Thursday, April 26, 2012

W is for Way of Kings, et al

I could stare at this cover all day.
The Way of Kings is only the latest in a long string of books that will (God willing) prove to be just the briefest beginning of a long and glorious career. The author, Brandon Sanderson, is one of my personal heroes, author-crushes, and if-I-could-write-half-as-well-as-he-can-I'll-die-happy benchmarks. If you haven't read each and every one of his books yet, start now. It will take you a while to catch up, but you'll thank me for the journey.

So here's a short list of why I love Brandon--and you should, too.

  • He is only six months older than I am. Though that should make me burn with jealousy, I love that he's accomplished so much in our (relatively) short lives. (And HE doesn't have a law degree.) He proves that it is possible to be achingly wise without aching joints.
  • He paid his dues. He worked as a night clerk during college so he'd have time to write and churned out several books before his first book, Elantris, was published. He started focusing on writing in 1997 and in 2003 finally got "the call" that he'd been accepted for publication. Elantris came out in 2005. Now, again, this could be discouraging if I was intent on publishing a mite earlier than 8 years after I started... but if I can take 8 years and get half as good as Brandon before I publish, I'm a-gonna be satisfied. Now I just have to write a few more books....
  • Brandon is a master of detail. Not just in magic systems, which he's famous for, but for casually slipping in tiny little "inconsequential" details... that blow your mind two books later. He doesn't over sell them, he doesn't paint a huge arrow saying HEY, THIS IS IMPORTANT! REMEMBER IT!, and he also doesn't make them forgettable. When I got the the moment of realization in Hero of Ages, I remembered the exact scene from The Final Empire (this is all the Mistborn trilogy) that made everything significant. But I remembered the scene because of the other details. The important one was there, but jumbled together with the rest so that... oh, just read it and see for yourself.
  • Brandon loves playing with his genre--and he's incredible at it. Most epic fantasy involves a journey? Elantris and Mistborn both involve a single city, more or less. Most epic fantasy worlds are stuck in the pre-technology past? Enter Alloy of Law, where the metal-based magic system from Mistborn gets its ultimate boost from guns and its ultimate playground in skyscrapers.
  • Robert Jordan, as you may know, had the bad taste to die one book away from the end of his long-running Wheel of Time series. He'd written 11 novels and a prequel. According to his plan, only one book remained. Who to write it? Who else? Brandon threw himself into the project in the best possible way. He studied all of Jordan's notes and his outline, then read the entire series again (he'd been a fan of the series probably since the beginning, in 1990). He took his own notes about the loose ends that needed to be tied up, the characters that needed a resolution and the plot lines that needed an end. Eventually, he needed three books to tell the end of the story. That Brandon is writing the last three books is the only thing tempting me to read the first 12. Maybe next year.
  • With The Way of Kings, Brandon proves that, like Robert Jordan before him, he can craft the kind of world fans want to spend 9,000+ pages playing in. WOK is only 1001 pages long and, I believe, he has around 9 books planned. It's gonna be awesome.
  • You'd think with all the epicness of the rest of his fantasy, he'd be rather stuffy... but he's not. Witness Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians, a very tongue-in-cheek upper-MG series where the MC/Narrator is a young boy who grows up to be rather famous and writes the books as a way to convince his fans that he's actually rather a horrible person. His family each has a bizarre talent. His is breaking things--like locked doors, enemy weapons, and oh, time. His grandfather is always late for everything... like his own death. His uncle gets lost at the drop of a hat, so if you let him lead, you'll probably end up a few thousand miles away in a matter of minutes. His cousin can fall down spectacularly.... you get the idea. These books are hilarious.
  • Brandon gives back. He contributes to a weekly writer's podcast called Writing Excuses that any writer should listen to religiously. He teaches at BYU (and you know how I love BYU). He attends writing conferences and teaches classes on... whatever (like any topic is off-limits for him). He even did a call for Authors' Advisory on Magic Systems.

Annnd... I've already gone past my "short" list intentions. Brandon can't write short things and you just can't praise him in a short post. Impossible.

So go read his books. Read them all. Revel with me in his amazingness. (Or, as my friend Peter did, you can throw his book across the room because you have realized that there is a pinnacle of quality that you will never, ever reach in your own writing.)

Do you love Brandon, too? Which authors make you simultaneously swoon and tear your hair out because they're just too good?


  1. Don't yell at me...I haven't read anything by Brandon Sanderson yet. BUT Mistborn is on my TBR list.

    1. No need to yell. Missing out on Brandon's brilliance is it's own punishment. As your friend, I urge you to bump it up the louder.

    2. Huh. I'm sure I meant to say bump it up the list. Stupid swype.