Book Review: The Frugal Wizard’s Guide to Surviving Medieval England

I often have people ask me if they should read any books by Brandon Sanderson. It seems like sometimes people feel that if enough other people like something, maybe they’re missing out if they’re not liking it as well. I always tell them that Brandon’s books aren’t for everyone. Most of them are very Epic fantasy, meaning you’d better be ready to learn a lot of character names and figure out a whole new magic system fairly quickly (or at least be okay with the fact that for the first long while, you won’t understand what’s happening). That said, they’re also very accessible, as far as epic fantasy goes. Brandon writes to be understood, and I very much appreciate that.

His books also sometimes start slow for people. It can take a while for them to really get going, though the climax of each book is always (IMO) worth it. Still, not everyone likes his style or his genre or some of his specific books. And yet the questions keep coming.

Most people end up asking where they should start. “If I just read one, which one should it be?” I suppose because they figure that way they’ll get a taste for him and see what they think. Of course, that also means that most of his books are tossed out as candidates, because so many of them are parts of series. I have long recommended Skyward as a go-to Sanderson book for everyone, though it’s a bit of an anomaly, as it’s science fiction instead of fantasy. The Rithmatist is a good one if you’re looking for light YA fun.

I can now add something that’s just as accessible, and a bit more grown up. The Frugal Wizard’s Handbook for Surviving Medieval England was a joy to read. It’s the second of his “year of Sanderson” books: the ones he wrote in secret over the pandemic. It’s a very fast read, it’s fantasy (though with a big dose of science fiction), it’s aimed at a grown up audience, it’s not part of a series, and it’s just a lot of fun. It also works as a great gateway book for his other works. Yes, there’s a learning curve to the magic system. Yes, it starts a bit slower. Yes, it’s got a great pay off.

In other words, if you read this and like it, then there’s a good shot you’ll like some of his other books, or that you’ll at least give them long enough to see if you like them or not.

What’s the premise? Basically it’s fantasy Jason Bourne. A man wakes up in medieval England with no memory of who he is or how he got there. It seems like he might have some sort of military background. There are other mysterious things about himself he doesn’t understand. Also, it appears some people want him dead.

I had a great time with it. 9/10, and I recommend it to just about anyone wanting a fun read.


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