Legion: Lies of the Beholder by Brandon Sanderson

Might simply be one of the best things Brandon Sanderson has written
Legion: Lies of the Beholder book cover

Book of the Year 2018 (see all)

It is something of an unwritten rule that, one of the greatest signs of a great writer is their ability to write as well in longform as in short. In fact, in my opinion, there’s an argument to be made that says writing a brilliant short story requires a greater level of skill than is needed to write a full-length novel – but that’s an argument for another day.

Regardless of where you fall on the long vs. short debate, it’s somewhat easier to decide that Brandon Sanderson is something of a master at both, a mastery he has confirmed yet again with the publication of his latest Legion novella, Lies of the Beholder.

This is, apparently, the “final … adventure” of Stephen Leeds, aka, Legion, who deals with his schizophrenia by creating “aspects” in his mind that hold a particular skill or expertise that allows Stephen to be one of the world’s greatest detectives. I can see how Sanderson might allow that to stand, but I also suspect that Sanderson has given himself a handy backdoor, if necessary.

Regardless of the future of Stephen Leeds, however, Lies of the Beholder might be my favourite of the Legion novellas. More than the others, Leeds must confront his sanity in ways that test his will to live and his mental prowess. Sanderson uses the conceits of his character’s mental instability to perfection, never letting the constrictions of his story overwhelm what turns out to be a genuinely beautiful ending.

This was also a difficult story to read for the level of emotion that we are put through. It’s also impressive given the source of these difficulties – which I won’t spoil – and speaks even further to Sanderson’s talent as an author.

Legion: Lies of the Beholder might simply be one of the best things Brandon Sanderson has written, and while I’m sure there is a call somewhere for him to write more, or longer tales of Stephen Leeds, I think these novellas were the right choice: They let Sanderson play in a different field, away from his Cosmere shards and mammoth tome-length series’, and reveals a truly caring and genuine author. Let Legion live on as a high point in Sanderson’s oeuvre.


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