Brandon Sanderson is one of my favorite authors, partly because he can take a genre where most of the corners have been explored, and expands them with either amazing skill or brilliant new ideas. He also just executes these books with incredibly complex plotting, such as the Stormlight Archive series, which will apparently have ten enormous volumes (the fourth is currently available for preorder). Even this man’s unpublished books are better than most authors can manage (the original White Sand and Aether of Night, which you can obtain from his message board by request).
And he’s created his own interconnected universe known as the Cosmere, which links together most of his published work. Mostly this is through the concept of Shards, which are fragments of this universe’s murdered power of creation, Adonalsium. This fuels the magic of these different worlds, which comes out in different unpredictable ways – in some of them, you might turn into a living zombie, and in others you can “burn” metals that give you superpowers. This blanket mythology allows him to tell various stories with various types of magic, but allows him to interlink them so that they can have greater significance in the future.
To date there have been eleven books in the Cosmere, along with several novellas and short stories that you can find in the Arcanum Unbounded collection, and a graphic novel series. Which, by the way, I do not recommend reading in its entirety until you’ve read the novels.
If this sounds intimidating, it really isn’t. Some of these works can be read pretty much independently of their greater mythology, and then later works can give you an appreciation of the greater, more universe-spanning story being told here.
If you’re interested in checking it out, I’d recommend that newcomers to the Cosmere start out with Elantris, Warbreaker or the first Mistborn trilogy. White Sand, the graphic novel, is also a good starting point if you want to get into it via comics (although I do recommend the unpublished text, which has some notable differences and a cliffhanger ending). These books were my introduction to the Cosmere, and they are stories that can be appreciated on their own before you connect them to a larger story. Or you can just read them independently, and enjoy them independently. It’s your choice.
(Also, Elantris has some flaws – I’d rate it three stars out of five – because it was one of Sanderson’s early works, but the overall story is an engaging one. So if that one isn’t to your taste, I’d recommend checking out Warbreaker before coming to any conclusions)
Then, I’d recommend checking out the short stories and novellas such as Mistborn: Secret History, Allomancer Jak and the Pits of Eltania, Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell, The Emperor’s Soul and Sixth of the Dusk. You can find all these in the Arcanum Unbounded collection that I mentioned before, along with a Stormlight Archive novella that takes place after the second book. But obviously, don’t read that until you read the first two Stormlight Archive books. Then there is the second era of Mistborn, which takes up the next three books in a much later time period than the original – and unlike most epic fantasy, it actually has technological advancements!
If you have read the books/stories and like them, and want to see more, then check out… well, the Stormlight Archive. These books are absolutely massive – each one is like a brick made out of paper – but they don’t feel that way. Reading the first one actually flew by pretty quickly for me – it took longer for me to read The Great Gatsby. These are ones that are best appreciated when you’ve read Sanderson’s other works and understand the universe they exist in; they delve into the cosmology of the Cosmere and how things got to be the way they are.
And the Cosmere is still expanding: Sanderson will be releasing a new Stormlight Archive book this November, and a new Mistborn novel after that. Furthermore he has plans for a bunch of other books, including a sequel to Warbreaker, two more trilogies for Mistborn, two more Elantris books, more Stormlight Archive, and a prequel series that he’s planning after the Stormlight Archive has concluded. And who knows? He may get other ideas for novels, novellas or short stories along the way.
So if you want epic fantasy that doesn’t just copy Tolkien, Martin or one of the other big names, Sanderson is a good option (especially since the Mistborn trilogies advance technology over time, and one future one will be a space opera!). And I haven’t even gotten into his non-Cosmere stuff…