And just like that, we come to the end of Brandon Sanderson’s secret project slate. The Sunlit Man plunges us once again into the Cosmere, this time in a far future and with a familiar character headlining the story.
Nomad is running. Running from the Night Brigade, a shadowy cabal chasing him for something he has…or had. A seasoned worldhopper, Nomad flees to a planet with a strikingly bright sun that sets the surface ablaze as the world orbits the star. As if the murderous world itself wasn’t enough, he soon encounters a powerful local who seems intent on Nomad’s destruction. Our intrepid protagonist must use his wits and his unique magical abilities to learn the world’s ways and escape. As he uncovers the planet’s mysteries, he becomes increasingly embroiled in the political struggles and the desperate need for the people of the planet to survive.
My favorite thing about Sanderson’s secret projects set in the Cosmere is how they spell out the future of this vast, interconnected series. I always knew he planned for the stories to extend into the future, and I worried the advent of Cosmere technology would dilute the whimsy and fun of Sanderson’s deeply realized magic systems. The Sunlit Man and Yumi And The Nightmare Painter both handily dispelled any worries to that effect. This book in particular feels like a core Cosmere book set many years beyond the current series such as The Stormlight Archive (and this book is closely related to that series).
Fortunately, I liked The Sunlit Man for many other reasons. First of all, it’s action-packed and streamlined. At about 450 pages, it’s relatively short for a Sanderson book. It feels lean and polished, like a fast-paced action movie. In fact, I felt pretty strongly that this book would make an incredible adaptation, should the Cosmere ever come to screens. The setting is brutal and vibrant; the fight scenes are tight and riveting; the magic would pop in a visual format. The book is a slam dunk if you like high-octane scenes and lethal stakes.
The characters in The Sunlit Man grew on me. I loved Nomad from the start (I knew his original name from the get-go, which helped, but others may be entranced by the mystery). His journey is as much internal as it is physical. He reckons with trauma from his past and questions his reasons for running. He feels like he abandons the people he meets in his travels. Rebeke—one of the locals he befriends—and her compatriots build a society in a hellish environment. They find love and compassion despite struggling to survive every day.
I bring up this last point strictly as a “your mileage may vary” thing. I know some Sanderson readers prefer the Cosmere connections to remain easter egg-ish instead of front and center. If that’s you, then The Sunlit Man won’t be a hit. I, however, love Cosmere connections, and I see it as a reason to keep reading where others may see it as a burden. The Sunlit Man doesn’t overdo it in my opinion, but anyone struggling with Cosmere fatigue may want to reconsider adding this book to their TBR. Again, that’s not me, and I imagine it’s not most of you, but I’m making this point for those who might feel differently. If that’s you, The Sunlit Man might not be your bag. It may become required reading in the future, but for now, it’s easy enough to shelve.
The Sunlit Man made me smile. It had me on the edge of my metaphorical seat (I read on the treadmill, and being on the edge of such a device is strongly discouraged by the manufacturers). I enjoyed the characters, the setting, and the futuristic look at the Cosmere. I suspect many Sanderson fans will feel similarly.
Rating: The Sunlit Man – 9.0/10