With The Way of Kings, Brandon Sanderson had a lot of ground to cover: The book follows the overlapping stories of four main characters and several minor ones, and spans thousands of years, multiple cultures, a whole continent, a unique magical system, and a several core mysteries.
Although the world-building was thorough and the story was compelling, I have to admit there was a point when I wished the protagonists would just get on with it. When it becomes clear to the reader that a character has a special power or purpose, why waste pages waiting for them to realize or accept it? Or worse, exploring their motivations through flashback chapters? There was a lot of that, and it could have been condensed to keep the story moving.
But really, when it comes to fantasy literature, “too long” is a minor quibble. Who can complain when an author has such a comprehensive grasp on their characters that it’s a challenge to decide which details to cut? More than a brisk story, fantasy lovers want a world we can inhabit and characters we can root for. The best stories, and the best authors, leave us wanting more no matter the page count.
With The Way of Kings, Sanderson has crafted a complex universe that lends itself to a longer story. And long it will be: The Stormlight Archive is projected to be ten volumes, and the first four are about a thousand pages each. The scope is so massive it makes me wonder what sort of author would embark on such an audacious project. Still, I can’t help but trust him: A week after finishing the book, I’m still thinking about these characters whose stories, separate but connected, are just getting started.