Brandon Sanderson is well known for his ability to craft believable worlds out of the deepest corners of our imagination and to place the reader at the heart of each tale. Many of these worlds he builds, as his fans are well aware, have connective tissue in the most stunning ways possible: a collection of ten planets that for some mysterious and unfolding reason elicit their own unique power sets and magical abilities among their inhabitants. White Sand is no different; a blend of magic and culture that’s sure to amaze many, and spark further conversation among Sanderfans.
(This review contains spoilers)
White Sand was the first novel ever written by Brandon Sanderson, one that went unpublished for nearly 20 years. It was eventually rewritten after he finished Elantris, but remained unpublished. After Dynamite Publishing asked Brandon whether or not he had any unpublished works to adapt in comic form, he offered White Sand. And this is the result: a beautiful blend of art by Julius Gopez and script by Rik Hoskin.
The artwork is of particular note, as it fits the setting immensely. Scratchy pencil work with dull whites and beiges paint a scene that’s harsh, sandy, and very realized. Each character is instantly recognizable, which isn’t an easy accomplishment considering that many characters wore the same garb.
I loved the contrast of cultures present in Taldain, the planet this is set on. This is the first canon Cosmere example we have of Taldain, and it definitely works in its graphic novel representation. The difference between Dayside and Nightside isn’t fully revealed in this volume, but it’s certainly implied with the culture and characters present from both examples. It’s an interesting balance, understanding that this world stays day on one side and night on the other, and trying to picture how that orbit would look between two stars.
The Sand Masters, those with the unique ability to ride and harness ribbons of sand using their own water as fuel for their power, take center stage in this first volume. But after treachery of the worst kind sweeps their ranks, their weakest member, a boy named Kenton, must take the responsibilities of their entire way of life on his shoulders. Meanwhile a mysterious Darksider woman named Khriss and her entourage are searching for the mysterious Sand Masters for some unknown purpose.
It’s understandable why White Sand wasn’t published when it was originally written, or even when it was later reworked. As much as this tale may inform the rest of the Cosmere (which this first volume certainly does not) the story is derivative, generic, and lacks much of the oomph that Sanderson’s other works are sure to provide you with. As I’ve mentioned several times, this is but the first volume of three adapted from the novel, essentially only collecting the first third of the novel, and this volume won’t carry the reader’s attention long enough for the next volume to arrive (presumedly next year). I honestly don’t know where this story is going, but it feels like a rip off of The Wheel of Time, just with a new skin and premise – but all the character roles are present.
The trouble with it revolves around, sadly, it’s main protagonist Kenton. When nearly everyone he’s ever known dies – hundreds of Sand Masters which include his best friend and his father – he has a maximum of 3 panels where he feels or even shows remorse. The same day he’s joking around with the Darksiders. Even the origin of his power is suspect. He’s extremely tropey, being the weakest of his kind, and then suddenly, he’s unexplainably the strongest after all is said and done. Why did he feel the need to keep the Diem up and running? I know that it’s all he knows, but he barely knows how to harness the power to begin with. Little explanation is given to his powers, or anything of the sort – at least not in this volume – and that was a huge disappointment to me. Even Khriss’ reason to journey to the Dayside seemed paper thin, and with these two characters the plot truly felt extremely hollow. Perhaps this was somehow lost in translation to its graphic novel form, but it’s certainly one of Sanderson’s weaker stories.
Still, White Sand was an enjoyable read, and I recommend it to fans of Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere, but I can’t recommend it to those who haven’t ventured into this universe yet. It is essential to Cosemere completists, and it’s a beautiful addition to anyones bookshelf.
Grab White Sand now!