The Frugal Wizard’s Handbook for Surviving Medieval England

The Frugal Wizard’s Handbook for Surviving Medieval England
Brandon Sanderson
Published date

“The Frugal Wizard’s Handbook for Surviving Medieval England”. That title is a handful, isn’t it? But it’s very fitting for the book. The second book of Brandon Sanderson’s secret project differs entirely from anything the author has written. First, it’s not set in Cosmere, and it’s a true stand-alone story. What’s also new is that the story mixes sci-fi and fantasy. I’ve seen varied opinions on social media regarding this book, where many o Sanderson’s die-hard fans were not overly impressed by it. So, is it worth the hype?

The book is narrated in first person PoV by an unlucky dimension traveller who didn’t read his manual well. He finds himself in medieval England without memories or modern tools to help him survive, with only a partially burned manual on dimensions hopping. The story is based on tropes I love: the protagonist with partial amnesia trying to piece together his past, a found family, an anti-hero, and things that are not always what they seem. I enjoyed accompanying the protagonist, slowly puzzling his life together through hilarious twists and turns.

As usual, even though the book is mostly light-hearted and includes a massive dose of humour, it also touches on more serious subjects like fitting in, social expectations and being true to yourself. What’s worth noticing is also a very entertaining what-ifs Sanderson pursued with this story. The idea of the future where people come up with selling alternative dimensions to history buffs is fantastic, and I thoroughly enjoyed exploring it.

In this book, Sanderson also experiments with the form. True to the title, the volume in question is a manual/marketing handout for dimensional travel. To give the story a feel of authenticity, we have loads of excerpts from this handbook between chapters of the actual narration. Does it work for the story? Probably depends on readers. Thanks to including those bits and pieces, the author could move big chunks of worldbuilding out of the story chapters, avoiding info dumps, and stay true to his speciality of creating complex and well-thought-out worlds. But because the story’s topic is dimensional travel, some of those excerpts might be tedious to read and distract readers’ attention from the plot. I wasn’t bothered by those – some I read, others skimmed, or if they weren’t interesting, I skipped them and continued with the main storyline.

Even though the form might not impress all the readers, “The Frugal Wizard’s Handbook for Surviving Medieval England” can be easily attributed to Sanderson. It has everything I love in author’s books – great characters, unexpected twists and turns, lavish setting and original and well-thought details. It might not be as impressive as some other epic stories the author is well-known for, but on the other hand, I don’t think it was ever attempted to compete with those. For what it is – a stand-alone one-shot novel, it is exciting and entertaining enough to be recommended to readers who enjoy adventures and speculative fiction.