I promised myself last year that I would finish a few of many, MANY series I’m currently in the middle of before I start something new, so most of my reviews may not be very helpful to people that haven’t yet started a particular series. This is one of those times.
I also won’t bore you with my simplistic summary of Sanderson’s world created in the Mistborn series; Sanderson created such a unique and well-crafted place that I can’t do justice to it in a few short sentences. In fact, describing the world would probably be more of a turn off. It’s a world that, when you lay out the blueprints and the physics without the story on top of it, it really shouldn’t work. That it does work, and work flawlessly, is really a show of Sanderson’s skill.
Well of Ascension takes place about a year after the events in Mistborn. Whereas Mistborn was more Ocean’s Eleven meets Avatar: The Last Airbender (the good one), this one veered more into political thriller territory, a la The Manchurian Candidate. That doesn’t make it better or worse than Mistborn, Well is just a different kind of book. Don’t worry, there’s still plenty of metal-mancy, prophecies and kick-ass ten on one fights that keep the book in its fantasy roots.
What the series really excels at is taking some of the tired, overused fantasy tropes and making them fresh and original again. For instance, the “chosen one” cliche (“You’re a wizard, John Connor! “, says Morpheus.) that drives Vin’s plot throughout the book gets subverted and turned on its head. I won’t give too much away, but pay close attention to the little blurbs that precede each chapter. It was a refreshing change from the formulaic hero finds out he is the best of the best, hero meets conflict and hears the lamentations of the women, hero prevails because he is the best of the best.
What really makes Vin shine is that Sanderson gives her depth. She’s not a one dimensional character that saves the world and ties everything up in a neat little bow, then lives happily ever after (or maybe she does, I haven’t read the third book yet, but I would be surprised if she got a lovely little life at the end). She’s overly paranoid, has low self-esteem, fiercely loyal to her friends, holds grudges, loves ball gowns even though as the world’s best assassin, she shouldn’t. Her love of Elend isn’t a fairy tale romance either. They both feel like real people navigating a new relationship all while trying to keep a completely new system of government from failing, people from starving and a city defended.