I’ve been hearing great things about Brandon Sanderson from his many fans for some time. I read his Mistborn Series a long time ago and quite liked it. But I have to admit that I have not been in a place to deal with the epic, multivolume fantasies that Sanderson is best known for. So I was pleased to find this shortish, stand-alone novel. The full title is The Frugal Wizard’s Handbook for Surviving Medieval England. I stayed up late to finish it, something which I haven’t done for a while.
The novel was, according to the author’s notes, a “bedtime story” that Sanderson told himself while he was working on the novels promised by his recent, very successful Kickstarter campaign. It didn’t fit with the other novels, but wouldn’t get out of his head. It is indeed rather free-form, mixing travel to alternate dimensions, futuristic body modifications, and international intrigue with something like Celtic druids, Viking Gods, and wizards.
The actual “Frugal Wizard’s Handbook” is more or less a character in the story. Excerpts are provided between chapters, to let the reader (and protagonist) know that, in fact, the entire dimensional travel thing is just a sales pitch gone wrong. Sanderson insists that the novel is science fiction, in part because the wizard who wrote the Handbook (Cecil G. Bagsworth III) is totally a fraud. There is really no point in arguing with him.
Sanderson is a master storyteller, able to create engaging believable characters and an intriguing, page-turning plot seemingly without breaking a sweat. The novel is a wonderful ride, tense and fun, and not requiring too much thought or commitment. Not everything has to be great literature. Sometimes you need to just grab a book and settle down for a fast, furious read.