Review: White Sand

Graphic Novel Review: White Sand (Sanderson, Hoskin, Gopez)
wht_sand Book title White Sand
Series/standalone White Sand #1
Author Brandon Sanderson, Rik Hoskin, Julius M. Gopez
Pages 160
Year published 2016
Category | Genre Graphic Novel | Fantasy
Rating 3.5 star

Official Summary

A brand new saga of magic and adventure by #1 New York Times best-selling author Brandon Sanderson. On the planet of Taldain, the legendary Sand Masters harness arcane powers to manipulate sand in spectacular ways. But when they are slaughtered in a sinister conspiracy, the weakest of their number, Kenton, believes himself to be the only survivor. With enemies closing in on all sides, Kenton forges an unlikely partnership with Khriss — a mysterious Darksider who hides secrets of her own. White Sand brings to life a crucial, unpublished part of Brandon Sanderson’s sprawling Cosmere universe. The story has been adapted by Rik Hoskin (Mercy Thompson), with art by Julius Gopez and colors by Ross Campbell. Employing powerful imagery and Sanderson’s celebrated approach to magical systems, White Sand is a spectacular new saga for lovers of fantasy and adventure.


Disclaimer: I received a digital copy from the publisher via netgalley.

Any long-time visitor of this blog would know that Brandon Sanderson is one of my favorite authors. Some of the things I admired the most from his writing is his solid worldbuilding and innovative magic system. Naturally, when I heard that one of his older work – part of Cosmere world nonetheless – was going to be adapted into graphic novel, I jumped at the chance to download an e-galley.
It’s always interesting to look back to an author’s earlier work after reading one of their more recent, polished works. Astonishingly, Elantris, Sanderson’s first published novel, is still a good piece of fantasy even when compared to Mistborn or the Stormlight Archive. White Sand was written around the same time as Elantris, and so I held it to the same standard as the latter. So how did it fare?

Magic System

Before we talk about everything else, I want to dedicate a whole subheading to magic system because this is Brandon Sanderson we’re talking about.
Brandon Sanderson is a master in creating magic system. The Stormlight Archive has multiple magic systems, all solid and imaginative. But what about White Sand, a book he wrote before he becomes the master of magic system? White Sand’s magic system is quite simple to explain. The sandmasters use energy from the sand to perform their magic. Then, the sand, drained of its power, turned black and has to be left recharged by sunlight. While using the sand, the sandmasters also expend their body water and are in danger to become dehydrated. This made them vulnerable without water, although some sandmasters could transform sand to water.
Now, you could see why I call this simple right? It was nowhere near as complicated as Patrick Rothfuss’ Sympathy or Sanderson’s own Surgebinding. However, it was a solid one and the rules hold (although Brandon himself has said he-in-the-present would not give sandmasters ability to make water from sands as it negates their vulnerability). However, I could totally see why Sanderson thinks this could work as graphic novel. Sandmastery is a ‘visual’ magic system as it’s a very active type of magic. If I have to evaluate the magic system in White Sand, I would probably give it a solid B.

The World and Diversity

The sandmasters lived in isolated desert, which is a very logical choice. However, the desert is not the only setting in White Sand. The outside world is quite diverse and very Sanderson-ish. If you’re not familiar with his epic fantasy novels, Sanderson is very keen of including diversity and (fictional) religions in his work. White Sand is not an exception to this. As soon as we’re outside the desert, we’re introduced to the politics between the merchant group and the priest group led by the A’Kar (high priest). It is quite fascinating and I’m hoping to see more of it in the next instalments. I suspect the next volume(s) will be more than delivers.

Kenton, the protagonist, is biracial. His mother is a Darksider and his father as well as the rest of sandmasters are Daysiders. The Daysiders and Darksiders did not get along and this was one source of conflict in the story. Aside from the protagonist (Kenton), there are several supporting characters. These supporting characters seem quite stereotypical to me. There’s the wise guy, the loud-mouth, and another guy whose main job seems to be cracking jokes. Quite predictably, there’s also a long-time nemesis of the protagonist. In the author’s defense, there is also a lady trac named Ais, who I really liked and is not at all stereotypical. Oh and I have to mention that in this graphic novel, the technologically-advanced city population (the Darksiders) are mostly made of people of colours, which I found to be quite interesting choice. So, in term of diversity, I would say that the author did try, but I believe (and I know) he could do better.

The plot

White Sand is a character journey story, but it’s also a political story. In this regard, I liked it enough but didn’t think it was particularly memorable. On micro level, there’s a conflict between these two guys who are enemies since childhood as well as the hero’s journey to avenge his people. On macro level, there’s a political issue boiling into violence that might or might not be related to our main character. My money is on the latter.

And with that, since this is a graphic novel, let’s move forward to the graphic. I put this as the last point because I cannot talk much about it. Why?
I read the e-ARC from netgalley and I’m going to say that the graphic is awfully pixelated to the point that I cannot see the details and sometimes the words are difficult to read. Maybe it’s just because of the file was compressed and it’s difficult to maintain the quality of the art in compressed file. I need to get the published copy before I could assess the graphic since I don’t think it’s fair to judge Lopes’ work based on what I’ve seen so far. If you own a copy of White Sand, please let me and everyone else know the quality of the published work.

Final Score

3.5 star
3.5 stars (out of 5 stars)


White Sand offers solid magic system and political system that will delight fans of fantasy genre. The stereotypical characters might merit some critical complaints, but the effort to support diversity is there.

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2 thoughts on “Review: White Sand

  1. I started reading this one, but got distracted reading something else. I’ll probably get back to it sometime because I need to read all of the Sanderson books (obviously), but think I’ll have to get a physical copy.

    Yeah, I was reading the finished version and I had some issues with it too, but I didn’t see the pixels you describe and it may just be that this is the first comic I’ve tried reading on ereader.

    I think I heard this was Sanderson’s very first novel length work he finished and Elantris was his sixth. I’d imagine there could be quite a bit of time between when the two were written even though both were written before his career got started.

    I know for me personally (having written around 5 unpublished novel length works) there has been much improvement between now and the first thing I finished even if my work is still a mess.

    It shocks me that the graphic novel is even this good even though I haven’t yet finished it, but you’re right about Elantris being shockingly good for a debut as well.

    1. Hi Jacqueline, thank you for the comment.
      I’m sorry it took me forever to reply. 🙁

      I agree with you, I think I will invest in a physical copy for this graphic novel. I heard that they’re working on the second volume so maybe I will get them both at the same time so I could binge-read.

      Have you read the White Sand prologue (the novel version) in Arcanum Unbounded? I really liked it and I thought that with revision, Brandon could actually make it work as full-length novel as well. As you mentioned, however, it’ll take time to actually revise it and even with his writing speed it might take years for us to see Taldain. Anyway, I’m glad we get something different (and short! LOL) with this graphic novel.

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