For my first installment of “Masters of Storytelling” I am going straight to the top and talking about the single author I, personally, consider to be not simply a master, but the master of our times: Brandon Sanderson.
He finished off Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series relatively early in his career, and how many people can brag about something like that? “Yes, one of fantasy’s masters died and his widow personally selected me, asked me to finish his work, it was one of my earlier efforts,” he can say anytime.
The first of Sanderson’s books I read was the original Mistborn trilogy (hence my use of the image above), consisting of Mistborn, The Well of Ascension, and The Hero of Ages. From the first page, I was gripped with the characters, the plot, the setting, everything. He took me on a thrilling journey in Mistborn, where I saw characters grow, evolve, become more, better than they were. There were triumphs and tragedies, and then there was surprise I really did not see coming, and so on and so forth.
Then, in The Well of Ascension, we saw what happens after the evil overlord is defeated, and it’s not easy. Again, we saw characters change and grow, and make difficult decisions. (and seeing the female hero come swooping out of the sky with a sword roughly the size and shape of a surfboard was awesome!) We also caught our first glimpse of the true enemy, and began to wonder if the evil overlord of Mistborn was really all that bad, as he was holding a cosmic, evil being at bay. In The Hero of Ages, we had the same sort of ride, and it got more and more exciting, and I had no idea how they were going to survive, and then… another twist I did not see coming, but which made perfect sense! It was great!
This has held true for everything Sanderson has written which I have read. Even Elantris, one of his earliest works (and, if I recall correctly, the first novel he published) was thoroughly enjoyable, a fantastic read. In Warbreaker and The Way of Kings, he kept me very entertained, and that has held true for Legion, Steelheart, The Emperor’s Soul, and I am currently reading Words of Radiance. These are epic stories, yet told on a human level, with diverse characters we can often relate to in some way. The story both drives and is driven by the characters, they have actual brains and real foibles. The worlds we are taken to are vivid and clear, and don’t even get me started on the magic systems!
As an amateur storyteller myself, I can appreciate the several systems of magic Sanderson has created. He has coined his own laws of magic, and he applies these in his work. Some are more intricate than others, yet all of them are explained clearly, in due time, so when miraculous things happen (such as the surf-board-sized sword-wielding hero dropping from the sky) they make sense! In the Mistborn series, certain metals endow their users with super-abilities, either being use like a vault to “store” one’s own physical abilities for later, enhanced use, or by ingestion of trace amounts which a certain people can metabolize, or by impaling one person with a sharp metal to take their power (and their life) and transfer it to another with a second impalement (that’s three magic systems based on one). In Elantris, it’s runes and symbols which, when drawn, have certain effects. One can even change the “history” of an object with such symbols, as in The Emperor’s Soul. In Warbreaker, one gives “breath” inanimate objects, which then do their bidding. On and on, one new, unique system after another, Sanderson delivers.
I was already in awe of this, but then I found out that a major chunk of his novels, distinctly different series, are all set in the same universe. Mistborn‘s three systems in one are part of an even larger “one” which branches to include the runes in Elantris, the “breath” in Warbreaker, the surge-binding of The Way of Kings, and more. Much more. Which boggles my mind to even contemplate. And just as the individual magic systems relate to, and are explained by, the individual stories they are pertinent to, the overarching system in the background is being explained by the overarching story in the background, as we get the tidbits and pieces of it sprinkled across the length and breath of Sanderson’s impressive universe, which he has dubbed the Cosmere.
Recap: a good number of epic-yet-personal stories, twists and turns and surprises you can’t see coming mixed among the things you can see coming, set on vivid worlds with a variety of magic systems, and all loosely connected, yet independent of each other.
Can it get any better than this?
So go visit his website, here!