I have been reading fantasy for years. Through that time I have come to look for one thing. Believability.
This is fantasy, so I am not saying that it has to convince you that magic is real or dragons fly around snatching up fair maidens. But when an author writes 45 successive books in a world spanning, decades long war scenario, and not a single truly bad thing happens to any of the primary cast.......I start shaking my head. When a Dastardly evil villian starts rampaging the countryside destroying everything with no believable motive.....I start shaking my head. If the evil overlord starts monologuing and then turns into a snake giving the hero just enough time to enact his awesome plan to defeat the insurmountable odds.....I start crying. But the worst has to be when the main heroic characters go through years of developement, massive shifts in personality, huge increases in responsibility, enormous strains of stress, grief or joy and yet no where do they make anything close to a truly damaging mistake or fail in any real way. Much less do we see them make a selfish or possibly morally questionable decission. This is what I mean about Believability.
Sanderson does not have this flaw. His world is dark and oppressive. Evil is truly evil. His heroic characters are real people with flaws, psychological damage, prejudices, desires for vengeance and completely human struggles with morality and ethics. He knows how to make you feel for the oppressed, abused peasants you pass whilst traveling along with the characters. And even his villains are dynamic and believable with motivations that are understandable results of the lives they have lead. No where in this work will you find the Hero who somehow was miraculously born with an inherent sense of justice, morality, honor and self sacrifice even though they were raised in a evil society and their very parents were diabolical and sinister *cough, Drizzt Do'Urden, cough*.
The best part of my new found respect for this amazing author is that even while he accomplishes everything I spoke of above, those are far from being the only highlights of his work. Sanderson has developed a world that is alien to us and yet something we can relate to. It is fascinating in it's differences and intriguing in it's similarities. His combats are dynamic and fast past, creating images in your mind not unlike those seen in the Matrix or Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Three distinct magic systems are present, each with their own fascinating methods. Governmental system of intrigue and political maneuverings are fascinating and two races of creatures, with no resemblance to Elves or Dwarves, add a level of depth to the world unseen in most works.
This series is refreshing, awe inspiring and is evidence of an author with such skill that I believe his works to stand in the top echelon of fantasy authors. Read this series, it will open the door to a world unlike anything you have ever imagined.