A family friend recommended The Starlight Archive to me a few years ago and I read them earlier this year. That of course led me down the rabbit hole of the Cosmere, author Brandon Sanderson’s overarching, interconnected series of books. Essentially, he plans for nearly 40 books to all be part of a shared universe, which is amazing, especially since not all of his books are a part of the Cosmere. The man really is a machine. This review contains MAJOR spoilers so please be aware.
Mistborn Era 1 is the first foray into Scadrial, a world in which some people have special powers based upon their ability to use certain metals. There are sixteen metals that bestow powers and most people do not have any ability to use them. Those that do, possess one of the sixteen powers and are called allomancers. The exception are the rare and powerful Mistborn, allomancers who have access to all sixteen metals. All ability to use metals is genetic and the nobility class is the most likely to possess powers. The first book in Mistborn Era 1, The Final Empire, drops us in the middle of a revolt by the peasant class agains the nobility and the evil, Lord Ruler. Our hero is Kelsier, one of the greatest thieves in the capitol city of Luthadel, puts together a band of criminals with allomantic abilities, including street urchin Vin, a young girl with a dark past but is an unknowing Mistborn. Kelsier trains Vin and together they lead the revolution against the Lord Ruler.
I was shocked that Sanderson did the thing in this book, the first of a trilogy, and I loved it! He killed Kelsier, the hero of the book, the leader of the revolution, beloved by citizens throughout his new world. I naturally assumed that he and Vin would be the main characters throughout the series, but in killing Kelsier he made the series so much better. I love it when you read a book or series and the stakes matter. Killing your protagonist is the absolute best way to remind readers of the consequences. I love, love, loved it! I mean, I liked the character so that was bad but I liked the effect it it created. Danger in the books must be taken seriously.
The second book, The Well of Ascension, picks up right where the The Final Empire leaves off. Well, a few months later. The main characters are dealing with the fallout of the death of the Lord Ruler and chaos is becoming the new norm. Vin, and upgraded for book two, Elend, dress their relationship which is more complicated than two people from the wrong backgrounds. There are multiple power dynamics at play that sow discord. Elend is a noble from one of the most prestigious families. Vin is a Skas street Urchin. Elend is not an allomancer and Vin is a powerful Mistborn who killed the Lord Ruler. We also see, and I found this particularly interesting, new religions standing up. The Church of the Survivor, who worship Kelsier, is growing in influence. I liked this touch. It demonstrates the world building for which Sanderson is known while also foreshadowing future conflict. I also like seeing the aspect of a religion being started by people who lived with and were contemporaries of the deity. It also shows how cult of personality and populism spread so easily. There is just so much to unpack and I really liked it.
The third and final book of Mistborn Era 1 is The Hero of Ages. The Hero of Ages is a mythical figure who would save the world. The Lord Ruler may have been such a person or tried to be. After Kelsier’s death, I assumed that Vin was the Hero of Ages. I knew the titles of the other books as I was reading and as the Well of Ascension and the Hero of Ages are both actual things in this world, it had me thinking, right off the bat. I am not surprised that Vin was no the hero. Nor am I surprised that Elend was not, though this book certainly played him up to be the hero. I like the final choice and I think it makes the most sense, especially in hindsight. I think I could have predicted who the hero would be if I tried but I liked letting myself be surprised by gorging the audiobooks over a few days rather than reflecting on them. If left too much time, I will go complete ASOIAF mad hatter and try to guess everything. Sazed was absolutely the right choice.
I want to be lazy and call this Starlight-lite but in some ways, I think that it is actually the more adult series. I enjoyed seeing Wit/Hoid pop up and I can clearly see that the two series are connected but necessarily how. I am fully hooked on this greater shared universe.