A Discussion: The Problems with the Stormlight Archive

“The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how to think, but to give you questions to think upon.” 

— Brandon Sanderson

Preface

Brandon Sanderson is arguably one of the most successful fantasy authors of the past decade. He finished up the Wheel of Time series and has written several highly successful fantasy series including Mistborn, the Reckoners, and his most ambitious series the Stormlight Archive.  Despite its success, I will be arguing that the Stormlight achieve is over hyped and far from perfect.  It is a series not meant for critical thinking as doing so takes the enjoyment out of the series.  The Stormligtht Achieve is written in a style that makes the magic and overall world feel stagnant while the enormous length and “ambitious” amount of characters make the development of them feel choppy and undefined.  

Info Dumps

Sanderson goes over his magic system with his reader very thoroughly and this is the main problem.  He seems to dump all the knowledge of how the magic in the system works by narrating.  The “Magic” in his world becomes rather unmagical once he does this.  I’m not saying that explaining how one’s magic system works is the wrong way, but one needs to do it either slower or with more elegance.  In a way Sanderson is a magician.  He has created his very own world and is showering us it.  Yet he’s explaining how he’s done so to fast which is a bit like a magician explaining the trick as he’s performing it. It can still be impressive at times but it’s not as magical as one knows how it’s done.  Doing this also prevents one from really appreciating the trick as there was not much surprise as the trick was not performed for you but rather explained for you.

Needs Editing

High adventure fantasy novels seem to love having so many characters.  Sanderson is no different except with the fact that he has many characters as well as past and present versions of these characters.  It’s no wonder that his books are over 1,000 pages each.  In fact, Oathbringer is about 1,200 which is a similar numberof pages to the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. Some people might say that this is “impressive” but the size of books does not indicate the quality of them.  Sanderson seems to load up his novels with characters that you sometimes hate to read about.  You do not hate to read about them because the character is evil or about to do some nefarious deed but rather because they are uninteresting.  Sanderson tries to tackle so much with his characters that they fall flat.  The only characters that I really though that he had room to develop were Sadeas and Elhokar.  Of course, he we won’t be hearing from them again.  The reason I found it hard to care about a lot of his characters is that he would try to “world build” to often instead of focusing on the characters.  He would flip flop between different characters who have different political beliefs and all this other nonsense to the point that he had to basically just dump it out on all the page.  Sanderson often tells us how a character should be rather than shows it.  The character Wit is supposed to be so smart yet all we really hear is him making puns.  The book as a whole needs to edit a couple hundred pages and this might make it feel less stagnant.  His style gets boring quick and makes the book feel very unimaginative. 

Lazy writing

I touched on Sanderson’s writing style and called it unimaginative.  Many might disagree with me and many would have good points to why I’m wrong.  Yet one main reason I called him unimaginative is because of the spren he created in the Stormlight Achieve.  You can often tell a character’s emotion by the spren that’s around them.  Authors often give details and paint vivid descriptions of character’s that shows their true feelings and emotion. All Sanderson does is put a spren with them.  This is just such a lazy way to show how a character’s feeling.  Sanderson will say that there are anger spren around a character that is angry.  It’s one of the least imaginative things you can do, and it once again shows that Sanderson tells us what a character is like instead of showing us.

Conclusion

Sanderson has wrote over a dozen books by now and has sold millions of copies overall. He loves his craft and keeps his audience up to date with his projects by being active in the community and his website. I have read quite a few books that I have really enjoyed by him including the Stormlight Archive. Unfortunately, I doubt that he will be as acclaimed as some of the great fantasy authors. He is working on multiple books and releases them all in a timely manner. I believe that he needs to start focusing on quality over quantity. The Stormlight Archive could have been so much better if he had spent more time showing us what the characters were like instead of telling us. This is easier said than done but with some unmerciful editing he would have had more of a chance at doing this. In conclusion, Sanderson neither tells us how to think or gives us questions to think about but rather gives us both the question and answer as his writing style leaves little to the imagination.

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