Beware That, When Fighting Gritty, You Yourself Do Not Become Gritty

This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.

Brandon Sanderson is, at heart, an epic fantasy author of the pre-gritty school. It is no coincidence that he was chosen to complete the Wheel of Time series after Robert Jordan’s death; ultimately, his output is in the mould of Jordan, and David Eddings, and Terry Brooks, and Ray Feist, and all the other authors of brick-sized fantasy novels in which plucky young people discover their capital-d Destiny. In The Final Empire, the novel which spawned the wider Mistborn series, Sanderson makes gestures towards incorporating the standard-issue grittiness that had become mandatory by 2006, but you can tell that he’d much rather tell stories of high adventure and giddy romance than wallow in grime.

This may seem surprising considering the premise of the novel. 1000 years ago, according to the doctrine put forth by the terrifying Steel Ministry, the Lord Ruler defeated the Deepness – some nebulously-defined nastiness that threatened to consume the world. Since then, the Lord Ruler has exerted total mastery over the known world as leader the Final Empire, a state in which an aristocratic class of noblemen – descendants of those individuals who supported the Lord Ruler when he made his bid for power – have exerted political, economic, martial and occult power over the skaa, the rest of the populace who live in a status somewhere between serfdom and slavery. Mists shroud the night, ash falls from the sky constantly, the sun is barely seen and the stars are a distant memory.

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