By Bernadette and Marietta
Oathbringer, the third book in the Stormlight Archives by Brandon Sanderson, is coming out in just a few days! Because we just can’t wait in honor of the occasion, we’ve compiled a list of five reasons to read Brandon Sanderson’s books. If you’ve never read his books, I hope this can convince you to remedy that situation, as well as explaining why I’m such a huge fan of his.
1. All The Shattered Characters.
Wait, what? No, I meant it. Sanderson’s books are full of characters with tragic backstories; but instead of being a pity-point, these backgrounds are critical to the formation of said characters, shaping complex, often conflicted people with real issues that will affect the story and their part in it. There’s Kelsier, a former-slave who came into his powers when he ‘snapped’, both magically and almost mentally, after losing everything; he will literally change the world he lives in, and the course he chooses remains one of a man who will give everything up to save the world. There’s Vin, street-urchin and thief, a girl who grew up with betrayal and death; and it will take thousands and thousands of pages of the long series for her to learn to trust her allies again. There’s Kaladin, ex-soldier and slave, who grew up learning to save men as a surgeon but lost the men he extended protection to; his strong honor and protective instincts could factor into the fate of thousands, but he wrestles with despair, with failure, with the superstitious fear that everything he saves will die.
Not all the characters are fractured, especially not moving back into YA – but these other characters are still a reason to read. From the boy who knows everything about Rithmancy yet doesn’t possess the power, teaming up with the girl who has natural strength but a weakness for formula, to Raoden, a cursed prince who refuses to give up even when condemned to living death and falls in love with his arranged wife from afar, you’ll have a hard time remembering they aren’t living, breathing people. (Marietta: Wait. They aren’t? Way to destroy my perfect world.)
2. The Inutterably Complex Worldbuilding.
…as you might guess from that title, this part can get aggravating. If you’re not the type of person who deals in fandom wikipedias (don’t worry, I’m not either) it can be maddening to realize that there is no way for one human brain to hold all the little details that will be important later. But happily, one can usually follow the story just fine all the same, and if you really want to know how it all fits together you can always check out the online maps put together by the superhuman part of the fandom.
But in all seriousness, it can be hard for fantasy novels to strike the right balance between leaving things to the imagination and explaining just how the world works. The trouble goes exponential for every step away from our familiar world, and Sanderson creates entire planets that work nothing like Earth. The Stormlight Archives is the most so, with alien flora, fauna, and wildlife to compliment its detailed cultures and a history of war. I’d say he walks that line pretty darn well. And on that note,
3/7. (Marietta) Wait, I have a comment.
You forgot to mention the absence of info-dumping. Naturally, with a incredibly, astonishingly, fabulously, amazingly, uncommonly complex world, there would also be an incredibly, astonishingly, fabulously, amazingly, uncommonly strong impulse to info-dump. Such as, “here we are, it’s the first chapter, let’s just put our character in a classroom so the teacher can explain our history to the reader.” Or else “since our reader is brainless and can’t figure out our world by himself, let’s have a side character with a interest in botany explain our complex eco-system to the MC who has lived in this world all his life and knows how it works.”
Instead, we have an absolute absence of anything remotely symbolizing an explanation, and we get to scramble around and pick up hints about how everything works. This also safeguards the reader from that feeling of superiority to the characters, which results from stupid characters the failure of plot-twists. OK, back to you.
3. (Bernadette) The Originality.
Sanderson is not interested in taking things easy on himself, telling a story in an established world or with common rules. Again and again he creates new magic systems, new rules, from chalk circles to burning metals. Unusual components by themselves do not a story make, and can actually flop if they’re too complicated for the story or if the author leans too much on them. But they’re a fun extra in the hands of a good author, and you’ll be intrigued by the variety of magics and worlds here.
6. (Marietta) Extraneous Example:
He created his own universe. No, literally. We have diverse planets (and constellations) which each have their own distinct history, ecosystem, politics, fashions, and are each at different phases of being destroyed/saved.
But he doesn’t even put all of his stories in this universe (called the Cosmere). Instead, he has a number of un-Cosmere stories, such as a post-apocalyptic supervillain -ruled U.S. and a ridiculous, mind-boggling Evil-Librarian-ruled U.S. (not simultaneously).
5. (Bernadette) Case-files and Consequences
Brandon Sanderson writes fantasy, not philosophy. That doesn’t mean his characters are absolved from all moral confusions, two-pronged dilemmas, and using general human decency. Part of a satisfying story is that it matters when a character makes a choice. They can’t just brush past other people’s rights because they’re the Chosen One, or make world-changing decisions without consulting anyone else. Vin literally alters her world in a single snap-decision; and nearly dooms herself and everyone else!
4. (Marietta) Nothing is beyond him.
Nothing is beneath him either. And by that I mean that he will do anything, absolutely anything to his stories. He is the ultimate trope-destroyer. You can’t say things like “Oh, he won’t kill that character because he’s too awesome/important/crucial to the salvation of the world/the main character”. Because HE WILL KILL THEM. *sobs*
But then, hey, he might also bring them back to life. He’s been known to do that, and he can pull off pretty much anything. You rarely know what you’ll get with him, you never know what’s going to happen next, but you do know that whatever it is, it’ll be awesome, and totally worth any potential heartbreak.
12,687. The Epicness.
Read these books because they’re epic. Seriously. Brandon Sanderson writes epic fantasy – and his books richly deserve the title.
Have you read any of Sanderson’s works? Which series/book is your favorite? What’s your top reason for reading them?