I have probably tried reading this book three times over the years, and I was never able to make it far. For my first attempt, I tried the audiobook but didn’t like the narrator. The second time, I forgot that I tried reading it before, and still didn’t like the narrator. The third time, I tried reading the actual book – but had to slog through the part I had previously read, because it had been long enough that I didn’t remember the story well enough to pick up where I had left off.
But it’s Brandon Sanderson. So, this time, I just pushed through and read the damned thing.
And I’m glad I did.
The premise was utterly fascinating to me. What happened if the hero destined to save the world failed?
Well kids, it ain’t pretty. The world is covered in ash. Strange and frightening creatures inhabit the land, and the world is blanketed by a thick mist during the night. The Lord Ruler sits atop his throne in the city of Luthadel, and the lowly skaa (peasants or serfs) toil beneath his oppressive thumb. On the streets of Luthadel there is a young street urchin named Vin. She’s spent her life amongst thieves, and (not long into the book) discovers that she’s an allomancer. Allomancy is the mystical power granted to the nobility by the Lord Ruler. She also meets Kelsier, a sort of Christ-like figure with the goal of overthrowing the Lord Ruler and bringing color back to the world.
That’s the basic set-up. I don’t want to give too much away.
If you’ve read Brandon Sanderson before (most of you have), you’ve probably read this series. If that’s the case – I agree with you. It’s really good. If you haven’t, and epic fantasy is even remotely your thing, you should pick it up. Not only is it well worth your time, but it’s probably the premier series of the last fifteen years or so.
But while I thoroughly enjoyed the book – I can’t help but feel that I’ve outgrown them. I think if I’d read it at 15, I’d already be finishing his Cosmere series (of which these are a part). Knocking on the door of 40, these books just don’t feel quite as magical as they should.
I kind of get this feeling every time I read something with a protagonist in their teens. I just don’t live that life anymore. Those characters don’t speak to me like they used to. Teenage characters, just like actual teenagers, just don’t speak to me. I don’t see the world the same way they do, and I don’t care about the same things they do.
Most of the time, at least.
This isn’t a knock against Brandon Sanderson or this book. I did care about Vin, and wanted her to reach her goals. I rejoiced at her successes and felt tension at all the appropriate moments.
But I think there is a half-life to these kinds of books, and if you don’t build the necessary adoration early, you can’t really access the nostalgia at 38. I think that’s what I’m probably missing, here. This should’ve been something I read twenty years ago and am now feeling nostalgia for. But it wasn’t, and I’m not.
None of this is stopping me from reading the sequel, though. That review should be coming soon.