HOOKED ON BOOKS: Huzzah for the wizard of world-building

Brandon Sanderson made his bones completing a fantasy epic left unfinished at another author's death. On his own, he has repeatedly proven to be a master of conjuring fantasy worlds that envelope the reader's imagination.

Covers of selected books by Brandon Sanderson

His name is Brandon Sanderson. If you don’t already know it, you’re in for a huge treat.

The fantasy genre is known for a technique called “world building.” When you encounter an author who’s good at it, they leave you in awe.

Some of their books' pages are often devoted to explanatory essays, glossaries, grammars of made-up languages, and detailed maps of places you’ll find nowhere on this earth. But as you read the book that goes with them, whatever earth those places are on becomes fully real to you. Its landscape envelopes you, making you covet cubic yards of sequels.

Of course, stuff happens in the books, too – battles, intrigues, prophecies, magic, romance. You come for the action, but you stay for the scenery; or rather, the scenery stays with you.

The world high wizard of world-building, Sanderson is a bit younger than I am, but I feel like a kid when I’m holding one of his books.


He made his bones by completing the massive “Wheel of Time” cycle started by the late Robert Jordan. Sanderson’s first solo novel, which convinced me that he has the touch of genius, was “Elantris.” I wrote about it last year under the topic of “weird romance.” But he has created many more worlds that I urge you to visit.



This double trilogy shares its name with its first book, now often called “The Final Empire.” If Sanderson had written nothing else, his career would still be awesome.

Picture ash falling from the sky, killer mists roaming the streets at night, and people struggling to survive in a world where most everyone is a slave. Even the nobility are terrified of the priests who serve their godlike emperor.

But some people don’t think he’s a god. Among them are a group of rebels with rare powers fueled by burning certain metals in their stomach.

This series inhabits a mesmerizing realm between superheroes and magic. And what the main characters do to save their world, thrills me to my toes.




The young-adult Reckoners trilogy explores the idea that if people develop superpowers, they would take over the world and turn it into a living nightmare. Anything but heroes, the Epics are after power and they squish normal people like bugs.

Young David saw that happen to his dad when he was 8 years old. A decade later, he joins a terrorist group called the Reckoners, whose mission is to kill Epics. It’s brutal, but the world may depend on it.

David’s team of Reckoners are complex characters, and the powers they’re up against are fascinating and cruel. Their upside-down comic-book adventure is full of danger, fast-paced action and mind-blowing concepts.



This book, actually three novellas under one cover, features a guy named Stephen who has many people living inside his head. His catchline is, “I’m perfectly sane. It’s my hallucinations that are mad.”

Far from making him unable to function, Stephen’s alternate personas help him solve puzzles. People all over the world come to him, or them, for help. They may not be visible or tangible to anyone but him, but their contribution is real.


Basically, Stephen is a super-genius who parcels up his knowledge between different characters in his head. It can’t last forever, though. Although they live in his imagination, Stephen’s associates are in terrible danger. Wouldn’t you like to know how?


“The Rithmatist”

I’ve been hoping for a sequel to this book for years. Another teen masterpiece, it features a kid named Joel who attends an elite school in a “gearpunk” world where the United Isles of America are a clockwork-powered society.

Joel’s dream is to join a small group called Rithmatists, who practice a form of magic using chalk lines and figures that come to life and move in two dimensions. Part of their training is to spend 10 years on an island called Nebrask, fighting 2D creatures that can kill.

Despite his lack of magical talent, Joel finds work as a research assistant for a Rithmatics prof. On the side, he investigates a series of disappearances, possibly murders, linked to his world’s bizarre form of magic.


“Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians”

This five-book series of middle-grades adventures features a kid whose goofy relatives all have a secret power that most people wouldn’t consider very useful – powers like breaking things, always arriving late, tripping and falling, and saying things that don’t make sense.

Nevertheless, the Smedry clan uses these powers to fight the mind-controlling forces of the evil librarians, who control the world with disinformation. The reality Alcatraz reveals turns everything you know inside-out, often to hilarious effect. But his adventures are also full of excitement.



I have yet to explore many worlds that Brandon Sanderson has built. I’ve just begun to read “Warbreaker,” a standalone book in which supposed gods suck the color (or “breath”) out of ordinary people.

Then there are the four Stormlight Archive novels, packed with strange life forms and magics; the Cosmere series, where one encounters ghosts and visions of the future; two Infinity Blade books, about a young knight’s quest to free his people; and two Skyward books, in which a corps of pilots is the human race’s last defense against alien attack.

Based on Sanderson’s track record, I expect to enjoy many more hours immersed in the worlds he has built.

Robin Fish is an avid reader who blogs about books and other topics at Contact him with questions or suggestions at

Related Topics: BOOKS
Robin Fish is a staff reporter at the Park Rapids Enterprise. Contact him at or 218-252-3053.
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