He finished a long running fantasy series. He’s a college professor. Since his first novel publication in 2005, Brandon Sanderson has soared to the top of being of the most acclaimed, respected and amazing fantasy authors. But I know many people are confused of where to start with his books. Many of them are large volumes and are involved in his “Cosmere” universe, where his books take place on different planets in one universe. But I would like to offer a guide on where to start with Sanderson’s books. But I will say that if you have different thoughts on where to start, it’s all good. Some people just jumped into The Way of Kings, or some were fans since 2005. But no matter where you’re at, here’s a beginner guide, with a few divisions, of where to start with his books.
If you need something quick, try these:
- Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell: Originally appearing in the anthology Dangerous Women, this little story takes place in a forests where deadly shades haunt the trees. Silence is an innkeeper who must protect her family from not only the shades, but also a gang who want their heads. At only 50 pages long, this is a great and atmospheric choice. Silence is a fantastic character and the world is dark, misty and creepy. If you want a really quick story to read in under an hour, this is perfect for you.
- Legion #1: This doesn’t deal with the Marvel character. Stephen Leeds has a condition that lets him multiple personalities in his head. A man comes to Stephen for help and the adventure ensues. The humor that comes from the imaginary characters interacting is great and this is a good choice for people who don’t read fantasy much. There’s also a sequel, with a third one planned. This slim volume is a fun mystery and shows how every imaginary character is vital to helping solve the mystery.
- The Emperor’s Soul: This novella won the prestigious Hugo Award in 2013 and it’s wholly deserving of it. In an Asian inspired setting, we follow a forger named Shai, whose condemned to death after trying to steal something from the Emperor. But a councilor of the Emperor comes to her with a bargain, you’re thrown into a magum opus when it comes to a magic system. While it’s set in the same world as Elantris, the reference to it is tiny and you have to read Elantris to pick it up. But if you’re a fantasy lover, especially with detailed magic, this is required reading.
- Sixth of the Dusk: Another story clocking in at 59 pages, this standalone short story revolves around a water planet. A solitary trapper, with his bird that sees premonitions of death, discovers that the island he comes to wants to kill him. This world is amazing and the concept of birds that see premonitions is creepy for me but so worth a read. This is a cool world on the brink of change and one we need to see more of.
If you read YA and haven’t dipped into adult fantasy, try these:
- Steelheart (The Reckoners #1): The first book in this science fiction series is really fun! This tells the story of how one day, a large thing called Calamity appeared in the sky and people started gaining superpowers. But many of them became evil and started taking over parts of the world. Young David saw his father murdered by Steelheart, who claimed can’t be killed. But years later, he teams with a group of people called the Reckoners who vow to take down Steelheart and other evil epics. This is a departure from Sanderson’s normal fantasy, but it’s such a nice change. David uses really awful (and hilarious) metaphors to try and describe his thoughts and the way he develops the reasons for the super powers and their weaknesses are great. This trilogy is complete, so if you want something to marathon, try this one. But if you also love Marvel/DC and superhero type stories, you’ll enjoy this series.
- The Rithmatist #1: There’s currently only one book out in this series with a second planned for 2018. But I personally love this book a little more than Reckoners. This first book shows an alternate United States where people are chosen to be Rithmatists. The magic system is based off of chalk drawings. They draw chalk creatures, create defenses and other awesome things. Joel isn’t a Rithmatist, but he knows everything about them and wants to be one. But when people at his school begin disappearing, he finds an unlikely ally in Melody as they uncover what’s really going on. The illustrations are fantastic, with examples of chalk creatures and the circles of defense to give you an idea of how it works. Sanderson flexes his creativity so well in this first book, making you (and myself) die for the sequel.
If you’re into adult fantasy and need more, start here:
- Mistborn: The Final Empire (Mistborn #1): This first book in the original trilogy skyrocketed Sanderson to even more stardom when it came out in 2006. This world is dark place, where ash falls from the sky. The Lord Ruler, an immortal tyrant rules Luthadel and other surrounding cities. People who have tried to go against him have failed, until Kelsier. Kelsier, a Mistborn, gathers a group of other talented people with Allomantic powers, develop a plan to overthrow the Lord Ruler. A young street urchin named Vin discovers through this group that’s she’s much more than she appears. Yes, this original trilogy is over 500 pages with each book, but if you want to be transported to another world, start your roller coaster ride here. *NOTE: There are other books in the Mistborn world after the trilogy, but you need to read the original trilogy first due to spoilers later on in the other books*
- Warbreaker: This epic fantasy novel is currently a standalone. Sanderson does want to write a sequel set in the same world, but it’s way far into the future that you don’t have to worry. The magic system is called “breath” where you drain color from everyday objects. Some people only have one breath, where others three or more. The main story about two sisters; one is set to marry the God King and the other was destined to stay in her kingdom. But when the unprepared sister is married off the God King, adventure, romance, politics, gods and chaos ensues. If you like fantasy books with a good amount of politics, this is another great choice.
- Elantris: This was Sanderson’s first published work and is also currently a standalone along with the previous entry. This story follows the once shining city of Elantris that has now turned ugly, dim and a place where people are left to die once they’re stricken with a physical curse. Raoden wakes up to have this curse and is throw into the rotting city before he marries Sarene. This is another fantasy that has great magic and politics, with messages of never giving up and perseverance.
For those who love Sanderson and ready to truly dive in, go here:
- Snapshot: This short story is one for Sanderson fans who love his work. This is a detective thriller set in a world where “snapshots” are created (basically an alternate reality) so cops can solve crimes. Two detectives get way more than they bargained for in this story. I say that this story is for fans of his work already because the way that the story is structured and told could throw people off. Plus, the ending while it’s genius, could not sit well with some. But this is another story for fans who are more mystery/sci fi seekers.
- Alcatraz series: This five book series is now complete and is zany fun. It follows Alcatraz, who tends to break things. When he gets a bag of sand on his birthday from his deceased parents, a wild and crazy adventure ensues. I haven’t fully read this series, but it’s good fun. You can’t take the books way too seriously because it’s meant to be both fun and silly. Many author names are used as swear words (which to me is hilarious) for example. I think people who like Sanderson’s humor will be right at home here.
- The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive #1): This is essentially the “mother ship” of Sanderson’s works. The first book is a hefty 1000 pages with each volume getting longer. There’s currently two that are out, with the third in November. This huge epic fantasy follows a world where a king was killed and a group of people claim responsibility. Thus a long war has raged on between humans and the Parshendi people. But there’s something bigger coming in the background. You follow a few main characters: Kaladin, Shallan, Dalinar, Jasnah and a few other minor characters in interludes as they figure out their destinies. I only recommend this genius series for those who regularly read adult epic fantasy or are used to very big books. If you’re ready to try it however, go for it! While these books are huge, it’s very easy to follow each character to see what they’re doing. Sanderson never lets you get lost in these books. There’s so much magic, politics, prejudice, prophecies, talking sprites and amazing writing to boot. There are 10 books planned in this series, but trust me, waiting for these books is always worth it. My husband and I have been waiting patiently for 3 years for the third book to come out. It’s also never a bad thing to reread these books to get a refresher; picking up more details is always good to have in your arsenal when reading a huge series.
There you have it everyone! I hope this guide was helpful if you’ve been wanting to read Sanderson for a long time. For my personal experience, I started in this order: first Mistborn book, Elantris, Warbreaker, Steelheart and so on. I never had a problem with longer books and after reading the first Mistborn, the journey to his fantasy books has been epic in every sense. He’s a true one of a kind reader and I hope you will enjoy his works too.
Have you read any Brandon Sanderson? Do you have suggestions for others of where to start? Which book did you read first?