Only 3 stars?! BLASPHEMY.
Here's why: This is a 1,000 page prologue. The action, the real action, doesn't start until near the end.
I understand the need for a huge set-up to kick off a huge series, but there's a point when too much set-up is just overkill. And that point is somewhere past page 500.
If not for the audio CDs*, there's no way I'd get through this whole book. No one was more surprised than I about my reaction to this book because I've read a lot of Sanderson and liked most of his work.
As this is Sanderson's most epic of epics (to date), I was expecting epic-ness of epic proportions which the first chapter did deliver, but then the second and subsequent chapters did not. I kept waiting for things to pick up where the first chapter left off, thinking this couldn't be it, could it? This is what everyone's been gushing about? I was also expecting to see what everyone was gushing about--I still don't it see. The story a better than average epic fantasy that promises bigger things to come, and that's all I see for the time being.
The writing is classic Sanderson, but with a heavy-handed tone that I didn't care for. This isn't so much a critique of the story, but more a reflection of how tired I've become of over-blown epic fantasies and Sanderson's style of fantasy in particular. The former is a matter of personal taste; the latter is creeping up on me and threatening to stay. Sanderson's style is becoming heavy and drawn-out so so much that it made reading this book feel more like work. In general, I don't like when I can see the author's hand manipulating the story; it takes the fun out of reading.
However, if you're an aspiring fantasy writer who's in the process of honing your own style, I would recommend taking a look if you haven't already. Even if you don't enjoy it, there are a few pointers you might find useful.
The whole book is easy to dissect and deconstruct, and here's why: the writing, as much as it drags, is precise in description and plotting. Sanderson uses vivid imagery and tactile examples to draw out each scene. I find the action sequences and internal monologues easiest to take a part and examine. Sanderson must've worked painstakingly hard to do write each scene because you can literally feel the time and effort he put into them. He must've worked equally hard to give the tone a slow build-up toward the climax. I would have appreciated the effort and attention to detail more if they didn't result in a heavy-handedness that dragged the story down.
Because of a semi-cliffhanger, I'm tempted to pick up the second book just to see where the chips fall, but that won't be for awhile.
* which I won GR's first-read giveaway (I know, I was just as shocked as you are), and I'd like to thank MacMillan Audio and Samantha Beerman.