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Am I outgrowing Brandon Sanderson?

It took me three months to finish Yumi and the Nightmare Painter, which makes no sense because the Brandon Sanderson novel is less than 500 pages long.

I abandoned the book on two different occasions. I blame the reviews for pushing me to persevere. Have you seen the online discussions? People love this novel. Yumi and The Nightmare Painter has an innovative concept, but I could not connect with the story.

The book is part of Sanderson’s sprawling Cosmere universe, but it stands alone. Yes, Hoid appears. In fact, he narrates the story. Also, Sanderson makes several clever references to other characters and magic systems in the Cosmere.

So naturally, prior experience with Sanderson’s literary works will enhance your enjoyment. That said, the author crafts the story in a way that puts newcomers at ease. What if you hated your initial encounter with his Cosmere books?

Unlike the other bombastic action/ adventure novels in his bibliography, Yumi and the Nightmare Painter is a love story Sanderson wrote for his wife. So, give it a shot. I was mildly disappointed, because, initially, I hated Yumi and the Nightmare Painter. The novel follows Yumi and Nikaro, two lost souls inhabiting separate worlds.

Nikaro’s world is perpetually dark, encompassed by a mysterious shroud that gives physical form to people’s nightmares and spits them at unsuspecting citizens. Nikaro is one of several nightmare painters, warriors using their artistic skills to neutralize the nightmares.

Meanwhile, Yumi is the chosen one. Her world is a suffocatingly warm garden. The girl spends her days serving the masses by summoning spirits and molding them into unique shapes. Yumi longs to escape the drudgery of her existence. She yearns for more.

Her wish becomes a reality when she swaps lives and bodies with Nikaro. Can they put their differences aside long enough to avert a catastrophe?

The romantic aspects of Yumi and the Nightmare Painter are not a problem. Nikaro’s life seemed fascinating. Yumi was equally compelling. The girl was conflicted because she had more privilege than most. So she felt bad that she was dissatisfied with a life others would kill to possess.

So what went wrong? Sanderson brought them together, and I grew to hate them. Within the span of a chapter, the book became the most clichéd romantic comedy I have ever read, saturated with tropes Hollywood abandoned in the ‘90s.

I could not stop rolling my eyes. I could not stand Yumi’s entitled attitude. Nikaro was no better; the man would not stop whining. I know what Sanderson was going for. I understand why Nikaro and Yumi are a perfect match.

They complete each other. However, the payoff at the end failed because Sanderson could not get me to empathize with either protagonist. I kept reading because online comments asserted that Yumi and the Nightmare Painter was worth the effort. Some of those comments expressed similar complaints about the novel’s first Act. They could not stand Yumi. But apparently, she got better down the line.

After pushing through the first 150 pages, things got better, which is why I call this novel ‘Mildly Disappointing’. I thought Sanderson was too preachy near the end.

He kept sermonizing about the value of art and those paragraphs felt a little out of place. Maybe I was too disconnected from the story to care about Sanderson’s themes. Part of me wonders whether I have simply outgrown the author. I won’t know until I read The Sunlit Man.

But again, if you were tired of Sanderson’s style, Yumi and the Nightmare Painter is probably the book you are looking for. You may enjoy it.


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