It’s rare that I find an author whose novels I consume so voraciously as those of Brandon Sanderson, and even rarer that the author has enough published books to populate a top 10 list. Off the top of my head, John Scalzi may be the only other author I actively and continually read who would qualify for such a list.
But today is about Brandon Sanderson. By my count I’ve read 17 of his books; I haven’t read The Wheel of Time (a series he finished after Robert Jordan passed away) or his IP fiction. Honorable mentions include The Rithmatist, The Emperor’s Soul, Firefight, Calamity, Oathbringer (Stormlight Archive book 3), Elantris, The Bands of Mourning (Mistborn book 6)
10. Shadows of Self (Mistborn book 5)
9. Steelheart (Steelheart book 1): Several of my favorite Sanderson books are introductions into his worlds–that’s why 6 of the top 10 are first books or standalone books. I think it takes a special talent to consistently create and introduce readers to new worlds. The world of Steelheart is one in which there are superheroes…but they’re all bad. The actual heroes are regular people who use interesting technology and skill to navigate a post-apocalyptic world.
8. The Alloy of Law (Mistborn book 4): This is another first book in a series even though it’s book 4. The Mistborn series is divided into multiple trilogies, with this trilogy taking place hundreds of years after the original. I really like this literary device, as it allows Sanderson to tidily wrap up each story within a manageable 3 books, and then you can continue your journey into the world later. Or you could start with book 4, complete the second trilogy, then go back to the first trilogy to learn how this world came to be.
7. Warbreaker: There are a few stand-alone books in the Cosmere, Sanderson’s literary universe, and this is my favorite. The magic system, which is based on colors, is fascinating, and I like the mysterious nature of the near-godlike figures who live in the capital city.
6. The Well of Ascension (Mistborn book 2): As you can see from the top 6, I really love the first Mistborn trilogy–it’s up there with Red Rising, Acacia, and a few others as my favorite trilogies of all time. I really like how each Mistborn book ramps up in comparison to the previous book. The stakes are higher, the main characters are more powerful, and the mysteries of the world expand (even while some of them are answered along the way).
5. Mistborn (Mistborn book 1): It’s tough to see this book so “low” on the list, but all of these books are SO good. I love the scrappy characters in this book, the metal-based magic system, the mysterious and super-powerful ruler, and the spooky nature of his eyeless henchman. Seriously, if you’re looking for a fantasy trilogy, read this book.
4. Skyward: This is the first of a series, but the other books haven’t been released yet. Sanderson dips into young-adult sci fi in this novel, and he’s instantly at full strength (even though he started strong, you can see his progression as a writer over the years). I love how you sometimes think you’re dealing with stereotypical characters, then suddenly Sanderson reveals that they’re fully-formed, nuanced human beings.
3. The Way of Kings (Stormlight Archive book 1): When I think about this book–the beginning of an epic, 10-book fantasy series–I think about leadership. There are so many stories where someone does one leader-like thing or gives one speech, and suddenly he/she has a ton of followers. Not here. It takes time to build trust and gain followers as you find your way as a leader. This is that story.
2. Words of Radiance (Stormlight Archive book 2): This book is cinematic entertainment at its best. There are multiple action scenes in this book that are so vivid and spectacular that I swear I’ve seen them, not just read them. If one Sanderson book is made into a movie, this would be my choice. Even better, get HBO on this entire series. I love Game of Thrones, but instead of making a dozen prequels and sequels, just give me Mistborn or The Stormlight Archive.
1. The Hero of Ages (Mistborn book 3): I think this might be the best book 3 of any trilogy ever. The reason I say that is Sanderson answers every single question and resolves every single mystery presented throughout the trilogy in such a comprehensive, satisfying way. There are huge things that seem nearly unexplainable…yet when they’re explained, they not only make sense–you realize that Sanderson has been giving you the information you needed to figure them out all along. It’s a truly brilliant, epic finale.
How would you rank Sanderson’s books? Are there any authors who have written so many books you enjoyed that you could create a top 10 list of them?