Including: Mistborn, The Well of Ascension, and The Hero of Ages
A back-to-back read through of the three novels in Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy (as a part of a bigger series and world created by the author). This trilogy presents a world with many of the seeming aspects of what would be considered “high fantasy”, but without as much of the convolution and excessiveness what sometimes comes with those types of epics. That is not to say that there aren’t many characters (there are, but it’s a good amount), or that the world itself that is created feels too small or not real enough, but everything seems to fall into place very nicely and is followed without much difficulty or needing to go back and re-study any events, locations, or characters. It may have also helped that I pounded through these three novels back to back, but still! There is enough mysticism and magic to make it interesting, but also a set of logic and rules to the magic which makes things not feel too fanciful (save for maybe an incident or item here and there).
But what is it about? Mistborn begins with a young girl named Vin, who is living as a street urchin within a city of the Final Empire. This land is governed by a man known as the “Lord Ruler”, who has ruled for over a thousand years, and is basically a god of this land who orchestrates almost everything. There is an intense class-divide between the nobility and the common folk (known as the “Skaa”), many of whom work on plantations and are severely mistreated by noble overlords. Vin herself is skaa, but she is recruited to a team of skaa/half-nobles, etc, (led by a charismatic man named Kelsier, who I 100% pictured as Oscar Isaac, and you can fight me about it, I picture almost every lead male as Oscar Isaac nowadays) that have a plot to overthrow the Lord Ruler who has been acting as a tyrant over the land for centuries. Nothing goes without him knowing or approving, and in fact, the people and technology have hardly progressed at all over the course of the Lord Ruler’s rule, which is part of his overall plan, no doubt. There is a prophecy about a “Hero of Ages” one day taking over and saving the world from a deep, dark power within it, and this band of misfits thinks they can get the ball rolling to overthrow the current government. Oh, and of course, it doesn’t hurt that a lot of the members on the team are known as “Mistings” who each have a certain ability when they ingest and “burn” a particular type of metal in their stomach. All, of course, except for Vin and Kelsier, who are able to use all types of metals for all the available abilities; they are therefore known as “Mistborn”. These Mistborn are decedents of the nobility, and as such, many of the nobility in the Finale Empire also possess these talents. In any case, this first novel follows Kelsier and his crew as they try to overthrow the empire, as well as Vin while she comes to learn of her new skills through Kelsier’s mentorship.
Spoilers ahead, for the novels following Mistborn, though they will be minor:
The second novel, The Well of Ascension, therefore, follows the aftermath of the first book. Vin continuing to get stronger and more skilled than many other Mistborns (she is apparently very small and doesn’t seem very intimidating and yet, is one of the most powerful members of the crew). After the first novel, there is a lot of uncertainty about what happens now, and many other nobles and families want to gain power for themselves. After one battle, the crew must prepare for war, but now they have gained some noble allies (including a gentle love interest for miss Vin, named Elend).
As these battles and the uncertainty of who is to rule continues, more damage can be seen being done in the world, as the Lord Ruler’s power and specific controls over things (some of them positive to keep the world running) start falling short, and we come to learn of a greater, more threatening power that may in fact cause the end of the entire Final Empire. The third novel, The Hero of Ages, thereby focuses on the group of characters as they try to learn about and defeat this new and elusive power that they didn’t even realize they had set free during the course of their other plans.
What is great about these novels, is the thought that went into the overall plot; it doesn’t have too many odd deviations, and there is some trickery but it never feels like a boasting, “haha! You were FOOLED!” being aimed at the audience (*side-eyes the writers of ‘Sherlock’ as they jack off to their own cleverness at writing*). There are twists and surprises, but for the most part everything seems to make sense, or at least have some kind of reason behind it. This is also largely due to Sanderson developing rules and logic to his “magic” as presented in the form of Allomancy and burning metals in the body. There are things that can and cannot be done, as well as extensions of these powers still being learned, yet still following particular rules and having limits.
Another positive about this series is that the characters do feel like real people who are all different and have strengths and flaws. However, some of them seem to progress and grow more than others, while some seem to stay the same to the point where they are almost caricatures of themselves. The strongest characters, however, are three of the main ones, in Vin, Elend, and a terrisman named Sazed, all of whom confront and deal with internal conflicts, and have different layers inherent in them, as derived from their very diverse upbringings and history. For instance, Elend is forced to change his nature based on the situations he is placed into, and Vin who has grown up to be hard and untrusting comes to find trust and also to accept a feminine side to herself which she had previously seen as perhaps a bit frivolous. That is a great thing about Vin, in that she is somewhat of your more “masculine” and stoic female hero, hardened by life, yet she still indulges in more typically “feminine” things which a lot of female heros will shirk or shy away from. And not to mention that Elend and Vin are essentially placed on the same level of power and importance with one another, each trusting the other to do what they think to be the right thing, which is great to see in relationships being presented for people, as it really creates a great sense of equality and not one partner domineering over the other (something that I sometimes find to be lacking in a lot of fictional relationships today, which… I don’t know, maybe doesn’t always send the right message?). I mean, the only thing I could maybe disparage about the main characters is that they perhaps take to things a little too easily (they are extra strong, extra good at learning their skills without really having to try much, etc etc) which can sometimes get annoying in characters today, but here it didn’t really detract that much for it to be a big issue for me (unlike my reaction to Kvothe in Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles, where it actually got on my nerves after a while).
I did worry, however about one thing in regards to Vin… SPOILER WARNING!!
That is, when the crew is learning about the Lord Ruler, they believe they are reading his story, but the one prophesized to be the savior actually had his place taken by someone else at the last second. After spending so much time watching Vin’s journey into being a hero, I was scared for a hot minute that as a parallel to the Lord Ruler’s story, someone else was going to swoop in and take her place and glory. Ie, some man was going to take this lady-hero’s heroic moment (possibly Elend or another minor character, Spook, who had a pretty interesting arc in the third novel). But all was good. I mean… there is some stuff with Sazed at the end, but we all know that Vin is the star here, hence her position on the front of the novels.
Overall, I very much enjoyed this Mistborn trilogy, and would definitely be interested in reading more from Brandon Sanderson’s series. Though I maybe just need a little break in-between with something else before I jump back in. (I’d hate to grow tired of it, after all, which I find sometimes happens when I keep reading the same series back-to-back for too long). Definitely worth a read, if you haven’t picked these ones up already!