If you are the type of reader who enjoys the Mormon-tinged/themed elements in the speculative fiction of Orson Scott Card, the best two post-OSC series to read right now are David Farland’s Runelords quartet* and Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy.
I would love to read some in-depth explorations of both of these works (and maybe even write it), but in the interest of sparking some discussion and hopefully getting more Mormons to read these books, I thought I’d post a few things. These are sort of spoilers, but not really.
But before I get to the Mormon elements — these books are very much part of the current trend in high fantasy (one that OSC has championed, actually) for magic systems that are robust, bounded and physical) where the magic has a cost and a physics (albeit metaphysical ones), where heroes make major mistakes out of pride or ignorance or immaturity, where the enemies aren’t wholly evil, where deception is a major aspect to the plot, where decision making and leadership is just as important as physical/magical prowess. They both also have some killer action scenes, and their magic systems are quite cool.
1. Both feature voices from the dust e.g. ancient records (one even written on metal plates) that help the protagonists defeat their enemies. But that also require a certain amount of interpretation, a likening of the records to themselves.
2. Both works have a certain conservation of good and evil — an opposition in all things approach. And a metaphysics that places a huge emphasis creation, and creation using the matter at hand.
3. Both have some fascinating things to say about leadership, and I think a particularly Mormon exploration of leadership — how one inspires people in spite of ones own failings, how one reaches people who aren’t ready for change, how one keeps from becoming a zealot, how one saves as many as possible with limited resources and time, etc.
4. Both have Holy Ghost like moments where the protagonists struggle to tune in to what the supernatural (or more like hypernatural or natural-but-more-refined) forces on their side. This leads to some lovely scenes — there is a baptism-like scene in the secone Runelords book that’s just amazing.
5. Both place a huge emphasis on couples as the main protagonists. And both feature strong female characters and sensitive male characters. I’ll make no claims that these are feminist works. But the nature of the relationships and the strengths of the female leads, in particular, seem to be very much in a Joseph Smith/Emma or Alvin Maker/Peggy mold. Indeed, Iome and Gaborn in Runelords and Vin and Elend in Mistborn come across (and I don’t mean this in an insulting way) as quite similar to many of the young, well-educated, cosmopolitan American Mormon couples I know. Granted these books feature extreme situations, but there’s a whiff of the Mormon couples who have succeeded in the American meritocracy, I think.
6. Runelords features a very interesting political-social-religious philosophy that’s centered around the family.
7. Mistborn is in the end very much an enacment of Brigham Young’s maxim that all truth can be circumscribed in to one great whole.
8. Certain langauge/terminology creeps in — that doesn’t mean that it’s used in a Mormon way, but they add a certain Mormon tint to the works. There are, for example, “Endowments” in Runelords.
9. Finally, I’d say that there’s a certain overall Book of Mormon flavor to these two series. The movement of armies, the bloody battles, the using of “spiritual” power to try and halt the bloodshed and save some people — yes, all part of the fantasy genre and so maybe not all that different, but further work is justified, I think.
There’s probably more, but I’ll stop now.
Now, readers can fully enjoy these works without any knowledge of Mormonism. And just because these elements are there, doesn’t necessarily mean that the works have anything profound to say about Mormonism. But, I found that they resonated with my Mormonism. Anybody else have the same experience?
* Farland has extended his Runelords series (it’s up to 7 books now, but it’s the initial quartet that’s of most interest, in my opinion).