Back in 2012 I accidentally stumbled upon a book which seemed to be quite different from the majority of the oversaturated fantasy/fiction shelves. It was not the typical and overused fantasy plot and storyline and actually seemed like there is lots of thought, research, and development involved in the making of the novella.
The book in question was Legion by Brandon Sanderson – the first of what would be a trilogy about the life and peculiar career and mission of a character with an extremely interesting mental condition. I consumed the book for a single day and instantly wanted more. Now, when I have finally finished the story of Stephen Leeds I am here to tell you why it is worth reading and what makes it interesting to look into.
As usual, no spoliers will be incuded, I hope you enjoy it!
I’m not exaggerating when I say this – I read each book of the series for exactly a day. Of course, this doesn’t mean they are flawless or absolutely amazing. Actually, the Legion series is a great read and definitely in my top suggestions when it comes to fantasy novels but they do have several flaws.
Short story summary: Stephen Leeds is a genius of unrivaled aptitude, he can learn any new skill, vocation, or art in a matter of hours. In order to be able to do this Leeds creates hallucinations – imaginary people who he convinces himself are experts in the field he has just studied about. This helps him maintain his sanity and keep all the knowledge in his mind. Needless to say, this makes him an extremely valued person for many high-class jobs involving dangerous missions. To make things more interesting a series of unexplainable events leading to the appearance of the long lost mentor of Leeds take place and create even more chaos in his mind. The brutal murder of some of his aspects and the growing loss of control the protagonist has on his other personalities takes things completely out of control and leads to an unforgettable adventure with an unpredictable ending.
The Legion series consists of three books: Legion, Legion: Skin Deep, and Legion: Lies of The Beholder.
The good parts
All the books in the series are really, really interesting and well-written. I believe Brandon Sanderson is one of the best in the fantasy genre at the moment and he proves his capabilities with the stories about Stephen Leeds.
The thing that steals the spotlight is without a doubt the uniqueness of the characters (all characters involved) and their development during the three books. Sanderson has taken something from the real world – the mental condition aspect and has gracefully blended it with high-quality fiction and fantasy to take it to the extreme. This creates a world which is not too far from realistic but at the same time gives the space for unexpected development and plot twists.
His storytelling is also one of the best I have seen in the fantasy genre. The way he leads the story so it slowly falls into place and gives you just enough information to keep you on the edge is amazing – smooth development of the plot and characters makes the story flow in an extremely satisfying way.
The story itself is quite interesting and gets deeper and deeper with each book. In Legion (book one) we are briefly introduced to the character of Leeds and his capabilities with an entertaining and intense story. The second book (Skin Deep) dwells deeper into his past and puts his abilities to a bigger test which makes him doubt his sanity and the limit of his mental strength. The third book (Lies of The Beholder) takes things to the extreme and gets to a point where we as readers cannot be sure if what is happening is the actual reality or not. This makes speculating about the development way more interesting and unpredictable and puts Stephen Leeds in a completely new light. The build-up is great and well-controlled.
The books are relatively short (I believe you can classify them as novellas) but there is so much happening it feels like you have been with the characters forever. It is highly possible you will get attached to some of them and you will be kept on the edge until the last page where you will find out their fate.
The Legion series also pays great attention the way out minds work and to the psychological factor. Mind games and questioning reality are an often occurrence which will keep you interested.
The bad parts
As much as there are good development and steady pace for the majority of the books there is also a terribly rushed and unpolished ending. This was my greatest disappointment as my interest in the characters and the mystery of the storyline grew a lot with the progress of the books. The great build-up and developments were ruined with a terrible and unclear ending.
I first thought that maybe Sanderson left it like this for the purpose of making another book for the series but it turns out this is the last story with Stephen Leeds (which disappointed me even more). There were also other parts in the story where I felt things were a bit rushed and unclear, information was contradicting to previous inputs, and the overall conclusion was vague.
I actually think both the main story and the characters had way more potential than they lived for. The story could have developed way more and ended with an actual explanation of what had happened and Stephen Leeds as the main character could have had many more exciting adventures to keep us busy with. I am guessing Sanderson decided to focus on other projects and that’s why rushed to conclude this one but I don’t see this as a valid reason for ruining all his hard work with an unclear conclusion of his story.
Some of the antagonists in the novels also didn’t get enough spotlight and their motives were extremely unclear (except for the first book where things were well-executed in all terms). A proper background and an improved personality of the antagonists could have made the reading experience even better and the story more immersive.
Should I read it?
Short answer – yes, definitely worth a shot!
In overall, I think the Legion series is a great way to entertain yourself for a few days and touch a new side of the world with a fair amount of fantasy involved. The books are well-written and the story is incredibly exciting. Stephen Leeds and his aspects are a unique bunch which undergoe quite the development and get themselves into exciting situations. All of this told by the master of fantasy Brandon Sanderson.
I don’t really know if Legion is the best way to get introduced to the art of Sanderson (I would recommend The Emperor’s Soul as a start actually). The books are quite short and you will most likely devour them for a few days since the story will consume your mind and attention for a while. A light read with exciting development – worth the shot if you ask me.
The only thing I want to stress is that you shouldn’t have high hopes for the ending – it will be unclear and most likely unsatisfying but if you bear with this one big negative part the ride will be worth it, I promise.