I enjoyed the first book in Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series, but I walked away from it feeling that I had missed the boat on fully enjoying the series. If I had read it during my peak epic fantasy years (late teens), I think I would’ve gotten more out of it. narfna didn’t think that age, generally, was an impediment to the enjoyment of this series. After reading the second installment, I definitely think she is correct.
For whatever reason, I enjoyed The Well of Ascension more than The Final Empire.
The Final Empire ended with the death of the Lord Ruler at the hands of Vin. The Final Empire, now in chaos, has broken into various kingdoms. The capital, Luthadel, is under control of Elend Venture and Vin. Rumors have spread throughout the empire that Luthadel has a secret cash of atium (the atium mines were destroyed by Kelsier in the previous books), and two armies (Elend’s father, Straff Venture, controls one, and the other is controlled by Ashweather Cett) have besieged the city in hopes of gaining control of the metal (and the empire). Neither will attack the city for fear that they will be attacked from behind by the other, so we’ve entered into a kind of stalemate. Meanwhile, there is a spy in Luthadel, and Straff’s Mistborn, Zane, enters the city to spar with Vin. He thinks of himself as insane, and Vin sees him as a replacement for Kelsier. Elend, meanwhile, is being taught how to be an effective king by a Terris Keeper, Tindwyl.
Meanwhile, a third army is bearing down on Luthadel. Jastes Lekal, former best friend of Elend, is at the end of the monstrous and untamable koloss, which were created by the Lord Ruler. And to top it all off, it appears that the prophecies which foretold the coming of the Hero of Ages are not what they seem.
I think one reason I liked this book more was that the complexity increased significantly. The Final Empire was almost exclusively about the band of thieves led by Kelsier trying to overthrow the Lord Ruler. This book is the fallout from that, and the underlying reality that Kelsier and his band lacked some important bits of information regarding who the Lord Ruler was, and what led him to create the Final Empire.
I went into this knowing that the basic premise was, “Lord of the Rings if Frodo failed.” *SPOILERS*In the first book, we think the Lord Ruler (Rashek) is the failed Frodo, only to find out that Rashek is more of a Gollum-type character, and that Alendi was the Frodo. But it turns out the failed Frodo may, in fact, be Vin. At the end of The Well of Ascension, she steps into a pool of metal that imbues her with godly power, but all the prophecies led her to believe that she needs to release this power to defeat the Deepness. It turns out, much to my surprise, that releasing the power allows a terrible force to be released from imprisonment.*END SPOILERS* So even though I thought I understood the idea behind the story, Sanderson does a really good job taking unexpected turns and keeping the story fresh.
But I think it really starts to shine here. The characters are bit more well-rounded here than they were in The Final Empire. Elend is an actual person, rather than just a mysterious intellectual that Vin falls for. And Vin, herself, is conflicted here – rather than just untrusting and isolated. She wants to be with Elend, but thinks she needs to be more like Zane.
I think the greater depth and complex of the characters and story make this book superior to The Final Empire.