(Note: There is now an updated version of this original post public on the site. You can view that version here.)
As anyone who decides to follow this blog will come to learn, I am a fan of the modern fantasy author Brandon Sanderson. Today I’ll be breaking down exactly why I think his work is so important, how he has come to such success in recent years, and my personal opinions on his style of storytelling.
“You see, that is the sad, sorry, terrible thing about sarcasm.
It’s really funny.”― Brandon Sanderson
This post will be divided into two main sections: The author’s history and legacy, then the Cosmere and his writing style. If you’re eager to get to my thoughts on his work, you can skip this first part.
First off, let’s talk a bit about his “breaking in.” The process of breaking in is that during which an author (or other media personality) becomes officially recognized at their craft. This occurred for Brandon in 2005, when he published his first novel, Elantris.
Brandon had written a total of 13 novels before he published Elantris. Twelve of the books were rejected by publishers, though they set the stage for a brilliant overarching story and allowed him to establish his signature writing style.
I won’t go into Brandon’s career and education before publishing—he talks plenty about this on his website. Within a few years of publishing Elantris, he outlined and published the book that would become his best received and largest legacy within the fantasy genre. Mistborn was published in 2006, and over the next two years its trilogy was completed with The Well of Ascension and The Hero of Ages. Since then, he has published dozens of other short stories and full novels. He tends to make them long (some exceed 1,000 pages), a fact not unappreciated among his fanbase. Notable among these is the Stormlight Archive series, planned for ten volumes, consisting of four to date. He was also chosen to finish Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time sequence—a series of which I have read the first book and which I plan to finish in the foreseeable future—in 2007.
I listened to the entire Mistborn series this summer, and I was blown away. If you felt similarly or disagree, feel free to reach out to me. I’m always open to talking about Mistborn or Brandon’s other works.
If you wish, you can read my review for the Mistborn series here.
Brandon has sold over 7 million books to date.
If you’re an astute reader of Brandon’s work, or if you tune into his youtube channel or blog, you likely know that many of his books are, in a subtle way, connected. His stories span different worlds, introduce immensely varied characters, and showcase many forms of magic—all while supporting a behind-the-scenes plot that flows in the background of every tale. The magic and worlds of all his books share overarching rules, philosophies, and concepts. Brandon gives special privilege to his in-world religions and mythologies, and it is these that weave the web of the cosmere—the shared universe of Brandon’s epic fantasy tales. This is a concept rarely seen in literature, though it has appeared in novels by the likes of Isaac Asimov, from whom Brandon confirmed he drew inspiration. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is also of note as it utilizes a shared-universe concept.
As a side note, he’s stressed that you don’t need to read his books in a specific order. While there are recommended sequences, each can be enjoyed on its own. As long as you read each series front to back, you’ll be just fine.
Brandon is known for his literary worldbuilding. Though the term speaks for itself, I plan on writing more about it in the future. He has created worlds that feel epic yet distinct from those such as Middle Earth or Westeros. He has a love for Hard Magic Systems.
While there isn’t a ton to say about Brandon’s writing style, I think it’s worth putting in a section about it here. He is known for his fast-paced easy-to-understand style, and his prose doesn’t weigh down the story. His handling of philosophy and religion is delicate, intelligent, and encouraging to readers of any background. Overall, his is a nice break from that of the classics, and though “prose of the old days” can be entertaining, it can also be tiring.
My experience as a Cosmerite
By cosmere literary standards, I am a relative neophyte. I’ve listened to Mistborn (eras 1 and 2), and I am currently listening to Warbreaker. I’ve dabbled with Arcanum Unbounded, mostly for the Scadrial shorts and cosmere explanations. (Scadrial is the world of Sanderson’s Mistborn series.) I started on Stormlight last month, and finished The Way of Kings this week. It was an epic journey! I’d recommend any of his books if you enjoy enhanced adventure, magic, or Wit in the stories you like to read.
Time to talk about my personal veiws on his work! If it isn’t apparent already, I’m a fan of the Stormlight Archive and Mistborn series, and I eagerly await The Lost Metal. I probably know a little more than I should about the cosmere—darn that coppermind wiki—but I’ve managed to keep out of the way of most surprises. I’m making the best attempt I can at leaving Stormlight spoilers where they belong—ahead. As Kelsier would say, “there’s always another secret.”
One of my favorite things about Brandon is the way in which he handles religion and philosophy. These things are not subtle in his work—they play immense roles in the plot, characters, and even the various magics. However, I’m often dumbfounded when someone claims he’s somehow pushing his own political or religious agenda. He’s religious, and open about that fact. But he’s constantly given merit to different religions, different philosophical arguments, and conflicting political stances. He writes openly atheist characters, and explains their arguments well, offering supporting arguments from both sides. I see this as something of immense value, something we can and should learn from. He’s even spoken about how he feels it is his duty as a writer to study various stances, to understand different views. People are diverse in mind, and that shows in his work more than most other fiction I’ve read.
Well, that’s about it for today. Hopefully you enjoyed this analysis—this is my first ever official blog post, and I hope to work out the kinks going forward. Your feedback is always valued! I’m aware this post’s timing was a bit unusual—in the future you can expect Thursday mornings for these kinds of analyses.
I’ll probably do a part two for this subject once I finish Stormlight. Currently starting out Words of Radiance! You can find my full review of The Way of Kings here.
You can find out more about all of Brandon’s books on his website. I’d highly recommend checking them out!
Nai aurelya nauva mára!