Explore the world of the Stormlight Archive series and find out what sets Brandon Sanderson apart as a science fiction fantasy writer.
When it comes to epic fantasy series, there are many books to choose from in recent years. But Brandon Sanderson’s work on The Stormlight Archives is in a league of its own. You can find the books in all formats on Amazon, on the New York Times best-selling lists, and almost all popular audiobook platforms.
But here’s what you need to know before you dive deep into the author’s complex storylines. This article will contain some spoilers.
Brandon Sanderson biography
Born in Lincoln, Nebraska, in 1975, Brandon Sanderson wasn’t always an avid reader. By junior high, he didn’t care to crack open a book. But reading Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambly rekindled his passion for epic fantasy.
In 1994, Brandon joined Brigham Young University. Despite trying his luck at writing a few times, he attended university as a biochemistry major. But two years spent as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints reminded Brandon how much he missed writing.
He changed his major to English and began writing while working as a night hotel clerk.
Brandon finished seven novels as an undergraduate. He even volunteered for The Leading Edge, the university’s science fiction fantasy magazine.
The young author learned the industry ropes in a David Farland class. He learned the importance of networking with fans, editors, agents, and other writers at conventions.
That’s what ultimately led to an editor from Moshe Feder at Tor.com submitting an offer for one of his novels, Elantris.
Brandon graduated in 2004 and, despite becoming a popular author, went on to teach creative writing as an undergrad.
Since then, he published many titles, not all related to his most successful series, The Stormlight Archive. Here are some of his more popular works:
- Infinity Blade: Awakening is an accompanying novel for the Infinity Blade video game.
- He wrapped up the Wheel of Time series after Robert Jordan’s passing.
- Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians is a middle-grade novel with favorable reviews.
- The Mistborn series.
- The Cosmere works (Arcanum Unbounded, Warbreaker)
- The Skyward series.
- The Reckoners.
But the author’s The Stormlight Archive series put him on the map.
Stormlight Archives explained (and why it’s worth reading)
The Stormlight Archives is unlike any other fantasy book series out there. The author deliberately builds up the story with a slow burn to create a fantastic peak and resolution.
Brandon’s series starts with The Way of Kings. It’s a 400,000-word epic, somewhat deserving of being a standalone series. But the author takes his time to flesh out every character and pays excellent attention to world building.
Most fantasy writers stick to known periods in human history. They add fantastic and mythological elements and make it them their own. But Brandon blends sci-fi and fantasy as well as anyone.
The world of Stormlight takes place in the land of Roshar. The author builds a unique setting using many “what if” scenarios. Roshar is a planet with rich cultures, creatures, and magic-wielding classes known as Surgebinders.
Each book in the series follows a cast of characters, making tracking the complex storylines and mini-plots easier. For example, The Way of Kings’ protagonist is Kaladin, while the main character in Words of Radiance is Shallan.
They are all part of the same overarching plot, yet they benefit from many chapters in different books. This is Brandon’s method for making his characters feel real and credible.
One of the standout elements is the depth of the hard magic system. Magic wielders in Sanderson’s novels use two Surges or magical powers. But there are many more powers the author explores:
- Old magic
The combination of a hard magic system and many lifeforms and cultures allowed Sanderson to create unique and exciting lore wielders like:
So far, the author penned four out of the planned 10 novels in the series.
The Way of Kings
Published by Tor Books, the story follows Kaladin, Shallan Davar, Szeth-son-son-Valano, and Dalinar and Adolin Kholin. At first, the characters don’t seem connected.
But that changes once Shin man assassin Szeth enters the scene. His mission to assassinate the king of Alethkar sees him interacting with many of the protagonists in one way or another.
The first book introduces readers to an imaginary planet, with many cultures, creatures, and races. It uses concepts like magical blades, powers or Surges, the struggle for human survival, and the ever-exciting medieval-like politicking and scheming.
Words of Radiance
Published in 2014 by Tor Books, Words of Radiance is the second Stormlight Archive book. Kaladin is in charge of the royal bodyguards, a high honor for a darkeye. But Szeth, the assassin, is back and on a killing spree, ridding Roshar of its leaders.
Kaladin must protect Highprience Dalinar Kholin, the man behind the Alethi throne. The book also follows Shallan, on a similar and parallel path. She’s on a quest to prevent the ancient Voidbringers from coming back and new Desolations from occurring.
Author Brandon Sanderson named the third book after the Oathbringer, Dalinar’s Shardblade. The story opens with the victorious Alethi armies in the wake of their battle with Parshendi. But the battle came at a terrible cost as the enemy summoned the Everstorm to rain destruction down on the World of Roshar.
Kaladin Stormblessed struggles with the morality and justification of this new evil. Shallan Davar looks for ancient secrets at the Knights Radiant stronghold in Urithiru.
But Dalinar quickly understands that uniting Alethkar wouldn’t be enough to stop the end of civilization.
Rhythm of War
The fourth book in the series was published in 2020. It has a complex structure with a prologue, 117 chapters, 12 interludes, and an epilogue.
Dalinar and the Knights Radiant are involved in a brutal war. And Taravangian’s penance for treachery can cause Dalinar the battle.
But Navani Kholin’s scholars uncover new technologies that can challenge Radiant ideals and reveals dark ancient secrets. Meanwhile, Kaladin and his Windrunners have different problems. More Fused begin to wage war and fewer Honorspren choose to bond with humans and make more Radiants.
Adolin and Shallan must travel to the Lasting Integrity stronghold and convince more spren to fight against the evil god Odium.
Sanderson also wrote Dawnshard and Edgedancer as tie-in works related to the series. Dawnshard follows Rysn Ftori and Chiri-Chiri and the rest of the Wandersail crew on their way to Aimia. The story takes place in between the third and fourth books.
Edgedancer explains how a goddess stopped Lift from growing old and a young Azish emperor protected her from Darkness. It also goes even deeper into Roshar lore, the Radiant, and the importance of oaths in the author’s fantasy realm.
Listen to Stormlight Archives audiobooks with Speechify
If you want a fantasy novel that can challenge you and offer something new, any book in The Stormlight Archives is worth your time. But given their length, you may prefer the unabridged audiobook version.
You can find those on Speechify along with other fantasy science fiction titles that can transport you to faraway worlds. Try Speechify today and you can start Sanderson’s Stormlight Archives series with a free first book.
Is Stormlight Archive as good as Mistborn?
It’s a matter of personal preference. The worldbuilding is more complex in Stormlight Archive, although the author’s familiar style is evident in the Mistborn trilogy.
Is Stormlight Archive appropriate for 12-year-olds?
The books are appropriate as the violence and war depictions aren’t gruesome as in other similar novels.
Do the Stormlight Archives have a happy ending?
Brandon Sanderson finished four out of 10 books in the series. Therefore, the ending is unknown and it’s too early in the story to speculate.