If you're new to the website you might not know that my wife was able to get me an advance reading copy of Brandon Sanderson's new novel The Way of Kings. That's the first time that I've received a book that wasn't ready or out for publication - pretty cool stuff. It's also my first Brandon Sanderson written story. The last Wheel of Time novel was written and finished by Brandon, but the story and notes were all based off of Robert Jordan's work. I was still impressed, but it's nice to get a feel for the author inside his own works. In saying that, I do believe that Sanderson is going to fill the role of epic fantasy author for the next few years.
The Way of Kings is the first novel in what appears to be a project on scale with The Wheel of Time or George R.R. Martin's epic. A good friend of mine assures me that Sanderson completes his stories much faster than the last two authors, and I do hope that's true. I'm not sure two decades of waiting for the story to finish is always a worthy cause. This is a new world with new rules. In a lot of ways, it has that in common with Jordan's or Tolkien's work. The creatures, landscape, magic system, and capabilities of it's inhabitants are fresh. You won't see a Trolloc roaming around in TWoK, or find yourself wondering where Galadriel might pop up. The world itself has an aquatic nature to it. Most flora and fauna are based off of sea life - think crabs, barnacles, shrimp, and sea sponges. The magic is innovative and imaginative.
The book travels across a world that's being torn by war, but otherwise pretty quiet. You follow four main characters with the book focused mostly on two of those. They seem to all be heading towards a central point but this book doesn't quite get you there. The Way of Kings is almost a taste of what's to come... or better yet, a thousand page prologue. You learn a little bit about the world, a little bit about the characters, and a little bit about the danger that the protagonists will face in the next book. If there was something that would take away from the story, it would be the lack of a true conclusion or climax. The revelation in the last 40 or so pages wasn't as awe inspiring as in other books, but wasn't necessary. It's an engaging book that should whet the appetite for the rest of the series. Robert Jordan was the same way with WoT and it's worked out quite well for him.
If you're looking for a new fantasy author to pick up, then definitely try out Brandon Sanderson. I might recommend reading through one of his other series for the sake of finishing up the whole story. With The Way of Kings you'll be stuck waiting a while before coming to a conclusion.... that'll be a big problem for those that don't re-read books like I tend to do.
Rating: 8 CBs - he'll be a worthy successor to the fantasy epic, or at least give some of the establishment a run for their money(that's you Tad Williams, Martin, and Cook)