Where to start with Brandon Sanderson? He is by far my favorite fantasy author today. If I had to sum up his style in one sentence, it would be “Fascinating and intricate magic systems, amazing action sequences, and flawed characters that still try their best.”
His first book to really put him on the map is called Mistborn: The Final Empire. Imagine a proto-typical fantasy world where the Destined Hero goes on a great quest to prevent the world from an existential threat that will plunge the wold into an eternity of darkness. Now imagine the Destined Hero failed. The setting for Mistborn is in this world, 1000 years later. The magic in Mistborn revolves around metals, and is called Allomancy. An Allomancer can in ingest one of several basic metals or alloys (iron, steel, zinc, brass, copper, tin, gold, bronze, pewter, etc.) and metabolize or ‘burn’ it receive a specific magical power while doing so:
- Iron lets you pull on other metal objects
- Tin enhances your senses
- Pewter makes you physically stronger and tougher
- Zinc lets you enflame the emotions of those around you
- Bronze lets you sense other people using Allomancy
Mistborn is at it’s heart a caper, where a thief Allomancer assembles a group of other Allomancers in order to pull off the biggest heist in history: steal from the Lord Ruler Himself, the god who has been ruling the entire world with an iron fist after he plunged it into darkness a millenia ago.
The other thing that really put him on the map was after the death of Robert Jordan, he was chosen by Robert’s widow Harriet to finish the Wheel of Time for him. She chose him in part due to this eulogy that he wrote after his death.
Currently his most well-known work is a series called the Stormlight Archive, which is at least as ambitious as the Wheel of Time. It takes place on a world called Roshar, where hurricane-force storms called highstorms sweep across the entire planet every few days. This has shaped the entire flora and fauna of the planet, who have evolved to deal with the highstorms in various ways. The story follows several point-of-view characters: Kaladin, a former solder now branded a slave who fights to try and preserve the expendable lives of his fellow slaves, while fighting against the ever-encroaching despondency and apathy that threaten to smother him and the others. Shallan, an educated girl from a minor noble house who is trying to become apprenticed to one of the most famed scholars in the world. But happy demeanor hides a dark past that has left her emotionally broken, and her motivations for apprenticing to the renowned scholar are lest than honest. Dalinar, a high prince of the kingdom and one of the most powerful men in the world. He has led his nation on a war of vengeance against a people that assassinated his brother the king. But as he does so his war-mongering past clashes with desire to grow into something more: a leader that can bring people together and unite them, instead of just killing all those who stand in his way.
The introductory work of Brandon Sanderson that I would recommend reading to see if you would like his other works is a novella called The Emperor’s Soul. Published in 2012, it won Brandon the Hugo Award for best Novella in 2013. The protagonist Shai is a practitioner of a type of magic called Forgery: by perfectly understanding the past history of an object, she creates a magical seal stamp (i.e. 印鑑 in Chinese/Japanese) that re-writes or forges the past history of the object. By doing so she can make a shoddy and cheap vase into a priceless relic vase, change a simple and sparsely-furnished room into one of opulent luxury, etc. Captured by the imperial guard for illegal forgery, she is forced to take on a forgery job of insurmountable difficulty on an impossibly tight schedule with her life in the balance.
Give it a read! I think you’ll love it.