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OPINION: Brandon Sanderson, the king of fantasy

Why Brandon Sanderson is the the best fantasy author of all time

A collection of well-loved Brandon Sanderson books. The library includes novels from his popular “The Stormlight Archive” series to his secret project, which were books backed and released through Kickstarter. // Photo by John Oakes

It’s hard not to feel a sense of adventure when reading of steel singing against steel, horse hooves squelching in a muddy charge. Fantasy encapsulates adventure. It throws you into a new world with concepts to uncover and fresh characters to discover.

I don’t have to tell you that the world has been graced with many fantastic fantasy authors.

But I will.

J.R.R. Tolkien, George R.R. Martin and J.K. Rowling are just a few topping a seemingly never-ending list. I love them all, but must give my condolences because one writer stands above the rest:

Brandon Sanderson, the greatest fantasy author of all time. 

With over 71 books, putting out 3,000 words everyday, Sanderson is an incredibly prolific writer. You’d think with how many pages he’s put out that his books would become a slog.

I love fantasy, but with so much worldbuilding and description, it can get long-winded. Tolkien, I’m sorry, but your “Lord of The Rings” trilogy is guilty of this.

Brandon Sanderson expertly avoids this.

“I choose Brandon Sanderson over other fantasy authors because of the pacing of his writing,” said Rory Peterson, a fourth-year Western Washington University student. “Not once when I started reading “The Stormlight Archives” did I feel flooded with exposition.”

fantasy sales

A bar graph showing popular fantasy series and their sales. While sales don’t dictate quality, Brandon Sanderson can do both. // Graphic by John Oakes

I want to bring Tolkien back into the conversation real quick. I think “The Lord of the Rings” is a beautiful piece of literature, but that’s exactly the problem.

Compared to other authors, Sanderson is often accused of writing simple prose. Sanderson even admits it.

“My prose is usually intended to convey ideas, theme, and character, then get out of the way,” he wrote in an article on his website.

While Sanderson explained his reasoning, I have still heard this claim thrown as some sort of insult. I don’t understand it. There are so many more aspects to a good story than just flowery writing.

“People read for a variety of reasons, and the way somebody writes isn’t always why somebody is reading,” said Katie Bray, an adult services librarian at the Bellingham Public Library. “People are often reading for ideas or an understanding of the world, and it is okay to like somebody if they are very plot heavy.”

You can explore complex thoughts without pretentious prose.

For instance, the biology of Roshar, the fictional setting of Sandersons’ “The Stormlight Archives,” is just as believable as Earth’s – with everything from insect life spans to weather cycles explained with great precision.

Characters make or break stories. Fantasy is no exception.

“At the heart of my favorite fantasy is a focus on complicated relationships between characters,” said Kiik Araki-Kawaguchi, a creative writing professor at Western, via email.

Sanderson can birth complex and realistic characters along with the other lords of fantasy, but he does something I often don’t see — he explores mental health in a way that weaves the characters’ struggles into their magical powers and arcs. This makes for a story that flies by without you even noticing.

“As a reader, I don't always want to have the experience of directly being taught a lesson,” Araki-Kawaguchi said.

Shallan Davar is a character who struggles with multiple personality disorder and can also create illusions. She will project these illusions for others to see, or she’ll wrap them around to get a new face. This results in Davar constantly changing bodies as she works to find herself.

Another character, Kaladin Stormblessed, suffers from depression. He gets his powers from an oath he made, so we watch his power ebb and flow as he struggles to stay motivated.

These characters, along with many others, build a story not just of epic adventures, but of people who struggle with the same things as you and I. They are heroes, but they’re still human. 

I love fantasy and I adore so many different authors. Great fantasy authors have an incredible talent to make their stories come to life. They all deserve respect, but Brandon Sanderson deserves a crown.

John Oakes

John Oakes (he/him) is an opinions reporter for The Front this quarter. In his free time, he writes fiction and not much else. You can find his work in Etherea Magazine as well as other venues. You can reach him at

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