When most people think of fantasy fiction, they think of elves, dwarves, dragons, and wizards. In other words, they think of the thousands of books out there that adhere to the fantasy formula that was made popular by JRR Tolkien almost 60 years ago. Now, I love Tolkienesque fantasy as much as the next reader, but for those that are looking for a fresh take on the genre, look no further than Brandon Sanderson.
Sanderson came into the limelight when he was chosen to write the last three novels in the extremely popular Wheel of Time series after author Robert Jordan died without finishing it. But now, with 6 New York Times Bestsellers, a Hugo Award, four Whitney Awards, and a David Gemmell Legend Award under his belt, it's safe to say that, on his own, Sanderson is a force to be reckoned with in modern fantasy literature. His detailed world-building, deep characterization, and unique take on the mechanics of magic all come together to create stories that break the mold of the fantasy genre.
The following is a list of his most popular works.
The Stormlight Archive Series
This series is Sanderson's first attempt at epic fantasy, and so far it is shaping up to be quite a grand story indeed. Slated to be 10 volumes, the series has two parts currently published: The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance.
The story starts out with the king of Alethkar, the most powerful country in the world of Roshar, being killed by a mysterious "assassin in white" with the power to bend gravity to his will. This assassination sparks a war of vengeance against the Parshendi, a primitive race of people who take responsibility for the actions of the assassin. But as the Alethi armies soon find out, the broken plateaus and vast chasms of the Parshendi homeland (aptly named the Shattered Plains) make typical warfare obsolete. With the discovery of "gemhearts;" rare gemstones that grow in the chrysalises of large animals on the Shattered Plains; a war of vengeance soon becomes a war of greed, fracturing Alethkar into noble houses fighting for wealth.
Years later, with the might of Alethkar divided and the assassination of kings and emperors all over Roshar at the hands of the now-infamous Assassin in White, an ancient evil worms its way into the world. Only three people stand in the way of the return of the Voidbringers: Kaladin, a soldier betrayed by his lord and sold into slavery; Dalinar, a dishonored highprince who has visions of the distant past; and Shallan, the young daughter of a disgraced noble house who holds some very powerful secrets. These three must learn to master the powers hidden within them to save Roshar from Desolation.
The Mistborn Trilogy
The Mistborn Trilogy includes the books Mistborn: The Final Empire, The Well of Ascension, and The Hero of Ages.
In a dystopian empire governed by the immortal Lord Ruler, the descendants of those that opposed his rise to power live as skaa-servants and laborers-while the descendants of his supporters live lavish lifestyles as nobles.
Protagonist Vin is a skaa street urchin who works as a thief, con-artist, and good-luck-charm for an abusive street gang. After a con-gone-wrong where most of her gang is killed, Vin is recruited by a mysterious skaa thief named Kelsier who teaches her how to use a power she never knew she had. As it turns out, her "good luck" is actually a form of mind-manipulation made possible by a strange power known as Allomancy. As an Allomancer, Vin has the power to burn metals in her stomach to fuel all kinds of supernatural abilities.
With her new-found powers, Vin is ready to help Kelsier and his crew of outlaw skaa pull off the greatest heist in the history of the Final Empire: they're going to break into the Lord Ruler's own treasury. As the pieces of the heist come together, Vin and the crew soon discover that stealing the treasure is not the end-game that Kelsier has in mind. The overthrow of the Lord Ruler is his real aim, and Vin has to decide whether it's worth risking everything, including the lives of her new friends, to help Kelsier make the Empire a better place for the skaa.
A brilliant standalone novel, Warbreaker is the story of Vivenna and Siri, two princesses of the nation of Idris. Though Vivenna is betrothed to the God King of rival nation Hallandren by decree of a treaty between the two nations, her father instead sends Siri, as he can't stand to see his favorite daughter taken away from him. When Vivenna learns of this, she sets out for Hallandren to rescue Siri. In after a time in Hallandren, Siri finds out that the God King is actually a prisoner of his priests, and Vivenna ends up helping the infamous terrorist Vasher. Both sisters soon find themselves embroiled in a plot to start a war that would see their beloved nation of Idris crushed under the undead armies of Hallandren.
Elantris was once a beautiful city filled with marvels of technology and magic combined. The only way to live there was to be "chosen" by the city itself. One would wake up and find their hair turned a lustrous blond and their skin turned to a statuesque alabaster; they would be called to the city. Hundreds of year ago, however, Elantris was cursed, and now its chosen inhabitants turn a sickly grey, lose their hair, and never heal from wounds; despite being immortal. Instead of being revered, those who wake up as Elantrians now are quickly and quietly banished to the once-great, but now dilapidated, city.
Prince Raoden of Arelon finds himself chosen as an Elantrian weeks before he is to wed a beautiful foreign princess. Unlike the majority of the population of Elantris, however, Raoden won't let himself slip into a comfortable insanity. With a little help from an Elantrian scholar and his fiance, Raoden tries to solve the mystery of Elantris' downfall, while also trying to save his nation of Arelon from a foreign threat.