The fantasy genre has always been enchanting for its readers, filled with epic battles, mythical creatures, and magical powers that transport them to new and exciting worlds. It has changed significantly over the years, and one of the contemporary masters of the genre is Brandon Sanderson (1975-), best known for his captivating works of fantasy and science fiction for readers of all ages. Sanderson is renowned for writing series spanning multiple books and is most famous for his works set in the Cosmere, a fictional universe that contains series such as Mistborn and The Stormlight Archive. In addition, he completed the final three books of The Wheel of Time series after the author’s passing. Sanderson’s first published book was Elantris (2005), which depicts a world where magic has died in the city of Elantris amidst a planned invasion. His latest work, The Lost Metal, was released in November 2022 and concluded the second era of the Mistborn series.
Major Works of Brandon Sanderson
Brandon Sanderson is widely recognized for his highly acclaimed fantasy Cosmere novels, which include popular titles such as Elantris, Warbreaker, Mistborn, and the Stormlight Archive. He has also published a plethora of short stories, graphic novels, and novellas set in the same fictional universe. Besides the Cosmere, he has released a series of science-fiction novels, the Cytoverse, aimed at young adults, and a series of superhero novels called The Reckoners. Sanderson’s works are characterized by intricate and well-crafted worlds with a rich history, high-stakes plots grounded in the personal stories of multidimensional, relatable characters, and well-explained magic systems that leave readers spellbound. Here are some lines on Sanderson’s major works:
1. Mistborn series
Mistborn is a unique series that spans multiple eras, with each era having a gap of several centuries and almost none of the characters carrying over. The premise of the first trilogy is that the Lord Ruler, an immortal tyrant, has already won and established his rule over the known world. He controls almost everything, and life is hard for most people. Furthermore, this world is where ash constantly falls from the sky, and supernatural mists cover much of the land at night. In the midst of all this, an orphaned girl, Vin, is caught up in a revolution that plans to steal from and overthrow Lord Ruler, led by the charismatic Kelsier.
The first book in the Mistborn series, The Final Empire, is part epic fantasy, part heist, and part political intrigue and spy work, making it quite unlike any other fantasy book. Sanderson has created a unique magic system where some people can ingest or “burn” certain metals, each of which has a different effect. This is a dark, hopeless world prompting the discussion of philosophical questions regarding the cost of moral choices, the significance and impact of religious beliefs, and the outcomes of attaining freedom through violent means. Additionally, it sensitively delves into more personal issues, such as childhood trauma, through the interactions between characters and how the long-lasting effects of abuse can shape one’s perception of the world and prospects for the future.
2. The Stormlight Archive
The Stormlight Archive is set in the world of Roshar, where powerful storms sweep across the rocky landscape and unique creatures (known as Spren) inhabit the world. The series follows multiple viewpoints and storylines but centers around the characters of Kaladin, Shallan, Jasnah, Adolin, and Dalinar. Kaladin is a former soldier and slave who becomes embroiled in the political machinations of the ruling class of Roshar. Shallan is a young woman seeking to become an apprentice to a scholar named Jasnah but with a secret mission of her own. And Dalinar is a high-ranking nobleman haunted by visions of a mysterious past while seeking to unite the various warring factions of his people with help from his son Adolin. As the story progresses, the characters are drawn into a greater conflict that threatens the very survival of Roshar as ancient evils and long-hidden secrets come to light.
The Stormlight Archive is an epic fantasy with several narrators. Each has its own problems, such as depression, guilt, multiple personalities, a sense of entitlement, a lust for power, and more. It delves into the distant past and tries to solve an ancient mystery by offering clues over each book; the mystery is yet to be solved as it is an ongoing series. The magic system in The Stormlight Archive is known as Surgebinding and is based on the manipulation of a type of magical energy known as Stormlight. Surgebinders can absorb and store Stormlight in gemstones and then use it to perform various magical abilities. The series has several high-octane action scenes, with each character having their own powers, which work differently. They each have distinct voices, with several stories and arcs running parallel.
Elantris takes place in the kingdom of Arelon, where the city of Elantris was once a place of great magic and splendor. However, ten years before the start of the novel, the magic that sustained the city failed, causing the once-beautiful inhabitants to become cursed with a disease that causes their bodies to decay and fall apart while also rendering them immortal. The novel follows three main characters: Raoden, the prince of Arelon who is cursed and thrown into Elantris; Sarene, the princess of a neighboring kingdom who travels to Arelon to marry Raoden but discovers he has been pronounced dead and that the kingdom is in turmoil; and Hrathen, a high priest of a religion that seeks to convert Arelon to its beliefs.
The plot explores themes of politics, religion, and the human condition through these characters, their interactions, and their often clashing philosophies. The three characters are also caught up in a complex political, religious, and economic plot. This novel is different in that it has a mystery tied to the magic of Elantris and why it vanished. The protagonists are relatable characters with clear motives, and they each have their own arcs where they discover more about themselves.
Why Should You Read Brandon Sanderson?
As mentioned in this article, Brandon Sanderson’s writing is very layered, structured, and detailed, reflected in his plotting, characterization, and world-building. He has created several massive worlds with their rich history, culture, political systems, and geography, making them feel genuinely alive and lived in.
Perhaps Sanderson’s biggest strength is his various magic systems, which have clearly defined rules and limitations. Something so complex is presented in a relatively simple, engaging way that captures the readers’ imagination while playing a crucial role in the plot alongside the worldbuilding.
He comes up with characters who feel as alive and real as the world they live in (owing to them being relatable), are flawed, and have well-defined motivations and believable character development. Furthermore, he comes up with satisfying, often unexpected endings which regularly leave you wanting more.
Brandon Sanderson is a remarkably prolific writer, and his frequent releases mean that the next book is never too far away, making him very accessible to his readers. He is also known for regularly engaging with his fans directly through various online platforms as well as in-person events such as book signings. As his novels have continued to grow in popularity, it can only be beneficial to introduce new readers to his work, especially the expansive Cosmere universe. Hopefully, a high-quality adaptation will happen sooner rather than later!