|The Way of Kings |
The Stormlight Archive
Cover art by Michael Whelan
|Publication date||August 2010|
|Followed By||Words of Radiance, Edgedancer, Oathbringer|
There are headings and intros to most of the chapters here.
The major viewpoint of this novel is that of Kaladin.
The book begins with a victory. We look at the life of the Heralds, the leaders of the Knights Radiant. For thousands of years, the Heralds have waged war against a race of monsters, called Voidbringers, in order to protect humanity. The Voidbringers always appear in a regular cycle, called Desolations, during which the Heralds battle against them.
This plight is told from the viewpoint of a male Herald. He reveals that all the Heralds are cursed to ultimately perish in battle driving back the monsters. After dying, they are sent to a place of fire and brimstone where they suffer greatly, only to eventually be reborn and start the cycle of war and death again. After countless rebirths, and weary of the tortuous cycle, the Heralds abandon and condemn one of their own to remain eternally in that place of fire, cast down their Honorblades (swords similar to but more powerful than Shardblades), and abandon their calling, disappearing into history. Leaderless, the Knights Radiant seemingly gradually die off or are consumed by corruption until the order ceases to exist. The only remnants of their order are their Shardblades and Shardplate.
Thousands of years later, the story switches from the Heralds' point of view to that of Kaladin, Shallan, Dalinar Kholin, Szeth, and many others, who lead seemingly unconnected lives. Szeth, a "Truthless" (a Shin man cast out by his people and condemned to do the bidding of whoever holds his Oathstone, except the taking of his own life or giving up his Blade), is sent to murder Gavilar Kholin, King of one of Roshar's most powerful nations, Alethkar, whose people are called Alethi.
A peace-loving believer in non-violence, Szeth cries as he's forced to do the bidding of his unknown master. As the story progresses, he continuously changes hands, doing his best to hide the fact that he possesses a Shardblade, a magical blade given to the Knights Radiant that can cut through any material and end lives with a single cut. He also possesses an ability called Surgebinding (the ability to control gravity and to bind things together for a certain amount of time), once possessed by the Knights Radiant and thought lost, making him incredibly difficult to defeat in battle.
When Szeth was sent to kill the Alethi King, the Parshendi, a race similar to the docile servants of other nations, Parshmen, take credit for the murder. Alethkar then initiates the War of Reckoning with the then-before-unheard-of Parshendi for vengeance. Most eastern nations on Roshar seek and relish war, and have developed a religion around it known as Vorinism. The religion also worships the Heralds as angels and a being called the Almighty as their god. The story then shifts to the stories of Highprince Dalinar Kholin, the brother of the King who was murdered. Before he died, his murderer scrawled a message onto the ground in Gavilar's blood, directing Dalinar to an ancient tome called The Way of Kings. His studies of the book lead Dalinar to start questioning the Alethi way of life. He also begins to experience visions in which he both sees and interacts with the ancient Knights Radiant. These visions not only cast doubt on the mistaken history of the Radiants, they also begin to reveal the truth about the Voidbringers and the current state of the world. All of these events make Dalinar reluctant to do battle, causing other powerful Highprinces to try and eliminate him. He must also contend with his nephew, the son of his dead brother and the new King, who, as time passes, becomes increasingly paranoid. The story is also told from the perspective of his son, Adolin Kholin, as the young man - who possesses a Shardblade like his father - struggles to understand his father's change of heart and his fear that the man he's always respected has gone mad.
Meanwhile, Kaladin, a darkeyed peasant with a burning hatred for lighteyes, is close to despair. Trained in his youth as a surgeon by his father, Kaladin volunteered to go to war for the army of a local lord. He did this to protect his younger brother, who was drafted against his will into the same army. In his third battle, Kaladin fails in protecting his brother, who is killed. This causes Kaladin to reenlist to become a better fighter, hoping to be able to protect others. During a later battle, Kaladin succeeds in killing an enemy Shardbearer, and by right he could claim the enemy's Blade and Plate, thereby becoming a lighteyes himself. However, he rejects both Blade and Plate and is then betrayed by Brightlord Amaram, who takes the artifacts for himself and has Kaladin branded into slavery to hide the theft. This event not only cements Kaladin's hatred for all lighteyes, it also leaves deep emotional scars. Now a slave, he is forced into service as a bridgeman in one of the ten armies battling on the Shattered Plains. Bridgemen struggle to lay large mobile bridges for their cavalry to cross large fissures on the Plains, and are living targets for the opposing Parshendi archers. Beaten down and hopeless, Kaladin manages to rally the other men in his group and turn them into a team that can survive. As time passes, the men start to become more like a family, giving Kaladin a will to live.
However, after he accidentally ruins a raid by teaching his men to use the bridge as a shield, he is beaten half to death and left outside during a highstorm (a death sentence). However, he manages to survive by unconsciously draining Stormlight from the spheres he is holding, which glow with Stormlight. As a result, he discovers that he possesses an ability, though he doesn't know its name or capabilities. As he struggles to find a way for his men to escape their lives as bridgemen, he comes to terms with his powers and begins to learn how to use them.
On the other side of the ocean, Shallan, a minor lighteyes whose family and lands are in danger, hatches a daring plot to switch a broken Soulcaster (a device that allows people to transform objects into other things, such as water to food) with a working one belonging to Jasnah Kholin, a notorious heretic according to those devotees of the Vorin religion. Shallan petitions Jasnah to become her ward, but is initially rejected. Through persistent effort, however, she manages to gain Jasnah's confidence and becomes her ward. However, as she gets to know the woman behind the stern facade, Shallan starts to struggle between what she believes she must do and her growing love for her new life. The situation is further complicated by her inability to use the Soulcaster until one fateful day, when she accidentally turns a goblet into blood. Jasnah comes in at that exact moment, and Shallan breaks a pitcher and cuts herself to make it seem as though the blood was hers, inadvertently making it seem as if she had tried to commit suicide. Shallan soon discovers that Jasnah's Soulcaster does not possess the ability to transmute, but is instead simply a distraction from her uncommon natural ability to Soulcast. When Jasnah learns that Shallan can transmute she forgives the girl for trying to steal her Soulcaster and begins instructing her in its proper use. She also reveals her research into the origins of the Knights Radiant and Voidbringers and prepares Shallan and herself to travel to the Shattered Plains to meet with Jasnah's uncle, Dalinar.
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The book follows four main characters and dozens of minor characters, many of whom are explored through Interludes.
Sample Chapters are available for reading on Brandon's website.
- The Way of Kings, Prologue - To Kill