The Frugal Wizard’s Handbook for Surviving Medieval England, review
And here we are again, the second book of The Year of Sanderson has arrived. This time though, I didn't jump on it immediately, unlike Tress, this is not a Cosmere novel so I was not so eager to devour it; I was deep in another world of Critical Role, catching up with the show and reading a novel.
But then I started The Frugal Wizard’s Handbook for Surviving Medieval England, what a title!, and remembered how curious I got when Sanderson read the first chapters on his promotional videos last year. That excitement got the best of me. That was three days ago.
Rating: 4/5. Four of five stars. The author keeps delivering. Interesting premise, world and characters. Funny and mysterious in equal parts. Would recommend.
Like Tress, the Frugal Wizard is a different beast from what I'm used to with Sanderson, something that definitely will give him critical reviews again, from those that prefer their favorite authors to stay monotone. For me? I loved it. The way Sanderson mixes the seriousness of the mystery with the lightheartedness of the premise and the marketing materials of the Guide is nothing short of brilliant. It's a testament to his talent that he can balance all of it so effectively, and it's one of the many things I'm really enjoying about his more recent work.
The world-building in this book is so clever. For those who have followed Sanderson outside of his books, you may know that he has two unbreakable rules that he follows on the Cosmere: no time travel and no multiverse. I love those rules, and they are ones I've followed on my amateur fiction creation too. They are very important to keep the stakes of a story. As soon as time travel or multiple versions of the same characters are introduced, consequences lose their impact.
But in the Frugal world, he doesn't have to follow Cosmere rules, and he has broken them, not to the detriment of the story, but quite the opposite. The "Medieval England" of the story is not our Medieval England, the main character hasn't travelled to the past; instead, he has travelled to an alternate dimension that is similar but not exactly like ours. This is brilliant because it keeps the consequences of time travel away from the plot, and still it gives a chance to develop stories with what feels like time travellers. At the same time is not a multiverse of clones, but one where each dimension is slightly different, which means those are different and real people that the characters, and the reader, can care about. Brilliant!
In the same vein, I loved the main character. That he starts without memory in a strange land and starts remembering things of his past that may or not be correct is great. It's so relatable, not the loss of memory, but how our present mind can wrongly interpret old memories. The character is very flawed and we can feel the roller coaster of emotions and realisations that he's going through the entire book.
And finally, the setting of medieval England is very nice. I'm not a historical fiction reader but this was very interesting, mainly because one knows Sanderson style and you know he can't resist giving a twist to any world he builds. The mystery of knowing where things may differ from our history kept me on my toes, not at the level of the Cosmere, but enough to keep me going.
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