I’m choosing Way of Kings to be my first book club pick for a few reasons, the biggest being that I just really want to read the book. But I read Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy and Warbreaker and loved it all. It’s a style of storytelling and world-building that I hope to strive for in my own writing. I’d bet that most people wouldn’t consider him the most “literary” writer, whatever that means, but he spins his stories and builds his worlds in a natural and compelling way.
There must be something compelling about this series–Way of Kings and Words of Radiance are both extremely highly rated on Goodreads. I am pretty late to the party, but most of the reviews that I’ve read seem to highlight the exact kind of storytelling I really want to investigate.
I especially liked the complete story told within the Mistborn trilogy. Sanderson was able to tell completely confined stories within the context of a larger story arc. Characters had their own developments and conflicts that resolved within the scope of a single book but also had arcs across the entire series. My favorite aspect was the attention to smaller details throughout the story, especially in the first book, that came back as significant in the final conflict of the last book. He has a way of dropping hints and setting things up in a completely natural way. Most twists and plot developments were unpredictable for me (possibly because I can easily miss subtle hints and queues).
That style of storytelling is compelling for me in doing a gradual book club breakdown of his more epic, more interwoven series of The Stormlight Archive. My primary motivation is to identify those aspects of the story that resonate with me the most. Why is Sanderson’s work so appealing to me, and what are the subtle techniques he uses to play up those specific aspects? My other big motivation for choosing this book is because it just seems fun to be extra-conscious of a book like this, where characters and stories are so interwoven that a lot of stuff simply flies under the radar until it comes back to jump out in the story. I recognize an immense satisfaction in the act of figuring something out within the context of a story and having it pay off. There is even a great feeling in being so sure that a story is headed in a certain direction only to have a twist turn everything upside down, forcing me to re-evaluate the story completely.
And then there is the greater level of Sanderson’s work–that is, his adult fantasy books are all tied into a greater universe, which he calls the Cosmere. There is a lot about that aspect that appeals to me. For starters, it’s incredibly ambitious. These stories all have to be good in their own right, then within the context of their greater series, and then in an even larger context of this entire universe that spans worlds. From my experience of his writing, I feel like he can pull it off.
There’s also an appeal that comes from return on investment. His stories seem to have a rather steep learning curve, and they continue to add detail and intricacy to the very end. I suppose it is a major appeal to a lot of epic fantasy–so long as you make an initial investment of time and push through the feeling of being lost and confused, you eventually end up completely immersed in another world, even feeling like an expert in what you’re reading. You’re able to pick up references and make connections that you otherwise wouldn’t. It’s sort of like becoming a member of an exclusive club. You’ve paid your dues and now you have access to the greater story. So far as I understand it, The Stormlight Archive will unfold in just this way. It seems like it might have a greater initial investment, but that implies to me a greater eventual payoff.
I’m basically unspoiled for the series in general. I know some of the vague connections to the greater Cosmere universe, but other than that I am going in clean. I’m excited about trying to make connections and evaluating this world from a blank slate. Depending on how enjoyable this first book club blog is, the second Stormlight Archive will be soon to follow. My only hesitation is that the series isn’t finished yet, with the third official installment being released this coming November. But bitching about when the next book will come out is part of being in the fandom of an ongoing fantasy series, isn’t it? Looking at you, GRRM.
Let’s get started!