladin's hatred against the noble lighteyes and leaves deep emotional scars. After a number of escape attempts, he is later branded as a deserter and is forced into service as a bridgeman in an army battling the Parshendi on the Shattered Plains. Along the journey of enslavement, he met and befriends an amnesiac Spren named Sylphrena, who serves as Kaladin's emotional support. Having felt depressed about his failures, Kaladin decided to cast himself to the Honor Chasm to end his life until Syl returns and convinces him to continue his efforts on protecting the Bridgemen.
Shallan, a minor lighteyed woman whose family and lands are in danger, hatches a daring plot to switch a broken Soulcaster (a device that allows people to change objects to other things) with a working one belonging to Jasnah Kholin, sister of the Alethi king. Shallan travels to the coastal city of Karbranth where Jasnah seeks her research following King Gavilar's death. While meeting up with Karbranth's reagent name Taravangian, She petitions Jasnah to become her ward, and through persistent effort, she manages to gain Jasnah's confidence and becomes her apprentice.
- Part Two
The story shifts to the viewpoint of Highprince Dalinar Kholin, the brother of the murdered king. Having felt ashamed of his brother's death, Dalinar serves his duty as the King's bodyguard with Torol Sadeas taking his part as the king's advisor. With his sons, Adolin and Renarin joining him, Dalinar enlists King Elhokar to kill a Chasmfiend in order to harvest the gemheart and regain his nephew's honor as king. However, the Chasmfiend ambushed them by surprise. As Elhokar provides a diversion, Dalinar and Adolin quickly wound the beast, however, Elhokar's saddle is suddenly cut causing him to fall to the ground before getting crushed. Dalinar quickly holds the beast's foot and Adolin cuts the support leg causing the Chasmfiend to collapse with Elhokar taking the final blow and winning the Gemheart with glory.
After the hunt, Dalinar speaks with Adolin about his time with Galivilar long before his death. Before he died, his brother directed Dalinar to an ancient tome called "The Way of Kings", which leads Dalinar to start questioning the warlike and competitive Alethkar way of life. He also begins to experience visions in which he sees the ancient Knights Radiant and receives a cryptic word to unite his allies. For Dalinar, these visions cast doubt on the mistaken history of the Radiants and begin to reveal the truth about the Voidbringers and the current state of the world. All of these events make Dalinar reluctant to fight in battle. Dalinar's conviction is questioned by those closest to him, casting heavy doubt on his sanity and bringing into question his claim to leadership. In the political unrest of the age, perceived weakness is caused by others attempting to eliminate him. Having no other options to uncover his visions, Dalinar plans to abdicate his war position to Adolin.
Kaladin tries his efforts to recruit the Bridgemen but they refused, due to their submission to their life of slavery. Despite this, Kaladin was able to threaten the bridge Sergeant Gaz for payment for medical and food supplies for injured men. Following the upcoming bridge run, Kaladin has gained mutual respect with Unkalaki, Rock, from his death by switching his position and Teft for his loyalty. Gaz orders the entire bridgemen to chasm duty where they might recover remnants of scraps of armor, spheres, and weapons while evading mazed caverns and predatory chasmfiends. During their collection, Kaladin stumbles upon a spear and reluctantly performs a Kata technique which surprises the entire bridge crew, including Teft and Rock. As the bridge crew finishes their chasm duty, Kaladin and Rock decide to provide a stew for the night which both the bridgemen and the guards join in and gained respect. The following day, most of the bridge crews join Kaladin and accept him as their leader.
Following his killing spree, Szeth follows his former master's instruction until he encounters a dark figure who manages to kill his former master and reclaim his Oathstone from him. As the figure departs, he gives Szeth the list of high-ranking noblemen to assassinate.
- Part Three
Kaladin manages to rally the other men in his group and turns them into a team that can survive. After he accidentally ruins a battle by changing tactics, he is beaten violently and left outside during a high storm to die under Sadeas' orders. However, he manages to survive thanks to the sphere Teft gave him for good luck. With Kaladin unconscious, Teft witnesses Kaladin healing himself from the sphere. As Kaladin awakens from his slumber, the Bridge crew continues to follow Kaladin's instructions and gains Kaladin's mutual respect as their leader. Kaladin learned from Sigzil that Sadeas'has planned to strategically use Bridgemen as bait for the opposing armies' archers, allowed to die so that the trained army can attack more easily. This drove Kaladin to lose hope due to the replacement of Bridge's leader. With Syl's and Teft's encouragement, Kaladin decides to train and support the bridge crew in self-defense.
Living as a ward, Shallan grew comfortable while focusing on her mission and aiding Jasnah with her studies. During her break time, she met a friendly ardent named Kabsal who secretly oppose Jasnah's research on the Voidbringers which the Ardents refuse to speak about. However, Shallan began to grow paranoid whenever she sketches her drawings, strange creatures appear unexpected. At that time, Shallan grew doubtful towards Jasnah when she mercilessly kill the four thugs with her soul casting. Furiously and shocked by her actions, Shallan took Jasnah's Soulcaster and hide it. After successfully stealing the Soulcaster, she is frustrated by her inability to use it until one fateful day, when she accidentally turns a goblet into blood. Knowing Jasnah will soon arrive on the scene, Shallan breaks a pitcher and cuts herself to make it seem as though the blood was hers, which Jasnah mistakes for a suicide attempt. Shallan plans to leave soon until Kabsal suddenly collapse and Shallan felt overwhelm by which Jasnah quickly heals her. Despite her success in saving Shallan, Jasnah reveals to Shallan that Kabsal plans to poison her in an attempt to use Shallan as an opportunity to contact her. Unbeknownst to this betrayal, Shallan confesses that she plans to take Jasnah's Soulcaster to support her family's debt. Jasnah expresses her disappointment for Shallan's deception leaving Shallan in tears.
Szeth arrives at the banquet hall of Jah Keved and assassinates the king after he successfully fights off against the Shardbearers and the guards.
- Part Four
As a result of his unlikely survival from the Highstorm, he begins to discover that he possesses the Surgebinding ability that granted him enhanced strength, speed, and healing every time he uses spheres. Kaladin runs off in shock until he wanders towards the canyons where he meets the King's Wit, who renamed himself as Hoid. Hoid began to narrate the story of Derethil and the Wandersail, by which Kaladin concludes that the moral of the story is taking responsibility. Hoid then gave Kaladin his flute and inform him to take care of his pupil before running off into the darkness. As he comes to the realization from Hoid's story and his irresponsible act, he comes to terms with his powers and does whatever he can save Bridge Four. Kaladin returns to the group and asks Teft about his expert on Radiants.
Dalinar and Adolin argue about their decision on focusing on both the battle, the vision, and the stability of Alethkar while Renarin suggested their research of learning Dalinar's visions and the history behind Radiant's betrayal. Having been troubled by his stability, Dalinar pushes Navani away out of shame. During the gala, Wit plans to depart in secret and spoke privately to Dalinar that Sadeas is announcing his last step of investigation. Dalinar and Adolin prepared for Sadea's false accusation only to discover that Dalinar is innocent and exonerated from his involvement. Having felt grateful for his innocent, Dalinar discusses with Sadeas their plans to unite the Highprinces by setting up a trap for the Parshendi at the tower to which Sadeas agrees. During the arena where Adolin duels, Dalinar discusses the king for his plans to withdraw his Vengeance pact and focus more on stabilizing the Alethkar society. Navani, having been fed up with being alone, confesses to Dalinar about her feeling towards him causing Dalinar to comfort her with a kiss and develop their relationship.
During the Battle of the Tower, Dalinar and his troops suddenly overpowers the first wave of Parshendi hordes only to discover that they were ambushed and outnumbered by the second wave. However, Sadeas betrays Dalinar and left him stranded on the plateau. During the struggle, Dalinar got separated from his troops and encounters the Parshendi Shardbearer; the two leaders duel right until the Parshendi Shardbearer overpowers Dalinar. Adolin spotted the Bridgemen in the distance and sends the troops to evacuate only to find out his father is stranded.
As Sadeas and his armies return to their post, Kaladin and his crews remain behind until he realizes that they are free. However, Dalinar and his forces were stranded fighting valiantly against the hordes causing Syl restores her memories and reveals herself as an Honorspren. Syl pleads with a reluctant Kaladin to save Dalinar and his armies. After realizing the Radiants' first ideal and Lirin's word, Kaladin, and Bridge crews went back to save Dalinar's forces. As Kaladin tries to divert the Parsendi's archers, Kaladin lures the entire arrows to himself causing him to collapse, much to everyone's shock. As Kaladin's bridgecrews continue their rescue mission, Kaladin lies unconscious and suddenly remembers the loss of his brother Tien during the war. As Kaladin awakens, he charges towards the Parshendi armies where he summons his Surgebinding abilities and spoke the Radiants' second ideal for the first time. With the power of Surgebinding and Bridge crews' aid, Kaladin quickly outflanks the rest of the Parshendi troops allowing the Kholin's army to retreat, only to find out that the Kholin's army is weakened. Kaladin instructs Adolin to evacuate the army, continue outmaneuvering the hordes, and rescue Dalinar from the Parshendi Shardbearer. When the battle is over, Dalinar and the Shardbearer raise their blades for the salute.
Dalinar thanked Kaladin for his rescue and offers protection in return. Navani arrives and confronts Sadeas after learning about Dalinar's fate and praying for his life, only to find out that Dalinar and Adolin are alive. Dalinar arrives at Sadeas' war camp for confrontation. Sadeas privately confesses to Dalinar that he chooses to betray Dalinar because of Dalinar's comparison with Gavilar and rumors about Dalinar's insanity began to grow tensional by which he wants Dalinar eliminated. Sadeas also reveals that he had kept his oath on protecting the King and evade Elokhar's knowledge about the suspect he already identified. After realizing Sadeas' treachery and Elhokar's distrust, Dalinar traded his Shardblade Oathbringer in exchange for all the Bridgeman Sadeas enslaved them and never set foot on his war camps ever again through which Sadeas reluctantly agreed. Having fed up with his nephew's cowardice, Dalinar confronted Elhokar and disarm his shard plate by pummeling him while scolding his nephew for his act of self-harm and false accusation. Having grown distrust of Highlords, Dalinar declares himself as the Highprince of War and enforces the Codes to unite the army despite their disapproval.
- Part Five
Shallan soon discovers that Jasnah's Soulcaster does not possess the ability to transmute, but instead hides her uncommon inherent ability to Soulcast. When Jasnah learns that Shallan also has the inherent ability to Soulcast, she forgives her and begins instructing her in the proper use of their shared power. She also reveals her research into the secrets of the Knights Radiants' desertion and the enslavements of the Parshendi who are revealed as the Voidbringers. Jasnah prepares Shallan and herself to travel to the Shattered Plains to meet with Jasnah's uncle Dalinar. However, Jasnah explains to Shallan that the secret organization known as the Ghostbloods is planning to thwart her research and reveal Kabsal's membership. Shallan recognizes the symbol and suspects her father is a member of the Ghostbloods.
Kaladin meets up with Dalinar for a discussion. Dalinar entrusts Kaladin and his bridge crew to serve him as his family's bodyguard for their safety and his plans to unite the Highprince. Kaladin agreed to his offer to ensure he only contacts Dalinar and his royal family. Dalinar appointed him as captain of the guard and the Kholin's army and gave him the gift of gratitude. Kaladin felt relief for his goals and promise of Bridge Four training while learning more about the surge binding abilities.
Szeth arrived at Kharbranth, posing as the porter, where he learned that the Taravangian, his target, revealed himself as the figure who instructed Szeth to kill the Highprinces, including the king of Jah Keved. To lure Szeth into his domains, Taravangian deliberately added his name to the list to avoid Szeth's capture and ordered Szeth to finish the job so that he wanted to stabilize Roshar for the upcoming years. He escorted Szeth to the secret hospital where he and his followers conducted a brutal experiment on people dying from blood loss. Much to Szeth's horror of the king's action, Taravangian explains to Szeth that he was recording people dying words while experimenting with them and deducing that their words are the key to people's salvation. He instructs Szeth to kill Dalinar Kholin who is planning to unite Highprinces.
Dalinar receives a vision and encounters a stranger who reveals himself as the Almighty of Roshar. He announced to Dalinar the preparation of the Everstorm and confesses that he was killed by a powerful being Odium, who is capable of destroying the world.
Meanwhile, Hoid made some conversation with guardsmen in Kholinar about his discussion of talents. Upon this point, He and the guards met an unexpected arrival of the former Herald, Talenel’Elin or Talenel, who forbears a prophecy of an Everstorm before collapsing on the ground along with his Honorblade. Curiously surprised, Hoid confirmed that he is too late for his arrival.
The backstory of the novel revolves around recurring disasters known as Desolations, where monstrous Voidbringers ravage the world and human survival hangs in the balance. To counter the threat, the Knights Radiant (so named for their glowing aura and eyes) possess magical armor and swords known as Shardplate and Shardblades as well as magical powers. The last Desolation was believed to be the final one, and has become a time of myths and legends, in particular as the Knights Radiant left behind their weapons and armor and disappeared into obscurity. Their discarded armor and swords remain as some of the most priceless heirlooms.
The magic of the world is based on gemstones that glow with light for many weeks after recurring, powerful storms known as highstorms. These commonplace gemstones are also used as mundane currency in merchant transactions, as well as interior lighting at night in wealthy houses and palaces. Drawing in this "stormlight" energy is what fuels the magical talismans of priest-wizards (the gem encrusted gloves called Soulcasters) that convert matter into another form, such as stone into grain, or people into stone, and powered gemstone constructs known as fabrials, such as a fabrial that creates red light and heat to replace wood in a fireplace. Soulcasting and fabrials are typically only owned by the nobility. In Alethkar, nobility is also based on eye color, blue eyes being seen as the purest royalty due to the association with the legendary Knights Radiant, who had glowing eyes.
The world itself has flora and fauna which have adapted to the common, and extremely powerful highstorms. Most animal life is based on crustaceans, most of which can burrow into the ground to survive a highstorm. Plant life is also mobile, in that it retracts into the ground to survive highstorms. Because all highstorms come from the eastern ocean and travel west, the western side of rocks and mountains harbor plant and animal life. Also, spirits called spren exist and react to the emotions of people and the environment. High wind will have windspren in the form of ribbons of light that flow with it. Suffering from pain will cause red painspren to appear around the wound, and giving a noble, heartfelt speech will have gloryspren of golden, twinkling lights form a halo around the head of the speaker. Spren are so common that many people take them for granted.
The primary chapters within the book are told from the viewpoint of several major characters, while the book's interludes are told from the viewpoint of other characters (not all of which repeat).
- Szeth-son-son-Vallano: An assassin from the land of Shinovar. He refers to himself as a "Truthless", who must serve those who bear his Oathstone. Bearer of an Honorblade and wielder of Stormlight. His Windrunner abilities are granted by his Honorblade. He hates being forced to murder and weeps as he does.
- Kaladin: A darkeyes from the nation of Alethkar, who is forced to serve on a bridge crew in the army of Highprince Torol Sadeas. Formerly an apprentice learning surgery from his father and a member of the army of Brightlord Amaram, he hates lighteyes because of Amaram. Amaram betrayed Kaladin, by first causing the death of his brother, Tien, and after Kaladin saves him from a man in Shardplate, forcibly takes the Shards for himself, killing all of Kaladin's close friends in the process. Kaladin is able to use Stormlight to heal himself and make himself stronger and faster than any normal human being. He is accompanied by an Honorspren named Sylphrena, or Syl for short. She came to him because of his innate honor and kindness in the face of the evil and betrayal that seem to surround him. Kaladin's connection with Syl is what gives him his power with Stormlight; it also gives Syl the level of sentience she possesses.
- Shallan Davar: A minor lighteyes from the nation of Jah Keved. Her family has fallen on hard times after the death of her father. She seeks to be accepted as the ward and student of the renowned scholar Jasnah Kholin, sister to King Elhokar of Alethkar. A skilled artist who can with a single glance remember and recreate a scene with charcoal and paper, she learns that she is able to Soulcast without a Soulcaster, just like Jasnah. Though the beginning of the book has her plotting to steal Jasnah's Soulcaster to save her family, she has become Jasnah's true apprentice by the end of the book.
- Dalinar Kholin: A highprince of Alethkar, brother to the slain King Gavilar, uncle to the current king. Nicknamed the Blackthorn. A general who helped unite the kingdom with his brother. A man who experiences visions during the highstorms, and a Full Shardbearer, he is criticized as weak after he begins to follow the Codes and talks about stopping the pointless war Alethkar is engaged in.
- Adolin Kholin: A lighteyes of Alethkar and heir to his father Dalinar's highprince seat. A skilled duelist and a Full Shardbearer, he loves and respects his father despite fearing that he has gone mad.
- Navani Kholin: Widow of King Gavilar, mother of King Elhokar and Jasnah. A skilled artifabrian (one who creates devices known as fabrials). She has always loved Dalinar, even when she was married to his brother, Gavilar. She attempts to rekindle a relationship with Dalinar but is initially rebuffed; eventually, she convinces Dalinar to embrace his feelings at the end of the book.
- Jasnah Kholin: the sister to the king of Alethkar and the greatest scholar in Roshar. Mostly viewed as a heretic by the ardent, she is capable of Soulcasting without a Soulcaster.
- Taravangian: the king of Kharbranth. He employed Szeth to kill a great number of leaders around the world, following the Diagram, a master plan to prepare the world for the Last Desolation, made by himself.
Prologue, epilogue and Interludes
- Kalak is one of ten Heralds of the Almighty. His viewpoint chapter is the prelude which takes place 4,500 years before the events of the first chapter.
- Axies the Collector is a Siah Aimian engaged in a quest to catalog all the different varieties of spren on Roshar. He is virtually immortal due to an interaction with magic.
- Baxil is a thief of Emuli nationality, the cousin of Av. He and a beautiful lighteyes woman break into places to destroy artwork.
- Geranid is a scientist and philosopher. She lives with Ashir on a small Reshi island, where she spends her time studying spren.
- Ishikk is a fisherman from the Purelake. He is approached by three strangers, who he calls Grump, Thinker and Blunt. They are using him as an agent to find a man named Hoid.
- Nan Balat is one of Shallan's brothers, a lighteyed Veden. After Nan Helaran, Balat's eldest brother, was proclaimed dead by their father, Balat gained the title 'Nan', making him first in line.
- Rysn is a young woman from Thaylenah, an apprentice merchant. She travels with Vstim to Shinovar.
- Wit, also known as Hoid, the Drifter, and Cephandrius, is the court jester of king Elhokar Kholin at the Shattered Plains. Wit's role as court jester simply allows him to insult everyone he meets, often by just deliberately discussing that person's worst character flaws openly. Wit is also secretly more than he seems, often possessing an omniscient knowledge of things he shouldn't, and the ability to know where to travel to meet important people and offer obscure but useful advice and information to those he briefly meets. Hoid is in all major books in the Cosmere, a universe where most works by Sanderson are set.
Critical response and sales
The Way of Kings received critical acclaim and received praise for its extensive world-building. An early review from the website Unshelved gave the book a positive review. A review from Elitist Book Reviews pointed out some 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.
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." 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."
Awards and nominations
|2010||Whitney Awards||Best Novel of the Year||Won|||
|Best Speculative Fiction||Won|||
|Goodreads Choice Awards||Best Fantasy Novel||Nominated|||
|2011||David Gemmell Legend Award||Best Novel||Won|||
An audiobook version was released in August 2010 by Macmillan Audio read by narrator team Kate Reading and Michael Kramer who have also read several other books written by Sanderson, including The Wheel of Time series. A 5-part GraphicAudio version of The Way of Kings was released from March to July 2016.
In October 2016, the rights to the entire Cosmere universe were licensed by DMG Entertainment. DMG is fast-tracking an adaptation of The Way of Kings. Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan were hired as screenwriters. DMG founder Dan Mintz will produce the film, with Sanderson and Joshua Bilmes serving as executive producers.
A VR game, "The Way of Kings: Escape the Shattered Plains", developed by Arcturus VR, was released on March 2, 2018.
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