Strength in Weakness: A Review of The Way of Kings

My friend stared at the book in her lap in defeat. “I can’t find it,” she said, flushing uncomfortably.

“Let me see,” I said, taking it out of her hands and flipping through the smooth white pages. She stared at me for a while in a bemused silence. Then she said something which made me pause.

“Why are you helping me?”

I paused. What an odd question, I thought. I was only trying to be helpful—but, as I found the correct page for her, I wondered: would my peers exploit me for my willingness to lend a hand?

“I don’t know,” I said slowly, handing her back the book. “But I found the page.”

The Way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson, is the first book of the Stormlight Archive. It focuses on four characters: Kaladin, a young surgeon turned soldier who has been forced into slavery; Shallan, a destitute young noblewoman bent on stealing her teacher’s most prized possession; highprince Dalinar Kholin, a sharp, experienced general who has begun to receive visions; and finally, Szeth-son-son-Vallano, an assassin who hates killing even more than he hates himself. They all struggle with the same foe: honor. But who will fall, and who will overcome?

And then, during the annual highstorms—huge, hurricane-like storms that can rip unprotected buildings from the ground—Dalinar Kholin begins to receive visions. Often, these visions are about the Knights Radiant: knights who, after harnessing mythical powers, betrayed mankind. Knights Radiant followed strict rules, called Codes, which Dalinar is now enforcing. But Dalinar’s newfound standards bring the other princes to view him as foolish and easy to manipulate. As Dalinar moves uneasily through treacherous political terrain, he wonders: do the Codes make him stronger or weaker?

Kaladin struggles with himself as well. After repeated escape attempts, he begins to lose heart. It’s easier to just let go, to fall into empty passivity. Kaladin’s sense of honor and responsibility has gotten him into dark places in the past, but when he realizes he is the leader his peers need, he begins to live again. He provides his peers with rules, hard work, and a warm fire at the end of the day. The slaves look up to him—they were lost, and thanks to Kaladin’s rules, they are found.

The Way of Kings is a mesmerizing fantasy epic, full of deep characters and deeper questions. It proved to me that standards are not only what set you apart—they’re what make you stronger.

High school fantasy, ages 13 and up.

You can buy this book here.

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