First, for whomever needs to hear this: if you don’t remember the prior books in great detail, worry not. I was quite stressed that I wouldn’t remember enough to understand what was going on, but as always Sanderson is a reader’s writer and knows how to seamlessly remind you of the most salient points such that you can take a ride with him.
Now, at the end of all things, I find myself in awe of what Sanderson managed to do over the course of all these books. While I still am team Original Three over team Last Four (high fantasy over tech/fantasy hybrid any day), it’s amazing to see an author take a world he’d lovingly created and ruthlessly move it forward, breaking the rules and seeing how they would evolve over time. People would have read another three books (well, I would have read another three books) in immediate post-Catacendre world. Instead, he thought through the consequences of his magic system (e.g., genetics) and how a world designed for plenty by a benevolent god might change over hundreds of years. And then, having done all that pre-work, he proceeded to spin an entirely new plot and set of intrigues that draw upon that fundamental work.
I’m babbling a bit, because I don’t know how to really attack this review. Should you read it? Absolutely. You won’t regret doing so for an instant, and unlike the rest of us you won’t have to wait an interminable year for the last novel to be released.
I guess I’ll hit a few of my favorite points, the things that I excitedly texted to my friends as I finally got to jump into this last (for now! I think he’s said he wants to explore Mistborn + real capital T technology as well? I’m sure I’ll find it equally disorienting at the outset, and find myself once again unwilling to let new people/characters into Scadrial). The best one? DEFINITELY Steris, whose arc and characterization and relationship with Wax (the latter of which, mind you, is like a R plot in a book practically stuffed with threads) gave me such renewed faith in cishet male authors to write women (and massive side eye for the remaining ones because what is your excuse for characters boobily boobing around hmm). To recall, Steris was introduced as the stuck up type A foil for her cousin Marasi, the cooler, slightly ditsy, not-like-other-women wannabe police inspector. Everyone groaned, because this is a tale we’ve seen before and are not at all interested in revisiting…but lo and behold, Sanderson had a plan! Four books later, Steris is accepted for who she is without having to change in the slightest. She wants to make seven backup plans for how to handle a potential five alarm fire in downtown? She’s going to do so, with the help of her devoted husband Wax. The scene of them quietly and methodically going through old broadsheets to solve the mystery of the Set—one activity for Steris, one activity for Wax—gave me life.
There’s also a beautiful ability of Sanderson to bring out the vitality in this thread while also addressing and tying off so many others. Wayne’s prodigious abilities with speed bubbles? There’s a point for that! Kelsier’s return? There’s a point for that, and the mundane way in which he’s reintroduced—KELSIER, THE SURVIVOR OF HATHSIN—is hilarious in the extreme. Marasi’s ethical choices as a member of the police force? There’s a point for that! There’s a giant third arc conflict and it all seems well earned (once again, MCU could take some serious notes).
If I had to call out one last point—the way in which the mundane and the magic blend together is seamless and feels so real, as benefits a world that Sanderson has lived and breathed for years now. He also gives a call out to his panel of detail knowers, a technique that other authors of expansive universes could do well to emulate…