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5 Authors like Brandon Sanderson: Fantasy World-Builders

Thanasis Karavasilis itcherFantasy, like all fiction books, transfers you to a different world. Brandon Sanderson is definitely one writer who has mastered this art. But there are others like him. Authors like Robin Hobb, Brent Weeks, and Terry Goodkind. Storytellers who have given us lands and waters that are more than just imaginary places. ~ Thanasis Karavasilis

The Most Prolific of Them All

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

Brandon Sanderson can be praised for many things: strong and memorable characters of both genders, compelling stories, and lightning-speed writing that produces several books per year (unlike you-know-who writer of the book series that became a popular TV show). However, Sanderson’s most important attribute is his world-building expertise, a wonderful collection of universes that have their own people, geography, and magic.

While waiting for the next ‘Mistborn’ or ‘Stormlight’ novel, let’s take a look at some fantasy authors like Brandon Sanderson, Writers who are equally competent world-builders.


Authors Like Brandon Sanderson…

Brent Weeks

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Moments of beauty sustain us through hours of ugliness…

Recommended Book: ‘The Black Prism’ (2010)

One of the fresher novelists in this list, Brent Weeks published his first work in 2008.

He is one of the nicest and funniest guys in the industry.

You just have to spend some time in his personal forum (in which he writes and answers to fans quite frequently) to see what I mean. After thousands of words written on “bar napkins and lesson plans” he managed to publish ‘The Way of Shadows’.

Well done Brent. Well done.

Since then, he has completed his ‘Night Angel’ trilogy and now works on the ‘Lightbringer’ series. There is not much to share about this incredible writer. Just a super big APPROVE badge to get you to the nearest bookshop.

Both are great mash-ups of action, humor, multi-level characters, and of course — magic! Their stories, world-building, and magic systems are all so complex that they can’t be easily put into words.

Similarity Match: 95%
Like Sanderson, Brent Weeks has a new and creative magic system in every story. He will make you wonder how magical magic can get.

Michael J. Sullivan

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When you expect nothing from the world – not the light of the sun, the wet of water, nor the air to breathe – everything is a wonder and every moment a gift…

Recommended Book: ‘The Crown Conspiracy’ (2007)

Michael J. Sullivan is an American writer of both epic fantasy and science fiction, best known for his debut series, ‘The Riyria Revelations’, which has been translated into fourteen languages.

Because the series is objectively awesome. Trust me.

He is also the proud owner of the longest “About Me” page in the history of “About Me” pages and the avatar of writing persistence:

“I wrote in a variety of genres from 1979 to 1994 and after thirteen novels and more than a hundred rejections I quit…vowing never to write creatively again”

Well, as you can imagine, he broke that promise.

The extensive mythology and history of his world, Elan, is often overlapping and has no distinct boundaries.

Political turmoil is as important to his stories as are the raging sorcerers and the various magic creatures from days long forgotten.

Similarity Match: 90%
Magic and realism blend in this story in the smoothest of ways. Both authors love their world-building but they do not let it affect negatively the plot and the story flow.

Raymond E. Feist

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Don’t assume the world evolved in the order in which you discovered it…

Recommended Book: ‘Magician: Apprentice’ (1982)

Feist’s Riftwar universe includes more than 30 novels and has sold more than 15 million books worldwide.

Achieving cult status among fantasy fans, Riftwar has its own encyclopedia, its own Atlas, and a history so deep you will need to keep a few notes as you read to keep up with all the details.

Now, magic in his stories is approached almost academically. Politics, economy, and medieval technology are as realistic as they can be. Religion and parallel dimensions are the last pieces to a complex puzzle.

A must-read for any fantasy fan.

Similarity Match: 85%
Feist has definitely inspired Brandon Sanderson and the similarities are apparent. Nevertheless, Midkemia level of world-building is at a level Sanderson’s multiverse has not yet reached.

Robin Hobb

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Home is people. Not a place. If you go back there after the people are gone, then all you can see is what is not there anymore…

Recommended Book: ‘Assassin’s Apprentice’ (1995)

Robin Hobb is actually the second pen name of the American author Margaret Astrid Lindholm Ogden. Well, I can see why she chose a pen name. Even if ‘Margaret Astrid’ has a nice ring on it. Robin Hobb is way cooler.

She is one of those fantasy writers who were, and still are, fans of the genre. She writes fantasy and science fiction because she first enjoyed reading them. She started with a number of short stories in fanzines such as ‘Space and Time’ before going full novel.
George R.R. Martin has praised her work saying:

‘In today’s crowded fantasy market Robin Hobb’s books are like diamonds in a sea of zircons.’

Even though some of Robin Hobb settings are clearly medieval, you do not have to worry:

She still has dragons.

Similarity Match: 80%
In both authors’ you can find descriptions of landscapes that are familiar but not dull, characters simple and realistic, but not boring. However, Hobb’s world is not as vast and defined as Sanderson’s.


If You Like Brandon Sanderson, You Will Like…

Terry Goodkind

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There is no place so dangerous as a world without magic…

Recommended Book: ‘Wizard’s First Rule’ (1994)

Life Lesson: Never let ANYTHING dissuade you from doing what you love.

Take for example the American author of the hugely successful ‘Sword of Truth’ series, Terry Goodkind:
He has dyslexia, which is a thing that might discourage you from pursuing writing. So, he made cabinets and violins and went to the army and drew animals and submitted his work to galleries. Yes, he did.

And then he wrote his first novel.

He never went back.

Terry’s ‘Sword of Truth’ series is set in various locations with diverse peoples, yet its history and magic are combined with very similar moral queries and emotions.

Goodkind is, like Sanderson, a master of landscape and geography descriptions. He sometimes makes predictable decisions in his world-building though and his people are very single-minded.


Honorable Mentions

This article focuses on contemporary writers similar to Brandon Sanderson.

I have also left out writers that have not finished a book series yet, with the promise to revisit in the near future after they have unveiled their worlds in their fullness.

But I cannot ignore some of the pioneers of the genre and all the fantastic places we traveled as children. Their impact on the fantasy genre is just too huge to be neglected.

All hail:

  • J.R.R. Tolkien and Middle Earth
  • C. S. Lewis and Narnia
  • T. Pratchett and Discworld
  • Robert Jordan and the Wheel of Time

You will forever live in our hearts. Thank you.


Fantasy Wordsmiths

Literature genres are a peculiar thing.

If you have dragons you are a fantasy novel, if you have spaceships you are a science fiction novel, and if you are writing about teenage girls exploring their womanhood you are a Chick Lit author.

But the truth is that all novels are fantasy and all stories have dragons. And we should not discriminate based on genre but only on quality.

Do you have a favorite fantasy author you think could have made this list?

Keep watching, listening, reading, and playing!

Hey there! I′m Thanasis, a writer and lover of stories who was educated to be a teacher of English. I spend my time between worlds and inside pages; written or otherwise. I roam the endless void called The Internet in a constant quest to discover pieces of great storytelling in every artistic medium imaginable.
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