The Way of Kings (Stormlight Archive Series #1)by Brandon Sanderson
A new epic fantasy series from the New York Times bestselling author chosen to complete Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time® Series
A new epic fantasy series from the New York Times bestselling author chosen to complete Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time® Series
“Sanderson melds complex, believable characters, a marvelous world and thoughtful, ironic humor into an extraordinary and highly entertaining story.” Publishers Weekly, starred review on Warbreaker
“An exceptional tale of magic, mystery, and the politics of divinity. Warbreaker might even take your breath away!” Michael Moorcock
“Sanderson is an evil genius. There is simply no other way to describe what he's managed to pull off in this transcendent final volume in his Mistborn trilogy.” RT BOOK REVIEWS, Gold Medal, top pick! on The Hero of Ages
“This very superior stand-alone fantasy proves, among other things, that Sanderson was a good choice to complete the late Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time saga. Sanderson is clearly a master of large-scale stories, splendidly depicting worlds as well as strong female characters.” Booklist on Warbreaker
“Sanderson again demonstrates his capacity for handling large and complex themes while creating believable characters…. [Warbreaker] is essential reading for fantasy fans.” Library Journal, starred review
Read an Excerpt
“The love of men is a frigid thing, a mountain stream only three steps from the ice. We are his. Oh Stormfather . . . we are his. It is but a thousand days, and the Everstorm comes.”
—Collected on the first day of the week Palah of the month Shash of the year 1171, thirty-one seconds before death. Subject was a darkeyed pregnant woman of middle years. The child did not survive.
4500 YEARS LATER
Szeth-son-son-Vallano, Truthless of Shinovar, wore white on the day he was to kill a king. The white clothing was a Parshendi tradition, foreign to him. But he did as his masters required and did not ask for an explanation.
He sat in a large stone room, baked by enormous firepits that cast a garish light upon the revelers, causing beads of sweat to form on their skin as they danced, and drank, and yelled, and sang, and clapped. Some fell to the ground red-faced, the revelry too much for them, their stomachs proving to be inferior wineskins. They looked as if they were dead, at least until their friends carried them out of the feast hall to waiting beds.
Szeth did not sway to the drums, drink the sapphire wine, or stand to dance. He sat on a bench at the back, a still servant in white robes. Few at the treaty-signing celebration noticed him. He was just a servant, and Shin were easy to ignore. Most out here in the East thought Szeth’s kind were docile and harmless. They were generally right.
The drummers began a new rhythm. The beats shook Szeth like a quartet of thumping hearts, pumping waves of invisible blood through the room. Szeth’s masters—who were dismissed as savages by those in more civilized kingdoms—sat at their own tables. They were men with skin of black marbled with red. Parshendi, they were named—cousins to the more docile servant peoples known as parshmen in most of the world. An oddity. They did not call themselves Parshendi; this was the Alethi name for them. It meant, roughly, “parshmen who can think.” Neither side seemed to see that as an insult.
The Parshendi had brought the musicians. At first, the Alethi lighteyes had been hesitant. To them, drums were base instruments of the common, darkeyed people. But wine was the great assassin of both tradition and propriety, and now the Alethi elite danced with abandon.
Szeth stood and began to pick his way through the room. The revelry had lasted long; even the king had retired hours ago. But many still celebrated. As he walked, Szeth was forced to step around Dalinar Kholin—the king’s own brother—who slumped drunken at a small table. The aging but powerfully built man kept waving away those who tried to encourage him to bed. Where was Jasnah, the king’s daughter? Elhokar, the king’s son and heir, sat at the high table, ruling the feast in his father’s absence. He was in conversation with two men, a dark-skinned Azish man who had an odd patch of pale skin on his cheek and a thinner, Alethi-looking man who kept glancing over his shoulder.
The heir’s feasting companions were unimportant. Szeth stayed far from the heir, skirting the sides of the room, passing the drummers. Musicspren zipped through the air around them, the tiny spirits taking the form of spinning translucent ribbons. As Szeth passed the drummers, they noted him. They would withdraw soon, along with all of the other Parshendi.
They did not seem offended. They did not seem angry. And yet they were going to break their treaty of only a few hours. It made no sense. But Szeth did not ask questions.
At the edge of the room, he passed rows of unwavering azure lights that bulged out where wall met floor. They held sapphires infused with Stormlight. Profane. How could the men of these lands use something so sacred for mere illumination? Worse, the Alethi scholars were said to be close to creating new Shardblades. Szeth hoped that was just wishful boasting. For if it did happen, the world would be changed. Likely in a way that ended with people in all countries—from distant Thaylenah to towering Jah Keved—speaking Alethi to their children.
They were a grand people, these Alethi. Even drunk, there was a natural nobility to them. Tall and well made, the men dressed in dark silk coats that buttoned down the sides of the chest and were elaborately embroidered in silver or gold. Each one looked a general on the field.
The women were even more splendid. They wore grand silk dresses, tightly fitted, the bright colors a contrast to the dark tones favored by the men. The left sleeve of each dress was longer than the right one, covering the hand. Alethi had an odd sense of propriety.
Their pure black hair was pinned up atop their heads, either in intricate weavings of braids or in loose piles. It was often woven with gold ribbons or ornaments, along with gems that glowed with Stormlight. Beautiful. Profane, but beautiful.
Szeth left the feasting chamber behind. Just outside, he passed the doorway into the Beggars’ Feast. It was an Alethi tradition, a room where some of the poorest men and women in the city were given a feast complementing that of the king and his guests. A man with a long grey and black beard slumped in the doorway, smiling foolishly—though whether from wine or a weak mind, Szeth could not tell.
“Have you seen me?” the man asked with slurred speech. He laughed, then began to speak in gibberish, reaching for a wineskin. So it was drink after all. Szeth brushed by, continuing past a line of statues depicting the Ten Heralds from ancient Vorin theology. Jezerezeh, Ishi, Kelek, Talenelat. He counted off each one, and realized there were only nine here. One was conspicuously missing. Why had Shalash’s statue been removed? King Gavilar was said to be very devout in his Vorin worship. Too devout, by some people’s standards.
The hallway here curved to the right, running around the perimeter of the domed palace. They were on the king’s floor, two levels up, surrounded by rock walls, ceiling, and floor. That was profane. Stone was not to be trod upon. But what was he to do? He was Truthless. He did as his masters demanded.
Today, that included wearing white. Loose white trousers tied at the waist with a rope, and over them a filmy shirt with long sleeves, open at the front. White clothing for a killer was a tradition among the Parshendi. Although Szeth had not asked, his masters had explained why.
White to be bold. White to not blend into the night. White to give warning.
For if you were going to assassinate a man, he was entitled to see you coming.
Szeth turned right, taking the hallway directly toward the king’s chambers. Torches burned on the walls, their light unsatisfying to him, a meal of thin broth after a long fast. Tiny flamespren danced around them, like insects made solely of congealed light. The torches were useless to him. He reached for his pouch and the spheres it contained, but then hesitated when he saw more of the blue lights ahead: a pair of Stormlight lamps hanging on the wall, brilliant sapphires glowing at their hearts. Szeth walked up to one of these, holding out his hand to cup it around the glass-shrouded gemstone.
“You there!” a voice called in Alethi. There were two guards at the intersection. Double guard, for there were savages abroad in Kholinar this night. True, those savages were supposed to be allies now. But alliances could be shallow things indeed.
This one wouldn’t last the hour.
Szeth looked as the two guards approached. They carried spears; they weren’t lighteyes, and were therefore forbidden the sword. Their painted red breastplates were ornate, however, as were their helms. They might be darkeyed, but they were high-ranking citizens with honored positions in the royal guard.
Stopping a few feet away, the guard at the front gestured with his spear. “Go on, now. This is no place for you.” He had tan Alethi skin and a thin mustache that ran all the way around his mouth, becoming a beard at the bottom.
Szeth didn’t move.
“Well?” the guard said. “What are you waiting for?”
Szeth breathed in deeply, drawing forth the Stormlight. It streamed into him, siphoned from the twin sapphire lamps on the walls, sucked in as if by his deep inhalation. The Stormlight raged inside of him, and the hallway suddenly grew darker, falling into shade like a hilltop cut off from the sun by a transient cloud.
Szeth could feel the Light’s warmth, its fury, like a tempest that had been injected directly into his veins. The power of it was invigorating but dangerous. It pushed him to act. To move. To strike.
Holding his breath, he clung to the Stormlight. He could still feel it leaking out. Stormlight could be held for only a short time, a few minutes at most. It leaked away, the human body too porous a container. He had heard that the Voidbringers could hold it in perfectly. But, then, did they even exist? His punishment declared that they didn’t. His honor demanded that they did.
Afire with holy energy, Szeth turned to the guards. They could see that he was leaking Stormlight, wisps of it curling from his skin like luminescent smoke. The lead guard squinted, frowning. Szeth was sure the man had never seen anything like it before. As far as he knew, Szeth had killed every stonewalker who had ever seen what he could do.
“What . . . what are you?” The guard’s voice had lost its certainty. “Spirit or man?”
“What am I?” Szeth whispered, a bit of Light leaking from his lips as he looked past the man down the long hallway. “I’m . . . sorry.”
Szeth blinked, Lashing himself to that distant point down the hallway. Stormlight raged from him in a flash, chilling his skin, and the ground immediately stopped pulling him downward. Instead, he was pulled toward that distant point—it was as if, to him, that direction had suddenly become down.
This was a Basic Lashing, first of his three kinds of Lashings. It gave him the ability to manipulate what ever force, spren, or god it was that held men to the ground. With this Lashing, he could bind people or objects to different surfaces or in different directions.
From Szeth’s perspective, the hallway was now a deep shaft down which he was falling, and the two guards stood on one of the sides. They were shocked when Szeth’s feet hit them, one for each face, throwing them over. Szeth shifted his view and Lashed himself to the floor. Light leaked from him. The floor of the hallway again became down, and he landed between the two guards, clothes crackling and dropping flakes of frost. He rose, beginning the process of summoning his Shardblade.
One of the guards fumbled for his spear. Szeth reached down, touching the soldier’s shoulder while looking up. He focused on a point above him while willing the Light out of his body and into the guard, Lashing the poor man to the ceiling.
The guard yelped in shock as up became down for him. Light trailing from his form, he crashed into the ceiling and dropped his spear. It was not Lashed directly, and clattered back down to the floor near Szeth.
To kill. It was the greatest of sins. And yet here Szeth stood, Truthless, profanely walking on stones used for building. And it would not end. As Truthless, there was only one life he was forbidden to take.
And that was his own.
At the tenth beat of his heart, his Shardblade dropped into his waiting hand. It formed as if condensing from mist, water beading along the metal length. His Shardblade was long and thin, edged on both sides, smaller than most others. Szeth swept it out, carving a line in the stone floor and passing through the second guard’s neck.
As always, the Shardblade killed oddly; though it cut easily through stone, steel, or anything inanimate, the metal fuzzed when it touched living skin. It traveled through the guard’s neck without leaving a mark, but once it did, the man’s eyes smoked and burned. They blackened, shriveling up in his head, and he slumped forward, dead. A Shardblade did not cut living flesh; it severed the soul itself.
Above, the first guard gasped. He’d managed to get to his feet, even though they were planted on the ceiling of the hallway. “Shardbearer!” he shouted. “A Shardbearer assaults the king’s hall! To arms!”
Finally, Szeth thought. Szeth’s use of Stormlight was unfamiliar to the guards, but they knew a Shardblade when they saw one.
Szeth bent down and picked up the spear that had fallen from above. As he did so, he released the breath he’d been holding since drawing in the Stormlight. It sustained him while he held it, but those two lanterns hadn’t contained much of it, so he would need to breathe again soon. The Light began to leak away more quickly, now that he wasn’t holding his breath.
Szeth set the spear’s butt against the stone floor, then looked upward. The guard above stopped shouting, eyes opening wide as the tails of his shirt began to slip downward, the earth below reasserting its dominance. The Light steaming off his body dwindled.
He looked down at Szeth. Down at the spear tip pointing directly at his heart. Violet fearspren crawled out of the stone ceiling around him.
The Light ran out. The guard fell.
He screamed as he hit, the spear impaling him through the chest. Szeth let the spear fall away, carried to the ground with a muffled thump by the body twitching on its end. Shardblade in hand, he turned down a side corridor, following the map he’d memorized. He ducked around a corner and flattened himself against the wall just as a troop of guards reached the dead men. The newcomers began shouting immediately, continuing the alarm.
His instructions were clear. Kill the king, but be seen doing it. Let the Alethi know he was coming and what he was doing. Why? Why did the Parshendi agree to this treaty, only to send an assassin the very night of its signing?
More gemstones glowed on the walls of the hallway here. King Gavilar liked lavish display, and he couldn’t know that he was leaving sources of power for Szeth to use in his Lashings. The things Szeth did hadn’t been seen for millennia. Histories from those times were all but nonexistent, and the legends were horribly inaccurate.
Szeth peeked back out into the corridor. One of the guards at the intersection saw him, pointing and yelling. Szeth made sure they got a good look, then ducked away. He took a deep breath as he ran, drawing in Stormlight from the lanterns. His body came alive with it, and his speed increased, his muscles bursting with energy. Light became a storm inside of him; his blood thundered in his ears. It was terrible and wonderful at the same time.
Two corridors down, one to the side. He threw open the door of a storage room, then hesitated a moment—just long enough for a guard to round the corner and see him—before dashing into the room. Preparing for a Full Lashing, he raised his arm and commanded the Stormlight to pool there, causing the skin to burst alight with radiance. Then he flung his hand out toward the doorframe, spraying white luminescence across it like paint. He slammed the door just as the guards arrived.
The Stormlight held the door in the frame with the strength of a hundred arms. A Full Lashing bound objects together, holding them fast until the Stormlight ran out. It took longer to create—and drained Stormlight far more quickly—than a Basic Lashing. The door handle shook, and then the wood began to crack as the guards threw their weight against it, one man calling for an axe.
Szeth crossed the room in rapid strides, weaving around the shrouded furniture that had been stored here. It was of red cloth and deep expensive woods. He reached the far wall and—preparing himself for yet another blasphemy—he raised his Shardblade and slashed horizontally through the dark grey stone. The rock sliced easily; a Shardblade could cut any inanimate object. Two vertical slashes followed, then one across the bottom, cutting a large square block. He pressed his hand against it, willing Stormlight into the stone.
Behind him the room’s door began to crack. He looked over his shoulder and focused on the shaking door, Lashing the block in that direction. Frost crystallized on his clothing—Lashing something so large required a great deal of Stormlight. The tempest within him stilled, like a storm reduced to a drizzle.
He stepped aside. The large stone block shuddered, sliding into the room. Normally, moving the block would have been impossible. Its own weight would have held it against the stones below. Yet now, that same weight pulled it free; for the block, the direction of the room’s door was down. With a deep grinding sound, the block slid free of the wall and tumbled through the air, smashing furniture.
The soldiers finally broke through the door, staggering into the room just as the enormous block crashed into them.
Szeth turned his back on the terrible sound of the screams, the splintering of wood, the breaking of bones. He ducked and stepped through his new hole, entering the hallway outside.
He walked slowly, drawing Stormlight from the lamps he passed, siphoning it to him and stoking anew the tempest within. As the lamps dimmed, the corridor darkened. A thick wooden door stood at the end, and as he approached, small fearspren—shaped like globs of purple goo—began to wriggle from the masonry, pointing toward the doorway. They were drawn by the terror being felt on the other side.
Szeth pushed the door open, entering the last corridor leading to the king’s chambers. Tall, red ceramic vases lined the pathway, and they were interspersed with nervous soldiers. They flanked a long, narrow rug. It was red, like a river of blood.
The spearmen in front didn’t wait for him to get close. They broke into a trot, lifting their short throwing spears. Szeth slammed his hand to the side, pushing Stormlight into the doorframe, using the third and final type of Lashing, a Reverse Lashing. This one worked diff erently from the other two. It did not make the doorframe emit Stormlight; indeed, it seemed to pull nearby light into it, giving it a strange penumbra.
The spearmen threw, and Szeth stood still, hand on the doorframe. A Reverse Lashing required his constant touch, but took comparatively little Stormlight. During one, anything that approached him—particularly lighter objects—was instead pulled toward the Lashing itself.
The spears veered in the air, splitting around him and slamming into the wooden frame. As he felt them hit, Szeth leaped into the air and Lashed himself to the right wall, his feet hitting the stone with a slap.
He immediately re oriented his perspective. To his eyes, he wasn’t standing on the wall, the soldiers were, the blood-red carpet streaming between them like a long tapestry. Szeth bolted down the hallway, striking with his Shardblade, shearing through the necks of two men who had thrown spears at him. Their eyes burned, and they collapsed.
The other guards in the hallway began to panic. Some tried to attack him, others yelled for more help, still others cringed away from him. The attackers had trouble—they were disoriented by the oddity of striking at someone who hung on the wall. Szeth cut down a few, then flipped into the air, tucking into a roll, and Lashed himself back to the floor.
He hit the ground in the midst of the soldiers. Completely surrounded, but holding a Shardblade.
According to legend, the Shardblades were first carried by the Knights Radiant uncounted ages ago. Gifts of their god, granted to allow them to fight horrors of rock and flame, dozens of feet tall, foes whose eyes burned with hatred. The Voidbringers. When your foe had skin as hard as stone itself, steel was useless. Something supernal was required.
Szeth rose from his crouch, loose white clothes rippling, jaw clenched against his sins. He struck out, his weapon flashing with reflected torchlight. Elegant, wide swings. Three of them, one after another. He could neither close his ears to the screams that followed nor avoid seeing the men fall. They dropped round him like toys knocked over by a child’s careless kick. If the Blade touched a man’s spine, he died, eyes burning. If it cut through the core of a limb, it killed that limb. One soldier stumbled away from Szeth, arm flopping uselessly on his shoulder. He would never be able to feel it or use it again.
Szeth lowered his Shardblade, standing among the cinder-eyed corpses. Here, in Alethkar, men often spoke of the legends—of mankind’s hardwon victory over the Voidbringers. But when weapons created to fight nightmares were turned against common soldiers, the lives of men became cheap things indeed.
Szeth turned and continued on his way, slippered feet falling on the soft red rug. The Shardblade, as always, glistened silver and clean. When one killed with a Blade, there was no blood. That seemed like a sign. The Shardblade was just a tool; it could not be blamed for the murders.
The door at the end of the hallway burst open. Szeth froze as a small group of soldiers rushed out, ushering a man in regal robes, his head ducked as if to avoid arrows. The soldiers wore deep blue, the color of the King’s Guard, and the corpses didn’t make them stop and gawk. They were prepared for what a Shardbearer could do. They opened a side door and shoved their ward through, several leveling spears at Szeth as they backed out.
Another figure stepped from the king’s quarters; he wore glistening blue armor made of smoothly interlocking plates. Unlike common plate armor, however, this armor had no leather or mail visible at the joints— just smaller plates, fitting together with intricate precision. The armor was beautiful, the blue inlaid with golden bands around the edges of each piece of plate, the helm ornamented with three waves of small, hornlike wings.
Shardplate, the customary complement to a Shardblade. The newcomer carried a sword as well, an enormous Shardblade six feet long with a design along the blade like burning flames, a weapon of silvery metal that gleamed and almost seemed to glow. A weapon designed to slay dark gods, a larger counterpart to the one Szeth carried.
Szeth hesitated. He didn’t recognize the armor; he had not been warned that he would be set at this task, and hadn’t been given proper time to memorize the various suits of Plate or Blades owned by the Alethi. But a Shardbearer would have to be dealt with before he chased the king; he could not leave such a foe behind.
Besides, perhaps a Shardbearer could defeat him, kill him and end his miserable life. His Lashings wouldn’t work directly on someone in Shardplate, and the armor would enhance the man, strengthen him. Szeth’s honor would not allow him to betray his mission or seek death. But if that death occurred, he would welcome it.
The Shardbearer struck, and Szeth Lashed himself to the side of the hallway, leaping with a twist and landing on the wall. He danced backward, Blade held at the ready. The Shardbearer fell into an aggressive posture, using one of the swordplay stances favored here in the East. He moved far more nimbly than one would expect for a man in such bulky armor. Shardplate was special, as ancient and magical as the Blades it complemented.
The Shardbearer struck. Szeth skipped to the side and Lashed himself to the ceiling as the Shardbearer’s Blade sliced into the wall. Feeling a thrill at the contest, Szeth dashed forward and attacked downward with an overhand blow, trying to hit the Shardbearer’s helm. The man ducked, going down on one knee, letting Szeth’s Blade cleave empty air.
Szeth leaped backward as the Shardbearer swung upward with his Blade, slicing into the ceiling. Szeth didn’t own a set of Plate himself, and didn’t care to. His Lashings interfered with the gemstones that powered Shardplate, and he had to choose one or the other.
As the Shardbearer turned, Szeth sprinted forward across the ceiling. As expected, the Shardbearer swung again, and Szeth leaped to the side, rolling. He came up from his roll and flipped, Lashing himself to the floor again. He spun to land on the ground behind the Shardbearer. He slammed his Blade into his opponent’s open back.
Unfortunately, there was one major advantage Plate offered: It could block a Shardblade. Szeth’s weapon hit solidly, causing a web of glowing lines to spread out across the back of the armor, and Stormlight began to leak free from them. Shardplate didn’t dent or bend like common metal. Szeth would have to hit the Shardbearer in the same location at least once more to break through.
Szeth danced out of range as the Shardbearer swung in anger, trying to cut at Szeth’s knees. The tempest within Szeth gave him many advantages— including the ability to quickly recover from small wounds. But it would not restore limbs killed by a Shardblade.
He rounded the Shardbearer, then picked a moment and dashed forward. The Shardbearer swung again, but Szeth briefly Lashed himself to the ceiling for lift. He shot into the air, cresting over the swing, then immediately Lashed himself back to the floor. He struck as he landed, but the Shardbearer recovered quickly and executed a perfect follow-through stroke, coming within a finger of hitting Szeth.
The man was dangerously skilled with that Blade. Many Shardbearers depended too much on the power of their weapon and armor. This man was different.
Szeth jumped to the wall and struck at the Shardbearer with quick, terse attacks, like a snapping eel. The Shardbearer fended him off with wide, sweeping counters. His Blade’s length kept Szeth at bay.
This is taking too long! Szeth thought. If the king slipped away into hiding, Szeth would fail in his mission no matter how many people he killed. He ducked in for another strike, but the Shardbearer forced him back. Each second this fight lasted was another for the king’s escape.
It was time to be reckless. Szeth launched into the air, Lashing himself to the other end of the hallway and falling feet-first toward his adversary. The Shardbearer didn’t hesitate to swing, but Szeth Lashed himself down at an angle, dropping immediately. The Shardblade swished through the air above him.
He landed in a crouch, using his momentum to throw himself forward, and swung at the Shardbearer’s side, where the Plate had cracked. He hit with a powerful blow. That piece of the Plate shattered, bits of molten metal streaking away. The Shardbearer grunted, dropping to one knee, raising a hand to his side. Szeth raised a foot to the man’s side and shoved him backward with a Stormlight-enhanced kick.
The heavy Shardbearer crashed into the door of the king’s quarters, smashing it and falling partway into the room beyond. Szeth left him, ducking instead through the doorway to the right, following the way the king had gone. The hallway here had the same red carpet, and Stormlight lamps on the walls gave Szeth a chance to recharge the tempest within.
Energy blazed within him again, and he sped up. If he could get far enough ahead, he could deal with the king, then turn back to fight off the Shardbearer. It wouldn’t be easy. A Full Lashing on a doorway wouldn’t stop a Shardbearer, and that Plate would let the man run supernaturally fast. Szeth glanced over his shoulder.
The Shardbearer wasn’t following. The man sat up in his armor, looking dazed. Szeth could just barely see him, sitting in the doorway, surrounded by broken bits of wood. Perhaps Szeth had wounded him more than he’d thought.
Or maybe . . .
Szeth froze. He thought of the ducked head of the man who’d been rushed out, face obscured. The Shardbearer still wasn’t following. He was so skilled. It was said that few men could rival Gavilar Kholin’s swordsmanship. Could it be?
Szeth turned and dashed back, trusting his instincts. As soon as the Shardbearer saw him, he climbed to his feet with alacrity. Szeth ran faster. What was the safest place for your king? In the hands of some guards, fleeing? Or protected in a suit of Shardplate, left behind, dismissed as a bodyguard?
Clever, Szeth thought as the formerly sluggish Shardbearer fell into another battle stance. Szeth attacked with renewed vigor, swinging his Blade in a flurry of strikes. The Shardbearer—the king—aggressively struck out with broad, sweeping blows. Szeth pulled away from one of these, feeling the wind of the weapon passing just inches before him. He timed his next move, then dashed forward, ducking underneath the king’s follow-through.
The king, expecting another strike at his side, twisted with his arm held protectively to block the hole in his Plate. That gave Szeth the room to run past him and into the king’s chambers.
The king spun around to follow, but Szeth ran through the lavishly furnished chamber, flinging out his hand, touching pieces of furniture he passed. He infused them with Stormlight, Lashing them to a point behind the king. The furniture tumbled as if the room had been turned on its side, couches, chairs, and tables dropping toward the surprised king. Gavilar made the mistake of chopping at them with his Shardblade. The weapon easily sheared through a large couch, but the pieces still crashed into him, making him stumble. A footstool hit him next, throwing him to the ground.
Gavilar rolled out of the way of the furniture and charged forward, Plate leaking streams of Light from the cracked sections. Szeth gathered himself, then leaped into the air, Lashing himself backward and to the right as the king arrived. He zipped out of the way of the king’s blow, then Lashed himself forward with two Basic Lashings in a row. Stormlight flashed out of him, clothing freezing, as he was pulled toward the king at twice the speed of a normal fall.
The king’s posture indicated surprise as Szeth lurched in midair, then spun toward him, swinging. He slammed his Blade into the king’s helm, then immediately Lashed himself to the ceiling and fell upward, slamming into the stone roof above. He’d Lashed himself in too many directions too quickly, and his body had lost track, making it difficult to land gracefully. He stumbled back to his feet.
Below, the king stepped back, trying to get into position to swing up at Szeth. The man’s helm was cracked, leaking Stormlight, and he stood protectively, defending the side with the broken plate. The king used a onehanded swing, reaching for the ceiling. Szeth immediately Lashed himself downward, judging that the king’s attack would leave him unable to get his sword back in time.
Szeth underestimated his opponent. The king stepped into Szeth’s attack, trusting his helm to absorb the blow. Just as Szeth hit the helm a second time—shattering it—Gavilar punched with his off hand, slamming his gauntleted fist into Szeth’s face.
Blinding light flashed in Szeth’s eyes, a counterpoint to the sudden agony that crashed across his face. Everything blurred, his vision fading.
Pain. So much pain!
He screamed, Stormlight leaving him in a rush, and he slammed back into something hard. The balcony doors. More pain broke out across his shoulders, as if someone had stabbed him with a hundred daggers, and he hit the ground and rolled to a stop, muscles trembling. The blow would have killed an ordinary man.
No time for pain. No time for pain. No time for pain!
He blinked, shaking his head, the world blurry and dark. Was he blind? No. It was dark outside. He was on the wooden balcony; the force of the blow had thrown him through the doors. Something was thumping. Heavy footfalls. The Shardbearer!
Szeth stumbled to his feet, vision swimming. Blood streamed from the side of his face, and Stormlight rose from his skin, blinding his left eye. The Light. It would heal him, if it could. His jaw felt unhinged. Broken? He’d dropped his Shardblade.
A lumbering shadow moved in front of him; the Shardbearer’s armor had leaked enough Stormlight that the king was having trouble walking. But he was coming.
Szeth screamed, kneeling, infusing Stormlight into the wooden balcony, Lashing it downward. The air frosted around him. The tempest roared, traveling down his arms into the wood. He Lashed it downward, then did it again. He Lashed a fourth time as Gavilar stepped onto the balcony. It lurched under the extra weight. The wood cracked, straining.
The Shardbearer hesitated.
Szeth Lashed the balcony downward a fifth time. The balcony supports shattered and the entire structure broke free from the building. Szeth screamed through a broken jaw and used his final bit of Stormlight to Lash himself to the side of the building. He fell to the side, passing the shocked Shardbearer, then hit the wall and rolled.
The balcony dropped away, the king looking up with shock as he lost his footing. The fall was brief. In the moonlight, Szeth watched solemnly— vision still fuzzy, blinded in one eye—as the structure crashed to the stone ground below. The wall of the palace trembled, and the crash of broken wood echoed from the nearby buildings.
Still standing on the side of the wall, Szeth groaned, climbing to his feet. He felt weak; he’d used up his Stormlight too quickly, straining his body. He stumbled down the side of the building, approaching the wreckage, barely able to remain standing.
The king was still moving. Shardplate would protect a man from such a fall, but a large length of bloodied wood stuck up through Gavilar’s side, piercing him where Szeth had broken the Plate earlier. Szeth knelt down, inspecting the man’s pain-wracked face. Strong features, square chin, black beard flecked with white, striking pale green eyes. Gavilar Kholin.
“I . . . expected you . . . to come,” the king said between gasps.
Szeth reached underneath the front of the man’s breastplate, tapping the straps there. They unfastened, and he pulled the front of the breastplate free, exposing the gemstones on its interior. Two had been cracked and burned out. Three still glowed. Numb, Szeth breathed in sharply, absorbing the Light.
The storm began to rage again. More Light rose from the side of his face, repairing his damaged skin and bones. The pain was still great; Stormlight healing was far from instantaneous. It would be hours before he recovered.
The king coughed. “You can tell . . . Thaidakar . . . that he’s too late. . . .”
“I don’t know who that is,” Szeth said, standing, his words slurring from his broken jaw. He held his hand to the side, resummoning his Shardblade.
The king frowned. “Then who . . . ? Restares? Sadeas? I never thought . . .”
“My masters are the Parshendi,” Szeth said. Ten heartbeats passed, and his Blade dropped into his hand, wet with condensation.
“The Parshendi? That makes no sense.” Gavilar coughed, hand quivering, reaching toward his chest and fumbling at a pocket. He pulled out a small crystalline sphere tied to a chain. “You must take this. They must not get it.” He seemed dazed. “Tell . . . tell my brother . . . he must find the most important words a man can say. . . .”
Gavilar fell still.
Szeth hesitated, then knelt down and took the sphere. It was odd, unlike any he’d seen before. Though it was completely dark, it seemed to glow somehow. With a light that was black.
The Parshendi? Gavilar had said. That makes no sense. “Nothing makes sense anymore,” Szeth whispered, tucking the strange sphere away. “It’s all unraveling. I am sorry, King of the Alethi. I doubt that you care. Not anymore, at least.” He stood up. “At least you won’t have to watch the world ending with the rest of us.”
Beside the king’s body, his Shardblade materialized from mist, clattering to the stones now that its master was dead. It was worth a fortune; kingdoms had fallen as men vied to possess a single Shardblade.
Shouts of alarm came from inside the palace. Szeth needed to go. But . . .
Tell my brother . . .
To Szeth’s people, a dying request was sacred. He took the king’s hand, dipping it in the man’s own blood, then used it to scrawl on the wood, Brother. You must find the most important words a man can say.
With that, Szeth escaped into the night. He left the king’s Shardblade; he had no use for it. The Blade Szeth already carried was curse enough.
Copyright © 2010 by Brandon Sanderson
Meet the Author
BRANDON SANDERSON grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska. He lives in Utah with his wife and children and teaches creative writing at Brigham Young University. In addition to completing Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time®, he is the author of such bestsellers as the Mistborn trilogy, Warbreaker, The Alloy of Law, The Way of Kings, Rithmatist, and Steelheart. He won the 2013 Hugo Award for "The Emperor's Soul," a novella set in the world of his acclaimed first novel, Elantris.
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I don't read a lot of fantasy but I loved the Mistborn series and Warbreaker. You can tell from the start that this book is the beginning of something epic. The story follows several characters, some so minor, you wonder why they're even mentioned. Each chapter you get a snippet of what's happened in the past, what's currently happening, and what is going to happen. Be prepared to get halfway through this 1000 page novel before you really start to see things fall into place and the action to really start happening. By the time I was finished, I didn't want it to end. I had misgivings at the start but by the end, I was sucked in. I HAVE to see what happens next!
This book (and series) has the makings of one of the all time great fantasy series. I felt the same way reading this as when I sat reading "The Wheel of Time" or "Game of Thrones" for the first time. There are plenty of good fantasy stories out there, enough variety for anyone; but this is high fantasy done at it's best. It took me a little time to get started on this. I was sick the last week and nyquil and late reading don't seem to mix well. As this cold is fading I've been able to dig in and finish it the last couple days. Partly because of the addicting nature of the story as well. As someone who loves characters first and foremost, every character in this book is well done. Kaladin was the character I got into quickest, others took a bit longer for me to form that eagerness for; but eventually they all came to the same level. His world feels nearly alien in it's uniqueness. Not something I require of my fantasy, but knowing this is going to be a ten book series it's nice to see. He does such a good job with fleshing out the world that by the end, it really doesn't feel alien anymore. In fact at one point a good way through they come to an area that seems fairly "earthlike" and the characters there find it odd and I was right along with them. The plot is exactly what it should be for something that will last ten books and probably over a decade of writing. Epic. The single novel itself reads well enough and wraps up well enough, but you still feel like you read the first chapter and want more. Not so much because of major cliffhangers, but because you are involved in the world and the characters and want to stay there. Sanderson does an outstanding job of weaving the plots together as it moves forward. The magic is unique, well done and well explained. Still more left on the table to learn; but I feel like the reader got plenty to understand what was happening and how. Most of all it fits the world's unique feel. Outside of the overall review, I have to say a couple things I normally don't like in fantasies: Odd quotes that don't make sense under chapter titles and prophecies and guidance by godlike figures that are more riddles than anything else. Both of these were in the book and handled beautifully. The prophecy thing when it finally crested most I nearly started to get frustrated, when the explanation came and it all made sense (more sense than any other time I've seen it tried). and, Once you are into the story you understand the purpose of the quotes and they just become additional artwork. Speaking of artwork, I loved all the extras in this book. Of course it had the map many fantasy stories have, but it also had drawings throughout the story of cities, creatures and other sketches (work that looked like you were peaking into sketchbooks of that world, not just standard art). It also had nice headers to every chapter. I can't recommend this story enough if you are a true fantasy fan. Especially if you like series like the Wheel of Time (fitting he is finishing that for Jordan) and a Song of Fire and Ice.
Any author who writes an epic fantasy that is supposed to expand 10 books faces the challenge of world building and character developement. In my view that is what boggs down the first half of this book. Thankfully, Brandon Sanderson did not let me down; on page 451 the book picked up speed and the story started comming together. Trust me by the end of the book you will not want to put it down!
I have to say that I might be one of the very few who was not blown away by the Mistborn series. I read it, and felt that it was a decent story, but not much more. Here, however, I actually found that this book made me salivate a bit thinking of the next volume to be released. The characters are all well drawn (though i would like to see Kaladin be a little more morally unsure), and the worldbuilding is superb. I will say that this volume gives an extraordindary amount of background material - so much so that the pacing goes from slow crawl to frenetic and back again a bit too much for comfort. However, even with the all the exposition, I found myself confused and going back to re-read sections. Though this sounds like a negative, it actually felt like it was a world so big that only another ten 1000 page books would explain it...is it too early to start complaining about the next release?
The storms of Roshar are legendary for their fierceness as natural selection has led to flora and fauna adapting to the intensity. Failure to do so means extinction. Humans understand the basic premise for survival of the fittest as they have built great cities only in places where shelter from the torrents can be found. Centuries ago the Knights Radiant laid down their arms having disestablished their units. Now four thousand five hundred plus years since they dispersed, they have become myths while their shardblade weapons and shardplate armor have become the most valuable commodity on Roshar. Shallan the scholar has uncovered an inconvenient truth as she serves as an apprentice to the sister of the King. Unlike his aristocratic peers, visionary warrior Dalinar Kholin, the current king's uncle looks to the past to forge an honorable just future. Finally acrimonious Kaladin went from aristocratic surgeon to slave to save the life of his brother, but it cost him his honor and caring of others. The opening act of the Stormlight Machine an epic fantasy which a monster sized book in which Brandon Sanderson establishes his world in minute detail (some might say overly detailed) and the flaws of his three prime players. The story line contains several subplots with Shallan, Kholin and Kaladin serving as the main three in the intertwining saga. Especially intriguing, besides the encyclopedic fascinating depth of Roshar, is the gripping sagas of Kaladin and Shallan; while the arc of Kholin feels forced as if a fantasy element was needed to spice up the saga. Still this is a fascinating grand beginning to what looks like an epic worthy of the late Robert Jordan. Harriet Klausner
The Way of Kings, Brandon Sanderson's debut novel of The Stormlight Archive, starts the unique story of a world torn apart by ferocious storms. Like all of his original novels before this, a very unique and very original magic system gives extraordinary powers to those able to use them. The main characters also have great depth, and genuine likability, while I truly wish ill to the antagonists. At a little over 1000 pages, this story will definitely keep the reader occupied. Sanderson always brings his own flavor of fantasy to his works, and I couldn't be happier with this debut of his new series. (Well, I wish that the rest of the series was already published!) I recommend this to any and all fans of the fantasy genre.
Brandon Sanderson is a great story teller. His book kept me facinated to the end.
Amazing book, could not stop reading. The only bad thing is waiting for the next book. This is the best book I've read so far. Its right up there with "The Way of Shadows" by Brent Weeks.
My new favorite book. I was blown away.
I really enjoyed this book a lot. Found myself staying up late many a night . Didn't want it to end.
The creation of an entire world, complete with multiple beings, religions, races, politics and much more is only the beginning of the alure of this epic series. With an incredible history unfolding with every turn of the page, the characters and they're lives jump out at you. I found myself wanting to read further just to learn how and why the characters arrived at their current situations, only to turn the page yet again to find out where they are going from this point on. I anxiously await the next installment of what is bound to be one of the greatest epic worlds of modern fantasy. Thank you for sharing this amazing work of art with us.
This book is great!!!!!!!!!!
You can tell by reading The Way of Kings that Sanderson has indeed dedicated a large portion of his life to this series. As deeply enthralling and layered as this story already is, the ball has merely begun to roll. Brandon has a way of capturing your attention like Robert Jordan, and building worlds as deeply complex as Tolkien's, but without impeding the progress of the story. I suggest you block out a day or two to sit down and read it, because otherwise the story will silently nag you to come back and finish it throughout your day! Enjoy!
Excellent job of world-building, complex and well-drawn characters, unique and well-developed system of magic with a fascinating and compelling story line. A must-read for lovers of complex fantasy!!
The way Sanderson put together the first book in a should be best series of his career is wonderful. There are so many cultures, kingdoms,magic system and the unique system of the highstorms-basically hurricanes and tornadoes mixed together. Don't even get me started on the amazing characters and shardblade/plate. I loved the last 100 pages and couldn't put it down then. If you haven't read any Brandon Sanderson before you pick up this great read I would first read the mistborn trilogy by him. That series is also placed in the same universe which Brandon calls the Cosmere. So thanks for reading and if I could I would give this book more stars
Everyone in my family has read this book and loved it. I enjoyed it so much i read it three times.
This is just too insanely cool to define.
The prologue really hooked me. But my goodness does this book take a bit to get going. The character development is very in depth which is expected in a 3000+ pg book and beginning of 10 ( I think) book series. But it is a bit hard to read for the first thousand. It is not straight up boring, but nothing happens. When this book picks up it is all worth it. I am very anxiously awaiting the next stormlight archive.
Innovative world with great characters and a new and intriguing "magic". Many twists and turns to keep you on your toes. I can't wait for the next book!
At over 1000 pages you would think by the end you'd be ready for it to end. Not even close to true. Sanderson is so adept at giving his world and characters such depth and truth that i nearly felt bereft at turning the last page. I am in absolute agony waiting for the story to continue!
Like some of the other reviews i've read the first half of this book is kind of slow and a lot of charactor building. But look out and hold on tight when he finally cuts loose. I could not put this book down. 3 sometimes 4 am I'd finally put it down to sleep so I could function at work. Give me the next book PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
This book pulls you in so well that, before you know it, you are staying up until the middle of the night to read more. Absolutely wonderful characters who seem to dance around traditional fantasy cliches, leaping out of the pages to drag you deeper into the plot. Mr. Sanderson's beautifully consistent magic systems make their customary appearances and, as always, seem completely natural in the setting. Another example of Mr. Sanderson's amazing writing is his balancing of many multiple, intricate storylines, giving each just enough attention without spacing them out so far that you forget what has happened by the time you see a set of characters again. All things considered, an amazing book with a brilliant ending that leaves you begging fir more to read.
Great read, great characters, with a good twist at the end...
One of the most intriguing first books I have read.
You know a book is good when you get to the climax and you can barely focus enough to read the thing because of how excited you are about reading it. Honestly. I recommend The Way of Kings to anyone who's looking for a good fantasy novel. It may look a little big at first glance, but it was nice to have a fascinating book that lasted more than a couple days. Can't wait for the next installment!