Over a year ago I first came across the fantasy novelist Brandon Sanderson. To be honest, I’d heard of Sanderson before (mainly for finishing the Wheel of Time series), but I hadn’t ever read any of his works. What brought his novels to my attention was actually an episode of Critical Role.
In February of 2016 Geek and Sundry’s Critical Role gave away a couple copies of Bands of Mourning by Sanderson during a non-conventional Q&A episode with Matthew Mercer, Marisha Ray, Travis Willingham, Mary McGlynn, and Will Friedle. Will Friedle, of Boy Meets World fame, was playing as a guest on the show for a time and began raving about Sanderson as an author and storyteller. The way he spoke said enough.
Normally I order books online to get the best price, but I had just finished another book and decided I needed something right away. The next day I hopped in my car and ran to Barnes & Noble and purchased Mistborn in paperback. I was extremely happy that I did.
Most people assume that I read quickly as I take my creative writing endeavors fairly seriously and read a good amount. Heck, I was an English major, so you’d think I’d be able to knock out War and Peace in a weekend. In fact, when I read for pleasure I’m exceptionally slow. There are two factors that push this to be true: 1) I read in short bursts, usually before bed 2) I find myself re-reading portions to catch significant (and sometimes insignificant) details. But I read these quickly and loved them.
Everything I love about Brandon Sanderson’s works can be summed up in this brief review of Mistborn: The Final Empire, the first book in Sanderson’s Mistborn Trilogy.
Mistborn: The Final Empire
This book does a lot of things right, but the first thing I want to note is that it is a great introduction to Sanderson’s writing style and storytelling capabilities. His writing (especially in this series) is extremely accessible, and he does an amazing job of building an extremely intricate world around well developed characters.
Sanderson structures the story in a way that engages the reader immediately, balancing a thoughtful plot with dramatic pacing in a way that distinguishes itself from much of the fantasy I’ve read in the past. You aren’t waiting for the description of the enchanted forest to end so you can find out what happens to your characters (see Tolkien). Many of the story elements aren’t your traditional high-fantasy fare either.
First off, this world is not full of elves and orcs or wizards and knights, though there is a bit of swords and sorcery. The magic in this world, however, isn’t found in the traditional spell casting that the casual fantasy reader might be used to. A mystical force known as allomancy powers a select population in the world, and no one quite understands it, except to know that various metals (when ingested) can give an allomancer very specific abilities. It is in this confusion and circumstance that our protagonist rises out of obscurity to solve the mystery of the powers’ origins and fight against an immortal, tyrannical ruler.
One of my favorite aspects of this series is of representation. This story focuses on a young female protagonist who isn’t an empty vessel (see Twilight). By this I mean our character, Vin, consistently shows that she is the primary agent of change in the narrative. While other “main characters” in the story assume roles that are essential in the progression of this diegesis, they are distinctly not in the actionable position in which Vin finds herself.
This sort of agency is often overlooked, but I’d like to draw attention to the fact that in (arguably) Brandon Sanderson’s most popular novels, that are of a genre which historically follows the actions of a group of male protagonists, the lead protagonist is a female. A young female who plays a major role in a heist plot meant for men.
I read the trilogy over the course of a couple of months and then quickly moved on to Alloy of Law. After doing a bit more research on Sanderson’s novels I downloaded The Way of Kings on my Kindle and soaked it up. To be honest, I think I’m going to love this series even more than the Mistborn Trilogy for several reasons. I plan on writing a little something on this once I get through the rest of Words of Radiance (currently page 265 of the mass market paperback).
After reading 6 of his books, I can honestly say that Brandon Sanderson is my favorite fantasy novelist and in my top 5 favorite authors.