I read a lot of stuff, in a lot of different genres. The last three books I finished were Patient Zero (a hyper-violent paramilitary zombie novel), The Graveyard Book (a sweet and wacky urban fantasy middle grade novel) and Kitchen Confidential (a ribald behind-the-scenes restaurant memoir). When people ask what I read I usually say “books,” and leave it at that, because I honestly don’t know from one day to the next what kind of book is going to interest me, and I’ll pick something up and think it’s awesome and then something else will jump out and blindside me and I’ll to read that first. This is why I usually read four books at once.
The book I want to recommend to you today is a fantasy, by which I mean ‘epic fantasy,’ by which I mean ‘the future of epic fantasy.’ Remember how Robert Jordan came out twenty years ago and revolutionized the fantasy genre? If The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson doesn’t do the same, I will eat my hat. And I love my hat, so that is saying a lot.
Let’s get the disclaimers out of the way first–Brandon is a friend of mine, we are in the same writing group, we are in the same roleplaying group, and we record a podcast together every week. I am, in fact, in the interest of full disclosure, writing this while in his house, in my office in his basement (this is where I do most of my writing, for the simple fact that my children aren’t here). We are, in short, very good friends. Do not assume that I am going soft on his book for this reason–if I don’t like a book of Brandon’s, I will tell him so. I did not, for example, like the Alcatraz series, and quite honestly I was very worried about The Way of Kings as he ran it through our writing group: it has a high learning curve, a huge cast of characters, and a non-standard timeline. It is not entry-level fantasy.
But for an audience well-versed in the genre, it is the book you’ve been waiting for all your life.
The thing I like most about Brandon’s writing is that nothing is accidental or capricious. If he’s going to subvert a stereotype he does it for a reason–not just an “I’m an author I can do what I want” reason, but an in-story reason, a reason that will actually affect the characters and their goals and the way they live their lives. In Way of Kings, for example, he changed not just the magic level but the entire ecology of his world; this is not medieval Earth, this is all-new world with all-new cultures and people and weather and rules and everything else. And he’s not just doing it just for hell of it–he has a reason, like I said, and as you start to watch those reasons click together the book takes on a scope and dimension more worthy of any ‘epic’ story I’ve ever read before. Even when he does things I don’t yet understand (I still think the concept of the safehand, for example, is silly), I trust Brandon enough to know that it will eventually be important, and I will eventually love it. This is the man who wrote Mistborn, after all, which had the biggest, most satisfying series climax I have ever read. He knows what he’s doing, he knows how to do it, and The Way of Kings completely won me over.
The book comes out tomorrow, if you’re like most people, or tonight at midnight if you’re in a location lucky enough to have a midnight release. Run, don’t walk to your local bookstore. Buy this book. Take a day off work, and stock up on cheetos and chopsticks. Want to know what your grandchildren will hail as their generation’s Lord of the Rings? Then start reading now, because the future of fantasy has arrived.