‘White Sands:’ Trade Paperback Review

I discovered the valley of the shifting, whispering sands.

My first experience with Brandon Sanderson was with his completion of the late Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time epic, and while the style was certainly a shift, the increased pace of the narrative only heightened my enjoyment of it tremendously. (I think it’s a pretty common belief that Winter’s Heart was hard to get through.)  Since then, I’ve sought out all of his works, and the Mistborn trilogy and its continuing world may be my favorite fantasy series going right now, so there was no question of picking up this title for a review opportunity.

Sanderson’s hallmark is a well-thought out magic system; every series has some kind of mystical power that has incredible benefits but also limitations, as well as potentially dire consequences for ignoring them.  The balance is always tested, but it’s so nuanced and logical that the steps taken never seem to be bending the rules just to get a story resolved.  White Sands is his first story, and his first magical system.  He gives a rundown on the journey this tale has taken to publication in the forward, but it’s fascinating to see something so raw and yet familiar with the incredible work of Rik Hoskin and Julius Gopez to finish and polish his earliest work and turn it into what we get here.

A young man with very little in the way of Sand Power (quite literally the ability to call sand to bend to one’s will, much like the Force but a little more visible) who bucks against any authority finds himself suddenly infused with both at his father’s passing.  Marked by great political intrigue (Sanderson’s other calling card), he must find his way through betrayal and events stacked against him to right the wrongs and make the world a better place.  The story is still a bit raw, but Rik Hoskin has found a good flow to the dialogue and keeps the action moving well without bogging down in the more cerebral sections.  It’s an interesting mix for Sanderson fans, as the tone is shaped differently enough to notice but carries all of the marks of his style.  It’s also fun to see where threads of this story have influenced later works like Mistborn and Elantris.

Julius Gopez makes some gorgeous artwork.  Straddling a style reminiscent of Dragonball Z mixed with Cowboy Bebop and Fullmetal Alchemist, it looks and moves like a great anime or manga.  The character designs are interesting and varied and give us a lot of information before we get deep into the myriad of plots interweaving in this story.  The Sand Power sequences are great and imaginative, and it’s really fun to see one of Sanderson’s magics come to life on the page this way.

Fans of Sanderson will certainly enjoy this first volume, and I look forward to finding out just what this tale has in store for us down the line.  Solid sci-fi with a deep attention to detail, this is an exciting and fun addition to anyone’s reading list.

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