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The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson (audio)

01/10/2010. Contributed by Rod MacDonald

Buy The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive Volume 1) audio book in the USA - or Buy The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive Volume 1) audio book in the UK

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The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive Volume 1) audio book by Brandon Sanderson. pub: Macmillan Audio. 36 CDs 46 hours. Price: $79.99 (US). ISBN: 978-1-4272-0975-7) narrated by Michael Kramer.

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This is indeed a mammoth production. Probably containing half a million words, the unabridged audio CD version will keep you occupied for a very long time. 46 hours to be exact! It will in all likelihood take about a month to listen to the entire book so at the recommended price of almost $80 it seems to be good value for money.

Brandon Sanderson is no stranger to fantasy readers and, having taken the task of finishing ‘The Wheel Of Time’ series, he apparently has the stamina and ability to write very large novels. Indeed, this novel, ‘The Way Of Kings’, is only the first of 10 novels which will mean that the entire series will likely be about 5 million words long. An epic undertaking which will, if it catches on, secure the future of all those concerned with the writing and production of the series.

There are of course lots of lengthy fantasy series about these days and what makes this one any different from the rest? Well, if the first book is anything to go by, it should be quite successful. Will it have the power of endurance? Only time will tell.

The narrator Michael Kramer is well known to Macmillan Audio book listeners. An accomplished actor of Shakespearean abilities, he does justice to the text and makes it come alive. Now, I'm sure it was no easy task to narrate 46 hours of fantasy. His voice is articulate and commanding, giving colour to the descriptions and life to the dialogue which makes it very easy to listen to. In fact, the narration adds a new dimension to the novel in a way which an ordinary paperback simply cannot match. Yes, Michael Kramer does a very good job in narrating this book!

What about the book itself? From a personal point of view, I'm getting a bit disenchanted with battles and sword fights. Our own history, from time immemorial, is littered with battles of all forms and shapes and there is enough in factual history to satisfy anyone with a craving for battles without having to resort to fiction. I think I've seen enough sword fights to keep me going for the rest of my years. However, in saying that, ‘The Way Of Kings’ is not all about sword fights and battles. Though they indeed take place, there's a lot more to this novel than this. There is sufficient depth and nomenclature of characters and events to make this an equal to many epic series, including that written by Tolkien and Herbert.

How can I describe a lengthy novel in a short review without doing it an injustice? Here goes! The planet in question is topical in the fact that the ecology has a hand in shaping the characters and scenes. Obviously, Sanderson has been taking note of our own climatic changes. This planet does not get gentle winds, it gets hurricanes and storms on a regular basis. Not a great place on the whole for life, but nevertheless it has evolved to cope with anything thrown at it. Even the people are accustomed to the weather.

Strange events have taken place in the distant past. There was a huge conflict between Radiant Knights and the evil Voidbringers. After an epic struggle, the good guys won. Strangely, they then turned against mankind and disappeared into obscurity but they left behind lots of their weapons and armour. This stuff, even thousands of years later, was still extremely potent. Anyone having it in their possession had a distinct advantage over their enemies and now battles were fought both physical and political in order to gain hold of it.

The book tells the story of an ordinary soldier, someone like ourselves, who was caught up in all this mess. He doesn't know what it is all about or why he is fighting. He doesn't have a choice. Nevertheless, he becomes involved in the conflict, as do several other characters the author chooses to focus on. We see this world from the point of view of many of its people. We learn about religion and ways of life alien to our own, all shaped by the events of the distant past.

‘The Way Of Kings’ is daunting by the fact that it is so long. It's also extremely daunting to think that there will be another nine novels in the series. Is anyone ready to make that commitment? Obviously many people will make that commitment otherwise Macmillan would not have gone to the trouble to produce the audio book. They are in it to make a profit, as any company would do, so they must think there is a future to the writings of Brandon Sanderson. It's up to you to judge for yourself. If you get caught up by the first novel then you are hooked for the future. Beware, this could be addictive and it could cost you a lot of money. Maybe there should be a health warning on the packet?

Personally, I thought this was entertaining and interesting. I think it will be a great success and will be here for a long time in the future.

Rod MacDonald

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