I just recently installed an Alaska Kodiak. I too went through some frustration the first couple times lighting it.
I discovered/learned some of the very things that Ray from MA. and jpd989 have mentioned above. You really need a good base fire of hardwood, or charcoal, which also worked well for me. Others have posted this in "how to light a hand fired" subject lines. I think the main thing is that you have to have enough volume of heat to: 1. Establish a good draft, or enhance what is already there. 2. Heat up the substantial mass of the stove itself, so it doesn't heat sink all the kindling heat away from the coal. 3. I find that if I try to cover the entire grate with kindling wood and /or charcoal briquets , so no air bypasses around the fire, then I can successfully get chestnut coal to light by adding first small handfuls, then gradually an inch or two at a time until the blue ladies are in full costume all across the stage. Of course, the ash door is open this entire time. It has taken me a couple hours from match strike, to having the firebox filled up and covered with blue ladies.
Let me add, that I haven't had to start a fire since it has gotten really cold the past few days. My previous "lightings" were done at 40 degrees or above. It was in the low 50's the first time fired her up, which meant the draft wasn't as good.
It's really been burning great since the colder weather arrived, and the natural draft increased. when it was above 40, the barometric damper rarely cracked open, but now it's open probably 1/3 of its travel all the time.
Overall, I'm happy with the Alaska Kodiak.