I have been interested in fantasy books since my mom read C.S. Lewis and Lloyd Alexander to my sister and me. Fortunately for me, there was a significant backlog of genre-forming books I had to catch up on. While this is the case in all genres, fantasy books are written in the form of quests or, often, a series of quests. This made it difficult for me to explore multiple authors because I didn’t just need to see a set of characters complete one individual quest, but all their other adventures as well.
In many ways this was fun; I was chasing authors, hoping to catch up to them before they retired or were finished with the characters. I was successful in this endeavor, however it required me to read nearly 100 books to cover the work of four authors. This has led me to a major crisis of fear of missing out or, FOMO. I spent so much time on an individual author I feared I missed out on other good books. Time is limited, after all, so I felt the need to sample as many authors as possible. I challenged myself to reduce my focus on a single author and add some new letters to my bookshelf. Enter the devil himself.
I first heard of Brandon Sanderson while talking to fellow fantasy enthusiasts about my current diet of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. They asked if I had read Sanderson’s Mistborn series and when I replied in the negative they said to put down the Wheel of Time and jump right in. I did not follow their advice because I, of course, had to finish the series I had already started. If you’ve read the WoT series, you know Robert Jordan died before it was finished, and passed the series on to Brandon Sanderson. It is no easy task to be charged with finishing a linear story already spanning eleven books. I read the entire 14 book series in 10-12 weeks and Sanderson did it seamlessly. If anything, the characters gained more depth and what’s more, Sanderson can write laugh out loud funny.
After reading Sanderson’s work with Jordan, I was excited to jump into the Mistborn Trilogy. It was not what I expected. After reading his work on the WoT I expected humor and wit but entered a bleak world where people ingested metals to gain certain abilities. In this series I realized it wasn’t his humor that made his writing so enjoyable, it was his character development. There is not a single character throughout the series who is one-dimensional. None. They could have one line and he would still give you enough information to understand their motivations and how they fit in with the plot. I have read a 24-book series where a leading character doesn’t have as much development. I have never read a book that so succinctly generates a more robust cast than Sanderson’s.
It was about this time my FOMO started kicking in. If I had missed out on Jordan and Sanderson, who else could I be missing? Because of this I did not pursue his considerable catalogue of work at his current 42 years of age. I broke back in later however with his novel, Warbreaker. The tragedy of Warbreaker for me was not until possibly weeks after finishing it did I realized its exceptionality. It has the comedic flare, character development, and layered plot I loved in WoT and Mistborn. It also brought me to another realization: his world-building is the best in the industry.
You can argue that Tolkien has a more well-founded world, but the pure imagination of Sanderson is incredible. In Warbreaker particularly he creates a world in which breaths can be passed to give abilities and people can return from the dead and be gods. He creates cultures between which the tension is palpable. Most importantly, you understand it without having to read the Silmarillion.
I left Sanderson after Warbreaker because I couldn’t risk getting sucked back into his writing. After over a year I finally broke. I read his award-winning introductory novel, Elantris. Again, spectacular world-building in a story of a fallen city of gods. I couldn’t put it down. When I said I broke, I didn’t just crack, I crumbled. I then read his novel The Alloy of Law, which is set in the world of the Mistborn. Any lack of laughs in the original Mistborn Trilogy were wholly made up for here. And now, goddammit, I’ll have to read the rest of the series.
Brandon Sanderson writes too well for me to miss and thus, he will always remain at the top of my booklist no matter how many unread books lie beneath. His prowess makes me at once excited for the magic he will produce and fearful of the authors whom I might miss. So, for putting me into this predicament, I hate you Brandon Sanderson.