In true High fantasy form, Sanderson has created Roshar, a harsh world, wracked by intense storms that have caused a unique, hard-shelled ecology. Cities and civilization are only where the landscape offers protection.
There are dozens of secondary characters but only a few that the story revolves around. There is Kaladin, the soldier/surgeon, made a slave for the one he didn’t kill. The assassin in white, Szeth, unstoppable, bound to his task, and weeping with every death. Dalinar Kholin the Highprince warrior whose honor and battle-weariness make him a target. And Shallan Davar, the thief and scholar with the artistic hand.
Much of this may sound like conventional fantasy, with some epic battle against a seemingly unstoppable evil right around the corner. Sanderson also blurs that virtuous and evil, that good and the bad line that seems so clear cut in so many fantasy tales, to include those of Tolkien himself. His distortion of this archetypal model makes the characters, despite their fantastical situations, much more relatable and believable.
Weighing in at just over 1000 pages Kings may seem daunting but one has to keep in mind that Sanderson is not only creating an entire world, complete with its own civilizations and ecologies, but also is placing four incredibly rich stories, each with their own context and background. Few storytellers can spin such a fantastic tale, much less do so in a way that does not flood the reader with details. Sanderson reveals himself a master at his craft as he carefully reveals the layers of his world, his characters, and their flaws and triumphs. For those that are fans of fantasy, The Way of Kingsis a must read.