Geeks are rejoicing! In fact, a weeklong epic fantasy geek-gasm is ongoing even as I type this essay. But if you’re not one of us, you probably haven’t noticed. That’s because we epic fantasy geeks aren’t really the party-in-the-streets sort of revelers. Instead, we’re the disappear-in-our-caves-and-read-the-newest-big-fat-book types. And the big fat book that instigated this round of rejoicing is no ordinary epic. We’ll be in our caves for some time.
Last Tuesday, Oathbringer was released—Brandon Sanderson’s latest edition to the wildly popular Stormlight Archive. And yes, it’s his biggest, fattest yet, weighing in at 1,220 pages. And get this: Oathbringer is the third in a planned ten-volume series! Talk about ambitious.
The Stormlight Archive isn’t just long, it’s expansive—a story-world with 30 systems of magic, dozens of cultures, and 6,000 years of history mapped out. In the first two editions there are over a dozen POV characters (though there are merely three to five protagonists, depending on how you count them). The themes Sanderson is weaving are not just socially-conscious, but in my opinion are extremely relevant and applicable. They include climate change, religious dogma versus evidence-based science, the politics of oppression, and making war for profit, to name a few.
I’m not here today to sell you on The Stormlight Archive. The series might even be considered daunting by some fantasy fans. But I do want to share how heartened and inspired I am by its success. And I also want to share a few thoughts on the trend in my genre toward more expansive storytelling.
These days it seems there is no shortage of readers out there who are undaunted by a sprawling tale. This is good news for many fantasists. But for me, Sanderson’s success with Stormlight is particularly inspiring. You see, he started writing the first draft of it fifteen years before the publication of the first edition in the series, The Way of Kings. Prior to that, he sold a standalone fantasy (Elantris) and a trilogy (Mistborn) set in the same universe (or the Cosmere, as he calls it)—not to mention being hand-picked to finish Robert Jordan’s popular Wheel of Time series following Jordan’s untimely passing—all before he undertook revising The Way of Kings for publication.
Talk about accomplished. Talk about prolific!
And yet, as lauded and productive as Sanderson is, I see a bit of my own journey in his. And when I say “a bit,” it’s not mere diffidence. Sanderson wrote fifteen(!) novels before getting published. So far, I’ve written five. After Elantris was published his editor read a version of The Way of Kings and thought it was too ambitious—particularly for a second novel. Even Sanderson has said he wasn’t a good enough writer at that time to pull it off. Likewise, my gut tells me that when I wrote and revised my first trilogy, A Legacy of Broken Oaths, I wasn’t good enough to pull off. And so I moved on to write other stories in the same world—one of which I hope to sell. But I still have hopes for LOBO.
Brandon Sanderson’s success with The Stormlight Archive keeps that hope alive. [Read more…]