Yumi and the Nightmare Painter

The cover of "Yumi and the Nightmare Painter" by Brandon Sanderson features an illustrated image of a male and a female in a floating, dramatic pose.
Brandon Sanderson
Feb 19, 2024

Hello and welcome to #NoWaitWednesday, where we take a peek at a great book on the New Release shelves at one of our local Library branches that's hot, fresh, and eagerly waiting for someone to take a chance on it. Normally in this space we tend to look at newer authors who are lurking just under the surface - their books might be well-reviewed, but at the same time aren't household names or endorsed by certain book group-loving celebrities and thus aren't a part of a massively long hold list. Today, however, we take a look at an author who's not only acclaimed as one of the greatest names in his particular genre, but his work has has sold millions of books around the globe and it's honestly a bit surprising that his newest stuff is not already buried under a mountain of holds: Brandon Sanderson.

Since his debut novel "Elantris" hit the shelves in 2005, Sanderson has electrified an entire generation of fantasy readers. Writing for both adults and teens and with the occasional journeys into science fiction, Sanderson's brand of relatable, intricately-built, and fast-paced novels are ideal entryways into the genre. His work is loosely connected together in an immense shared universe called the "Cosmere," where characters, elements, and concepts might reappear and reinforce themselves from book to book. (New readers shouldn't worry much about reading his work in sequence, however, as these repeating elements are very much in the background - similar to the Marvel Cinematic Universe where Doctor Strange or Nick Fury might appear in a movie and you don't need to know their entire history to know what's going on.)

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Sanderson took the opportunity to work on what he referred to as a series of "Secret Projects" - works that would bypass the traditional publishing path and would offer to fans directly through Kickstarter. After becoming the most successful Kickstarter project of all time, these are now available to the public in print, which (finally!) brings us to today's NoWaitWednesday book, one of those "Secret Projects," entitled "Yumi and the Nightmare Painter." Not exactly the straight-ahead epic fantasy that is Sanderson's hallmark, this work involves a more dreamlike fairy-tale fantasy mixed with character-driven romance, which is more in line with the current Romantasy trend of authors like Sarah Maas or Jennifer Armentrout than traditional old-schoolers like Patrick Rothfuss or Robert Jordan that have usually been Sanderson's readalikes.

"Yumi and the Nightmare Painter" introduces us to two characters in vastly different worlds: Yumi is a lonely young woman who lives a quiet, solitary, and thankless life where she channels divine spirits to help her community. Nikaro lives a world surrounded by dark, misty entities that he can trap by painting them into art and thereby protecting his city, however he has lost his creative spark and is just going through the motions. These two characters find themselves connected by a strange bond where, nightly, each can live in the others' body. As they get to know each other and learn how to navigate their new worlds and new abilities, they discover that they are the only ones who can truly understand each other, and they must find a way to both save their worlds and be together. Dreamlike, ethereal, and drenched in richly detailed atmosphere, this fantasy novel wrapped up in a love story was inspired in part by a Japanese manga series, "Hikaru no Go," and the video game "Final Fantasy X," among other Asian influences, and the pages are illustrated in a manga-like style by Aliya Chen that adds greatly to the striking visuals of the story.

Whether you're a fan of epic fantasy, romantasy, Japanese manga, Korean manhwha, or just looking for a well-told stand-alone story that satisfies, give this one a shot and put it on your holds list. Thanks for reading, and we'll see you next week!

Reviewed by Gregg W.
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