And I agree. But what if you can have the best of both worlds? Quality AND quantity? You'd think that would be pretty much impossible as an author: there's only so much a single writer can do, after all.
But Brandon Sanderson pulls it off, and oh boy does he pull it off with panache with his Mistborn Trilogy, beginning with the first book, The Final Empire.
As I've mentioned before, I'm a big fan of those enticing premises, and this one is positively delicious: take the Lord of the Rings, except imagine if Sauron had won and 1000 years later he is still very much in charge of his cruel empire. Now imagine an ocean's eleven-style band of thieves and rogues banding together and plotting to overthrow the evil lord once and for all.
Having said that, the setting of the Mistborn series couldn't be any more removed from the fantasy tropes of dwarves, elves and wizards if it tried. In fact, I don't recall swords ever being mentioned. No, it takes place in this medieval-ish dystopia, and the magical system of Allomancy is so different, well thought out and downright clever that it's a wonder nobody ever came up with it prior to Mr. Sanderson.
Another wonderful feature of the series is the characters that successfully fly in the face of everything you'd expect of them. For example: there is a military type character called Ham, who in Allomantic terms is called a "Thug". I guess you have an idea in your mind what this guy's personality is, right? Now what if I told you that Ham is very much into philosophical debate and is the 'thinker' of the crew? Not what you expected, I'd wager! And I haven't even got to the main characters of Vin and Kelsier yet. But by far and away my favourite character in this series is Sazed. The journey this soft-spoken wise Terrisman goes through is just incredible.
Sanderson's strengths lie in building intrigue: setting a scene and building a world that instantly begs certain questions. The very first sentence will have you wondering what's going on. He's oh so good at keeping you guessing, and he respects the intelligence of his readers. He knows that we know that there's more than meets to the eye to this world and the immortal Lord Ruler whom they are trying to overthrow. He leaves a trail of breadcrumbs that aren't too obvious, but when you hit a big reveal you will smile to yourself as you think, "Wow, that actually makes perfect sense, why didn't I notice that?"
And Sanderson is excellent at wrapping things up. Seriously, his plotting is airtight. You just know that he's the kind of author who has folders full of organized notes, has thought through every single plot hole and has it all meticulously planned out before he has even started writing. Because you trust Sanderson that he will answer all the questions in exciting, unexpected ways that still makes sense, you as reader are in that rare but wonderful situation where every question yet to be answered is not a headache but a delight, like a Christmas present yet to be unwrapped.
Most impressive of all, Sanderson saves his best for the last: I think I spent the last quarter of book three with my jaw dropped. It is quite possibly the finest ending to a book series I've ever read, and that's saying something.
Now, the books aren't perfect, mind: I actually liked and appreciated the humour in these books, and there were times I burst out laughing. But sometimes I felt as though the humour was misplaced, breaking an appropriately sombre moment. It is rare, though.
I can't recommend the Mistborn Trilogy enough. It does so much right, and when you consider that these amazing books came out one year at a time, while Sanderson also published other novels and short stories as well, it fills you with appreciation and respect. Mr. Sanderson, you are a machine, and I mean that in the best way!