We want to thank Tommye over at The Fantasy Review for answering the age old question: which Brandon Sanderson series is, well, simply better than the other? Is it to be Mistborn or The Stormlight Archive that reigns supreme? Well… let’s find out, shall we?
The Mistborn trilogy is full of unforgettable characters such as Vin, Kelsier, Breeze and Spook. All develop well throughout their plots and add something unique to the story as a whole. It is refreshing to see such strong, heroic characters in epic fantasy go through inner struggles that felt real. Brandon Sanderson explores mental health so well, especially with Vin and Kaladin.
In The Stormlight Archive, the obvious difference is that the cast of characters is much larger. Think more on the scale of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series. There may be more individuals and additional points of view, but they are all just as well developed as Mistborn’s characters.
A comparison is often made between Vin and Kaladin. The Way of Kings introduces us to Kaladin as a slave, and we watch as he struggles with severe depression. Similarly, Vin in The Final Empire and the following books must manage her mental health, so it does not overwhelm her.
The primary difference in characters would be the villains. The Dark Lord in Mistborn was designed to be a spin on that archetype, but he was still a dark lord. As an aside, because the twist on the dark lord was done well, we call it an archetype. If it was done poorly, we would call it a cliche.
The Stormlight Archive does not have a villain like that. The characters that are “bad” are complex, and we find ourselves understanding them and sometimes even considering that they might be right. Much like with Jamie Lannister in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, the reader bonds a little with the characters that should, in more traditional fantasy, be regarded wholly with mistrust.
As to which is better in regard to character, my personal opinion is that The Stormlight Archive just about wins. Partly due to the fact that there are more characters, so we get to see a wide range of individuals come to life, but also because of the complexity in character that is so much more prevalent.
It is difficult to compare the worldbuilding in these two epic fantasy series as it feels like cheating when they are a part of the same universe! For the most part, I will focus on the individual worlds we see in the books.
Roshar in The Stormlight Archive immediately wins this part of the competition for me. The sheer scale of the world is outstanding. Although we don’t have a vast amount of information on a lot of history or lore of the world (up to Oathbringer), we discover more cultures and settlements that make the story rich and epic.
Mistborn obviously does have a lot of worldbuilding, and some might even argue that we learn more about the setting than in The Stormlight Archive. I am not including the Era 2 books in this comparison otherwise it would be a much closer call for me!
Although Mistborn goes into more depth on specific aspects of worldbuilding, there is still less there. When we go to other cities, they are nowhere near as clearly developed as the settlements in The Stormlight Archive. That is why I believe Roshar wins on this one!
We can’t discuss Sanderson’s books without at least mentioning the magic systems. He is known for complex, in-depth, and almost scientific hard magic systems, and we all love it!
In The Stormlight Archive, we are still learning about the magic system, and it’s fascinating. There are individuals who can absorb stormlight, which allows them to achieve impressive feats. There is a lot more to it, but I can’t go into that without spoilers!
The magic in Mistborn is much more well known and is probably what most people think of when talking about Sanderson’s magic systems. There are a lot of systems, but the main two in Mistborn are Allomancy and Feruchemy. I won’t mention others for fear of spoilers.
Magic users ingest metal to gain abilities. Different metals do different things, and not everyone can access these abilities. It is an interesting topic that requires an entire essay on its own, especially when you consider that the magic system does not care what race, gender or class the individual is – anyone could be born with the ability to use metals.
Mistborn definitely wins on this one. Perhaps when all 10 books in The Stormlight Archive come out, I will change my mind. However, for now, Mistborn is victorious.
There is no denying the future scope for either of these series. The Stormlight Archive has such a large world and a huge cast of characters that the stories could be told forever. The series will be 10 books long, so I think it’s safe to say that we are going to see some of this massive scope come to light.
Mistborn may only be a trilogy, but there is a considerable amount of future scope for this series too. The Alloy Era, or Mistborn Era 2 as it is sometimes known, is set in the same world but 300 years later. Sanderson has also talked about there being (possibly) another series set far into the future afterEra 2, so, again, the scope seems limitless.
For this one, I will have to back out and call it a draw. I know it is cowardice, but there is no other alternative! There is just so much scope with both these series and not just because of the points already mentioned. They are part of the same universe – the Cosmere – and Sanderson does such a great job creating both the world and the universe that binds them together.
So, overall The Stormlight Archive won! Would you have chosen the same winner?
About the Author
I’m Brandon Sanderson, and I write stories of the fantastic: fantasy, science fiction, and thrillers.
In November 2020 we saw the release of Rhythm of War–the fourth massive book in the New York Times #1 bestselling Stormlight Archive series that began with The Way of Kings–and Dawnshard (book 3.5), a novella set in the same world that bridges the gaps between the main releases. This series is my love letter to the epic fantasy genre, and it’s the type of story I always dreamed epic fantasy could be.
November 2018 marked the release of Skyward, the first book in a new YA quartet about a girl who dreams of becoming a pilot in a dangerous world under alien attack. The follow-up, Starsight, was released December 2019. Also out that year was the final volume of the Stephen Leeds saga, Legion: Lies of the Beholder, which was also published in an omnibus edition, Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds, that includes all three volumes.
Most readers have noticed that my adult fantasy novels are in a connected universe, called the Cosmere. This includes The Stormlight Archive, both Mistborn series, Elantris, Warbreaker, and various novellas available on Amazon, including The Emperor’s Soul, which won a Hugo Award in 2013. In November 2016 all of the existing Cosmere short fiction including those novellas was released in one volume called Arcanum Unbounded: The Cosmere Collection. If you’ve read all of my adult fantasy novels and want to see some behind-the-scenes information, that collection is a must-read.
I also have three YA series: The Rithmatist (currently at one book), The Reckoners (a trilogy beginning with Steelheart), and Skyward. For young readers I also have my humorous series Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians. Many of my adult readers enjoy all of those books as well, and many of my YA readers enjoy my adult books, usually starting with Mistborn.
Additionally, I have a few other novellas that are more on the thriller/sci-fi side. These include the Legion series, as well as Perfect State and Snapshot. There’s a lot of material to go around!
Good starting places are Mistborn (a.k.a. The Final Empire), Skyward, Steelheart, The Emperor’s Soul, and Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians. If you’re already a fan of big fat fantasies, you can jump right into The Way of Kings.
I was also honored to be able to complete the final three volumes of The Wheel of Time, beginning with The Gathering Storm, using Robert Jordan’s notes.
Sample chapters from all of my books are available at https://www.brandonsanderson.com/books-and-art/ and check out the rest of my site for chapter-by-chapter annotations, deleted scenes, and more.
About the Blogger
Tommye is the owner and Editor of The Fantasy Review. Loves all fantasy and science fiction books, graphic novels, TV and Films. Having completed a BA and MA in English Literature and Creative writing, he would like to go on to do a PhD. Favourite authors are Trudi Canavan, Steven Erikson, George R. R. Martin and Brandon Sanderson.