Go-to Author #1: Brandon Sanderson (Part 2 - My Epic Post about Epic Fantasy)

Nov 11, 2015

Guest Post by Mike

Hello again!  I spent the last week of Amy's blog break on a work trip, and didn't get a chance to finish my comments on Brandon Sanderson.

I must again admit that I am firmly on the Sanderson bandwagon, so don't expect me to be too critical.  Some friends who read both Sunlit Pages and Sanderson told me that they were not so enamored with the end of the Mistborn series.  They made some good points about magic coming out of nowhere, which is one of my pet peeves in the genre.  I must have been blinded by my pro-Brandon bias to the point that I didn't even notice.  I guess I'll have to go back and read the series again.  Darn. 

But that's not the point of this post.  I actually want to comment on the Stormlight Archive series.  Before I do that, I need to talk about the Wheel of Time: the massive, super-epic fantasy series by Robert Jordan (and Brandon Sanderson).

I started reading the first book in the series, The Eye of the World, as a pre-teen sometime in the early nineties.  By then there were about four or five books in the series.  Each one was long.  Each one blew me away with the level of detail, character development, creativity, foreshadowing, adventure, and story.  And it wasn't just me.  My brothers, friends, and cousins were all deep into it, to the point where our annual family reunions included a Wheel of Time book discussion. We'd talk about our favorite parts and especially hash out our theories on what the prophesies meant for future books.  Those were the glory days of the series.  I can vividly remember the feelings of anticipation for the next 800 page installment, putting it on hold at the library months before it came out, and still being literally number 481 in the queue.

And then it all changed.  Starting at about book #7, the story had become so involved, and there were so many characters going in so many different ways, that even 766 paperback pages weren't enough to move the story forward.  The plot bogged down severely.  Plus the books were taking longer to come out, and I was both forgetting what had just happened and losing interest in reading the previous (boring) book to find out.  I know I am speaking blasphemy to many Wheel of Time fans, but search your heart.  You know I am speaking the truth.

Wheel of Time series in all it's glory

Eventually I lost enough interest that I had no desire to even finish the series into which I had invested so much of my youth.  The series was approaching 10+ books, and I didn't see any way for it to wrap up soon.  And then, tragically, Robert Jordan passed away.  Even though I was not involved with reading the books anymore, I was saddened by his loss and thought it was ironic that his epic series has started so fast, slowed down so much, and was now halted indefinitely with nothing even remotely resembling a conclusion.  I had at least wanted to ask my friends how it ended.

And then--Brandon Sanderson was selected to finish the series.  That actually meant nothing to me at the time because I hadn't discovered him yet.  But after I read Mistborn and some other Sanderson books, I was impressed enough by his writing that I could see why Sanderson had been chosen to finish Jordan's work.  I thought the thing would never end, so I couldn't believe that he had actually tied up all the loose ends in only three books.  My curiosity pushed me to finish the series and see if he managed to recapture the excitement from the beginning of the series.  I must say that he did a pretty good job. It really was an amazing feat to fit as much plot resolution as was needed while staying true to the feel of the previous books.

Do I love the Wheel of Time Series (all 14 books and 12,000 pages)?  No.  And in fact, I don't even recommend that you read it.  Those middle books are just too hard to get through.  If I had a suggestion, maybe just pretend that the first three books are a trilogy.  That is the best stopping place before getting dragged in beyond what is reasonable.  You will have to do some imagining of what happens after, but a little lack of closure will be worth the savings in time and heartache.

My purpose of going through that lengthy review, was to give a little perspective on Brandon Sanderson's mindset towards his Stormlight Archive series. It is going to be similarly long.  He says not quite as long as the Wheel of Time, but Tor has purchased at least four books, and Sanderson thinks there will be more than that.  If I'm going to invest in another long fantasy series, I want some assurance that it will be worth my time.

On his blog, Sanderson has stated that his career has been "deeply influenced" by the Wheel of Time series.  He said that even before he was asked to finish writing it.   I have to think that he learned a lot of the good and bad of a long, epic fantasy series from both reading and writing the Wheel of Time.  It must have been tortuously difficult to bring all those far-flung character threads back together to make a plausible ending.  There's no way he's going to let that disorder happen to his own series.

Talking about his new series he said, "[The Way of Kings is] what you might call my baby, the grand epic I’ve been wanting to tell for many years. I now feel my writing skill is capable of doing the story justice."  That was when he was about done wrapping up the Wheel of Time. 

The first two Stormlight books are on par with the first books in the Wheel of Time. Very creative and fun to read.  The audiobooks are amazingly performed as well. It will be interesting to see if he really did learn his lesson and is able to keep the story contained through multiple books.  He says that he will only be telling the story mainly through three central viewpoints.  So I bet he continues to do a great job.

The only question in my mind is if it would be smarter for you to wait until the series is about done to start reading it, so you don't have to keep waiting for the next book...  Nah. 


  1. While I'm not much of a fantasy reader myself, my husband has been reading the Mistborn series. He's been wondering what he'll read once he's done - and looking at Sanderson's info, it looks like he has a lot of partially finished series' going on. We're people who DO like to wait until a series is complete to read it - do you have any recommendations for complete series' that would be similar to Sanderson's work?

    1. [From Mike]
      If you haven't read the Prydain series by Lloyd Alexander, that is a classic. The books are shorter and geared slightly younger, but it's still a great story. The one I'm reading next on several recommendations is The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss.

    2. As an FYI, Kingkiller Chronicles is not complete yet. :) book three (the final book) release date has not yet been announced.

    3. Oh, and Sanderson has several good stand-alone books, bekahcubed. Warbreaker, Elantris, my favorite is The Emperor's Soul.

  2. Thanks Mike
    Looking for books for my sons; 20, 18 & 16 for Christmas. Certain at least the oldest would like these, his favourite genre. Actually he started the Robert Jordan's last year. But might skip buying anymore for him and go for Brandon Sanderson.

  3. So, thanks to you I've now read the Mistborn trilogy. I quite enjoyed them. I thought book 2 bogged down in the middle a bit, but finding out the solution to the multiple army dilemma kept me going through mysterious Mistborn (don't care) and Vin soul-searching (yawn). Book 3 picked it back up somewhat, but I still think #1 was my favorite.
    Unlike many other reviewers on Goodreads I was not devastated or sobbing at the ending of book 3. Did you cry at the end? Am I even allowed to ask such a thing? I was surprised by the ending, but thought it was a good fit for what he had been building up to the entire time. I wasn't sad. Not sure what that says about me.
    Thanks for the heads up on Wheel of Time. I think I will give that one a pass. Besides, now I've got "Elantris" to read.

  4. Haha! I dropped the Wheel of Time series in the middle of book eight I think. :) my husband read them all, and after reading some of Sanderson's books I read willing to give the last three a shot. I didn't get far, though. I just ended up having Jacob tell me what happens. :)


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