Hey. Wondering if you actually felt much of what you said in the WoK review. I was taken aback by how different your view was though I’ll admit I have the rest of the series read and was willing to allow the story to unfold given certain rules. I could see why certain cultural artefacts were made especially going at it from the Veristitalian view Jasnah has towards Rosharan mythology. I found the series to be more self consistent and I feel like some of the criticism was wishful thinking like “you don’t need the same kind of stratified society as we see irl”.
Yeah the point is to outline how arbitrary those things are in our own world and that the power structure might’ve made sense at one point but at this stage it’s been morphed into something worse by the people in power who only want to retain said power. Dalinar learning to be benevolent as a tyrant was necessary for Roshar as a whole as it’s a planet constantly at war. I struggle to see genuine issues as so much is covered in later books.-Kaz
Hey Kaz, thanks for writing in!
To answer your immediate question, yes, I absolutely believe everything I said in my Way of Kings worldbuilding article, both when I praised the book and when I critiqued it. Inventing opinions for an article sounds exhausting, and it’s thankfully not something I ever need to do, since posting honest critique is more than enough to generate controversy.
Now, let’s look at the deeper question: how can I critique the Way of Kings when I haven’t read the rest of the books? I’m glad you asked, as this is something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently. I might write a full post on it if there’s enough content, but for now I’ll try to give the short version.
What it all boils down to is that a book has to be able to stand on its own. That doesn’t mean everything needs to be explained in book one, but at the very least, it does need to be pitched as something that needs addressing. In some ways, Way of Kings does this very well, especially with classism.
A huge portion of the book is dedicated to showing the suffering of Kaladin and his bridgemen at the brightlords’ hands. Even without Dalinar and his philosophizing, this would be more than enough to demonstrate that in this book, classism is a problem. This is why I praised the book for its portrayal of classism in warfare, and why I’d be interested to see where that story goes.
The sexism, on the other hand, isn’t presented as a problem. Its portrayal is entirely neutral, just a fact of life. Of course, Sanderson could always change that in later books, but I have no reason to think he will. He could be like any number of other authors who open with a pointlessly sexist setting and then leave it unaddressed. If the later books do address this, then at best, we’ll have waited multiple books for the message that discriminating against people based on gender is wrong. That message is hardly so groundbreaking that it’s worth such a long wait.
At the same time, even if something will be addressed later, it should still be somewhat plausible in the moment. Roshar’s bizarre gender roles simply don’t make sense, and there’s no way to explain them without being extremely contrived. More broadly, a reader’s experience matters at every moment, not just at the end of the story. If 90% of the book is boring, the last 10% can’t magically go back and fix how bored the reader was earlier. It’s the same with worldbuilding. Leaving mysteries for later in the series is fine, but at the very least, they need to be marked as such.
Hope that answers your question, and I hope you enjoy the rest of the Stormlight Archives!