Epic-fantasy giant Brandon Sanderson, a BYU alumnus who returned to teach creative writing, will be the keynote speaker for the fourth biannual literary conference Literacy Promise: Opening Doors for the Adolescent Learner. The conference, presented by the McKay School of Education Alumni Society and the Brigham Young University–Public School Partnership, will be held March 12–14, 2014, at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.
A prolific writer, Sanderson has published 17 novels and numerous novellas and short stories in the past eight years, including the final three installments of The Wheel of Time series begun by the late epic-fantasy legend Robert Jordan. These novels have propelled Sanderson to the top of The New York Times Best Sellers list. At the same time, Sanderson has created his own legacy from beneath the shadow of Jordan’s name. To keep you busy until the conference and to introduce you to his worlds, here are just a few of his popular works—books we recommend to everyone, not just those interested in fantasy.
The Way of Kings
Over ten years in the making, The Way of Kings is the first novel in an ambitious, epic-fantasy series known as the Stormlight Archive.
Published in 2010, the novel tells of Roshar, a world of stones where uncanny tempests of incredible power sweep across the rocky terrain so frequently that they have shaped ecology and civilization alike. In this world, centuries have passed since the fall of the ten consecrated orders known as the Knights Radiant, but their Shardblades and Shardplate remain—mystical swords and suits of armor that transform ordinary men into near-invincible warriors. Men trade kingdoms for Shardblades. Wars are fought for them and won by them.
Brightlord Dalinar Kholin commands one army fighting them. Like his brother, the late king, he is fascinated by an ancient text called The Way of Kings. Troubled by overpowering visions of ancient times and the Knights Radiant, he has begun to doubt his own sanity.
Across the ocean, an untried young woman named Shallan seeks to train under the eminent scholar and notorious heretic Jasnah Kholin, Dalinar's niece. Though she genuinely loves learning, Shallan's motives are less than pure. As she plans a daring theft, her research for Jasnah hints at secrets of the Knights Radiant and the true cause of the war.
Mistborn: The Alloy of Law
Set three hundred years after the events of the Mistborn trilogy, The Alloy of Law is more of a stand-alone work than a sequel. Scadrial is on the verge of modernity, with railroads to supplement the canals, electric lighting in the streets and the homes of the wealthy, and the first steel-framed skyscrapers racing for the clouds.
Kelsier, Vin, Elend, Sazed, Spook, and the rest are now part of history—or religion. Yet even as science and technology are reaching new heights, the old magics of Allomancy and Feruchemy continue to play a role in this reborn world. Out in the frontier lands known as the Roughs, they are crucial tools for the brave men and women attempting to establish order and justice.
One such is Waxillium Ladrian, a rare Twinborn who can push on metals with his Allomancy and use Feruchemy to become lighter or heavier at will. After twenty years in the Roughs, Wax has been forced by family tragedy to return to the metropolis of Elendel. Now he must reluctantly put away his guns and assume the duties and dignity incumbent upon the head of a noble house. Or so he thinks, until he learns the hard way that the mansions and elegant tree-lined streets of the city can be even more dangerous than the dusty plains of the Roughs.
This book was Brandon Sanderson’s first published novel, written in 2005. The plot tells how the godlike inhabitants of Elantris, once the capital of the land of Arelon, have degenerated into powerless, tortured souls, unable to die, after the city's magic inexplicably broke 10 years earlier. When the same curse strikes Prince Raoden of Arelon and he's imprisoned in Elantris, he refuses to surrender to his grim fate and instead strives to create a society out of the fallen and to unlock the secret that will restore the city's glory.
Meanwhile, Princess Sarene of Kae (Arelon's new capital), who was betrothed to Raoden, believes her intended has died. Officially declared his widow, she must use her political savvy and wit to protect Kae from malevolent forces without and within the city, chiefly Hrathen, a leader of the creepy Shu-Dereth faith, who aims to either convert Kae or destroy it within three months.
For younger kids, especially those in the middle grades, we recommend Sanderson’s Alcatraz series.
Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians
On his thirteenth birthday, Alcatraz Smedry—a foster child—gets a bag of sand in the mail which purports to be his "inheritance," sent from his father and mother. The Librarians, of course, immediately steal the bag of sand from him.
This sparks a chain of events that lead Alcatraz to realize that his family is part of a group of freedom fighters who resist the Evil Librarians—a secret cult that actually rules the world. Alcatraz's grandfather shows up and tows him off to infiltrate the downtown library to steal back the mystical bag of sand. The ensuing story involves talking dinosaurs, sentient romance novels, and a dungeon-like labyrinth hiding beneath the innocent-looking downtown library.
Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener’s Bones
The second book in the adventures of Alcatraz Smedry, Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener’s Bones, follows Alcatraz's search for his father within the dusty shelves of the lost Library of Alexandria, which isn't nearly as lost as the Librarian Conspiracy wants you to believe.
Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Crystallia
When Alcatraz and Grandpa Smedry make a pilgrimage to the Free Kingdom city of Nalhalla, the Smedry home base, Alcatraz is shocked to see that he is, in fact, a legend. When he was a baby, he was stolen by the Evil Librarians, and his mother—a Librarian herself—was behind the whole scheme. Now, with his estranged father, who is acting indeed strange; Bastille, who has been stripped of her armor; and Grandpa Smedry, who is, as always, late to everything (that's his Talent), Alcatraz tries to save a city under siege. From who? Why, the Librarians of course!
Alcatraz Versus the Shattered Lens
Mokia is under siege by Librarian forces. Who will step up to defend the capital? The rest of the Free Kingdomers think it's hopeless and won't go, but Alcatraz is too stupid not to.
Book review information accessed from Brandon Sanderson's official site, brandonsanderson.com.