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A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY

The Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson


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Book 1: The Final Empire

 

A thousand years ago, a hero whose coming was long prophesied set out to save the world from the Deepness, a force of ultimate evil. He went on a quest to the mythical Well of Ascension, the power of which would allow him to save the world from oblivion. He failed. Whilst he banished the Deepness, he was corrupted by his power and became the immortal Lord Ruler. He went on to conquer the world.

 

The Final Empire now spans most of the world. The majority of the people are slave-workers known as skaa, whilst a privileged few, the nobles (the descendants of the Lord Ruler's allies and cronies who helped him achieve power), rule in indolent luxury. The Lord Ruler's will is enforced by his obligators and the horrifying Steel Inquisitors, and all opposition to his rule is crushed without mercy.

 

In the Empire's capital, Luthadel, a man named Kelsier and his criminal crew is planning the ultimate heist. The prize is the rule of the Final Empire itself. To put together the operation he requires powerful and skilled allies and hires Vin, a young girl who has just started exhibiting the powers of the Mistborn, someone who can wield all the powers of Allomancy. Allomancers 'burn' metals to release magical powers. Most Allomancers can only control one metal, but Mistborn can wield all ten, and are formidable opponents. Vin's job is to infiltrate the nobility and gather intelligence on the opposition that is waiting for them, but soon gets in over her head.

 

The Final Empire is the first book in the Mistborn Trilogy. Prior to this series, Sanderson had won some acclaim with his promising debut, the single-volume novel Elantris, but Mistborn saw a marked improvement in his critical reception and led to him being offered the job of finishing the last Wheel of Time book following Robert Jordan's death.

 

The Final Empire was published in 2006, around the same time as Scott Lynch's Lies of Locke Lamora and Joe Abercrombie's The Blade Itself. Whilst in Europe the book attracted little attention - its first British edition isn't out until the end of this year - in the USA it was compared favourably with those other high-profile debuts. There are some interesting similarities with Lynch, as The Final Empire is also a 'heist' or 'caper' novel with a band of criminals out to pull a con, although in this book the con is a much bigger and more epic in scope. Direct comparisons between the two books beyond that are unfair, as their targets are very different, but broadly speaking The Final Empire is not as funny but is a bit more cohesive and focused on its central plot.

 

Amongst Sanderson's strengths are a finely-tuned magic system, which is logically and rationally explored. The notion of something eating metals (or, more often, drinking metal-specked liquids) is a bit weird at first, but it works quite well and some of the Mistborn abilities are quite impressive. The laws of ballistics are cleverly invoked to show how a Mistborn can, for example, 'fly' from one place or another by simply repelling or attracting themselves towards metal objects. Character-wise, the book is also strong. Vin is a decent lead protagonist, although her somewhat brooding and paranoid emo-ness at the start of the book is a bit difficult to get used to. Her character evolution over the course of the book and her graduation to the level of Total Badass is perhaps predictable, but nonetheless well-handed. Kelsier and Sazed are also strong protagonists, and the subtle way that Sanderson builds up the character of the Lord Ruler is very clever. However, Elend is a bit of a bland non-entity at this stage, and the other members of Vin and Kelsier's crew tend to blur into a morass of similarly well-meaning-but-decent do-gooders.

 

The story develops nicely and there's a very nice and clever twist in the ending. In fact, The Final Empire is almost a stand-alone novel, with only a solitary line of dialogue near the end opening the way for the sequels.

 

The Final Empire (****) is a strong and worthy addition to the ranks of the 'New Fantasy' movement. The writing is fresh and enjoyable and the setting impressively-realised. The novel is available now in the USA and will be published by Gollancz in the UK on 1 October 2009.

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I agree. In fact, weirdly enough I just finished this book last night. So, good timing I guess. It wasn't perfect, but it was still one of the best books I've read in awhile. I'm really looking forward to the next two. After finishing it, I kept thinking that this book would make a great movie. It isn't overly complex, but still has satisfying plot twists and a good mix of action, thoughtfulness, and (some) romance. As you said in the review, it could pretty much be a stand-alone, so if a studio were to pick it up they wouldn't have to feel obligated to do the next two as well. Of course, I might still be high on just finishing the book. I'm going to start number two tonight.

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Book 2: The Well of Ascension

 

The Final Empire has fragmented into numerous squabbling bandit kingdoms and rebel states. Elend Venture has taken control of the former capital, Luthadel, aided by Vin, a powerful Mistborn, and the other leaders of the rebellion. But Elend's idealistic dreams of a democratic government are sorely tested when two other rulers lay claim to the city and arrive to besiege it.

 

Meanwhile, the Terris Keeper, Sazed, is worried by reports of the return of a deadly form of the mists that appear at night, and begins an investigation into the prophecies that led to the Lord Ruler gaining power, searching for clues as to the location of the Well of Ascension, the only power in the world that might save it from destruction...

 

Picking up where The Final Empire left off, The Well of Ascension sees a marked change in pace in the development of the Mistborn series. The first book was a bit of a caper story mixed in with a traditional 'rebelling against the evil ruler' narrative with a great magic system on top. Book 2 now sees the former rebels coping themselves with the pressures of governance. Elend, a rather thin character in the first book, becomes a lot more interesting in this volume as his former idealism clashes with an increasingly cynical outlook brought about by events. There's also a lessening of focus on Vin. Whilst still the central character, Elend and Sazed come much more to the fore in this novel as well. There's also a new Mistborn character, Zane, who enters the story and provides an effective sparring partner for Vin. Sanderson's worldbuilding also comes on a lot in this book, with a logical development of his metal-based magic system.

 

On the minus side, the change in narrative style means a slackening of the pace. There's a lot of talk and intrigue in this book, although it isn't entirely convincing and leads to a static pace as the various factions are engaged in a stand-off for most of the story, no one side able to move without being defeated by the others. This makes for a slightly less engaging story than the first book.

 

However, in the last 200 pages or so Sanderson suddenly turns everything up to 11. All hell breaks loose and as well as featuring major battles there are a series of stunning revelations about the prophecies that our characters have been following so far. The prophecy is a particularly annoying staple of epic fantasy literature but Sanderson's treatment of it at the end of this book is fascinating, making for a great twist ending.

 

The Well of Ascension (****) takes a while to get going, but decent character development keeps things ticking over until the action and revelation-packed finale. The novel is available now in the USA and will be published on 10 December 2009 by Gollancz in the UK.

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Nice review Werthead!

 

I kinda found that the ending was almost rushed. Similar to your review, I agree that suddenly at one point all hell breaks loose and the pace of the book doubled. Unfortunately, I found that a bit messy and felt in this one, he could've made the overall pace even, since at times it was dragging for me.

 

Looking forward to the review for Hero Ages.

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I noticed something odd in Hero of Ages involving a character called 'Hoid' who seemed vaguely familiar. After much googling, I was intrigued to learn that all of Sanderson's own adult fantasy novels (not Alcatraz and not the WoT trilogy) are set in one coherent fantasy universe called the 'Shadesmar'. Sel, Nalthis, Scadrial, Roshar, Taldain and Yolen (the planets of Elantris, Warbreaker, Mistborn, Way of Kings, White Sand and Dragonsteel respectively - the latter two being planned but unfinished works) are all planets sharing this cosmology, and all the magic systems are different manifestations of a central source of power, the Shards.

 

Interesting stuff. Apparently this guy Hoid has the ability to traverse the Shadesmar and visit other worlds, and has appeared in every one of Sanderson's fantasy books to date and will continue to do so in the future.

 

All sounds a bit Moorcock/King to me, but apparently all these disparate threads are going to come together in one huge Dark Tower-style big book or series at one point, but possibly not for 'decades'.

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Book 3: The Hero of Ages

 

The great volcanoes are gradually covering the world in ash and the cloying mists are lasting longer with each passing day. Crops are failing, humanity is divided and the world is dying. Elend Venture, the emperor of humanity, and his Mistborn wife Vin are doing their best to repair the damage caused by events at the Well of Ascension, but their efforts seem in vain. An ancient destructive force has been unleashed upon the world, and many of their allies have been struck down.

 

Sazed, last of the Terris Keepers, has lost his faith and now struggles to find a reason to live. The kandra TenSoon has been declared a traitor to his people and put on trial. The Steel Inquisitors and the monstrous koloss have found a new master and now prey on the weaker cities of humanity. As unthinkable as it sounds, it appears that removing the Lord Ruler may not have been the wisest of ideas...

 

The Hero of Ages opens with the world in a pretty apocalyptic state. Things are, as we are told in great detail, very bad indeed and our heroes' struggles to survive without becoming as brutal as the Lord Ruler are testing them to their limits. Sanderson successfully lays on the gloom and darkness throughout the book, creating an oppressive, backs-against-the-wall atmosphere that frequently has the reader scratching their heads and wondering how their heroes are going to get out this mess. The answer comes in a lengthy series of revelations (sometimes skirting perilously close to info-dumps, but Sanderson manages to just about avoid that pitfall) that are stunning, impressive and extremely logical given what has come before.

 

The characters continue to develop nicely, with some characters who were only in supporting roles in earlier books coming to the fore here, particularly Marsh and Spook. As with the previous book, there is definitely a lessening of the focus on Vin, who becomes just one more member (albeit frequently the most important) of the ensemble cast here rather than the out-and-out heroine. Oddly, this is actually works very well, since Vin's character has been explored and developed in the previous two volumes to the point where there isn't much more to be done with her.

 

The gloom that fills the book occasionally threatens to make events too bleak, with the wit and humour of the previous books reduced somewhat, but the pace is definitely turned up a notch from the second book and at around the three-quarters mark events explode into motion, carrying us through the hugely ambitious finale. Epic fantasies often collapse during their finale chapters and if Mistborn falters (some events in the Kandra Homeland during the final few chapters don't seem to make much sense given events at the start of the book), it is to a considerably less-pronounced degree than others. The ending is consistent with what has come before, features some excellent twists on the established characters and magic systems, and leaves clear hints of there being more to come, as well as clues for those readers interested in the greater cosmology and universe which Mistborn shares with Elantris, Warbreaker and the forthcoming Stormlight Archive series.

 

The Hero of Ages (****½) is a ferocious and satisfying conclusion to the Mistborn Trilogy, confirming Sanderson's status as one of the most promising writers to emerge in the field recently. The book is available now in the USA and will be published by Gollancz on 11 February 2010 in the UK.

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I really liked this whole series. Kept me interested all the way though. Origional ideas and concepts, characters i began to be attached to. I highly recommend this series.

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I jsut finished Book 1 last night as well ( I got the free TOR download a while back but just gotten around to reading it.) When I finished it, I thought to myself "what took me so long to read this?" I really enjoyed the book and Sanderson is quickly topping my list of my favorite authors. I loevd Vin and Kelsier. Elend was actually one of my favorites and can see a lot of potential story there. I hope to grab book two at the bookstore soon.

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Again great review Werthead!

 

I thought that the last book did a great job by tying up all loose ends. The ending IMO is one of the few endings in the genre that wrap up everything so comprehensively, that after reading the last book, I definitely felt that a complete story was told from start to finish.

 

A couple of things that annoyed me in this book were for example Sazed and his constant whining. Yes, I understood it was necessary and very logical, but I got annoyed by it. The Kandra story was very interesting but similarly to what you said, I felt that it was kinda rushed and unclear. Spook's storyline was definitely the most interesting in the beginning, but it also kinda got a bit cliche towards the end.

 

I was going into the novel with the impression that it was going to be fast paced, but again similarly to the 2nd novel I found that the pace was ok throughout the novel, but at one point it just jumps up. Though once it does pick up its pretty damn hard to put down.

 

Still overall a very enjoyable series, and if Sanderson's beginning work is this good, I'm pretty pumped for his future books. 

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All sounds a bit Moorcock/King to me, but apparently all these disparate threads are going to come together in one huge Dark Tower-style big book or series at one point, but possibly not for 'decades'.

 

I hope not the final 3 books of the Dark Tower were terrible, who really puts themselves into their books as God...

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  • 2 weeks later...

I noticed something odd in Hero of Ages involving a character called 'Hoid' who seemed vaguely familiar. After much googling, I was intrigued to learn that all of Sanderson's own adult fantasy novels (not Alcatraz and not the WoT trilogy) are set in one coherent fantasy universe called the 'Shadesmar'. Sel, Nalthis, Scadrial, Roshar, Taldain and Yolen (the planets of Elantris, Warbreaker, Mistborn, Way of Kings, White Sand and Dragonsteel respectively - the latter two being planned but unfinished works) are all planets sharing this cosmology, and all the magic systems are different manifestations of a central source of power, the Shards.

 

Interesting stuff. Apparently this guy Hoid has the ability to traverse the Shadesmar and visit other worlds, and has appeared in every one of Sanderson's fantasy books to date and will continue to do so in the future.

 

All sounds a bit Moorcock/King to me, but apparently all these disparate threads are going to come together in one huge Dark Tower-style big book or series at one point, but possibly not for 'decades'.

 

Do you remember in which part this "Hoid" character showed up?

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In Mistborn: The Final Empire Hoid shows up as the ska that Straff and Kelsier use as a spy. In Elantris Hoid is a beggar that Hrathen talks to and gives money. And in Warbreaker Hoid is the story teller that Siri talks to and he tells the history of the continent while using sand.

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In Mistborn: The Final Empire Hoid shows up as the ska that Straff and Kelsier use as a spy. In Elantris Hoid is a beggar that Hrathen talks to and gives money. And in Warbreaker Hoid is the story teller that Siri talks to and he tells the history of the continent while using sand.

 

Ohh okay. I remember that now. Haven't read Elantris yet but I'm pretty sure i'm almost on exactly the part you're talking about in Warkreaker.

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In Mistborn: The Final Empire Hoid shows up as the ska that Straff and Kelsier use as a spy. In Elantris Hoid is a beggar that Hrathen talks to and gives money. And in Warbreaker Hoid is the story teller that Siri talks to and he tells the history of the continent while using sand.

 

In THE WELL OF ASCENSION he is also one of the refugees Vin and Elend meet on the way back to the capital and in THE HERO OF AGES he is an information-broker in the besieged city, but Vin gets a 'bad feeling' when she arrives in the area and departs (and hence doesn't recognise him).

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  • 3 weeks later...

I just finished reading the series a couple days ago, finished Elantris yesterday and started Warbreaker today. Anywho, I loved the Mistborn Trilogy, I couldn't put any of those books down at all. I was so afraid to start reading anything by him because I was afraid I would be disappointed, but after I read the first chapter for TGS I knew I just had to read some of his books. He quickly became one of my favorite authors ^.^

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Does Elantris get better at all? Does anyone know? Because I find it extremely boring after the first few chapters. Even Warbreaker, which is mostly political intrigue, rebellion, espionage and things like that, was more interesting.

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Elantris does get better. The intrigue builds and there's a pretty cool climax. That being said the 25 year old characters never remember what it was like to be 15 before Elantris was cursed and run around asking people in their 40's what it was like, who talk about it as if it happened when they were kids.

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I didn't think Elantris or Warbreaker were bad... There were som parts where it felt like a little.. blah. But overall I thought they were good books.

 

I agree that Warbreaker wasn't bad. Just....A change of pace I guess. I read the Mistborn trilogy first so I guess I had some kind of expectations of action and a great magic sytem and all. I don't think Breath can even compete with Allomancy on the scale of badassery. I coined that term just now by the way.

Elantris I tried to read after those. The MT and Wrbrkr, so I guess it just didn't seem to live up.

Eventually I'll get bored enough to read it no matter how boring I think it is. Which I'm genuinely surprised hasn't already happened lol.

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  • 3 weeks later...

i picked up "Elatnris" a month or so ago and loved it.  i loved the princess (i forget her name), and Brandon seems to do very well with writing strong female characters.  so i have high hopes for his writing the women of WoT...  especailly Nyneave and Egwene :)

 

i've gotten through half of the first Mistborn book, then picked up WoT again because i wanted to re-read the series before MoL comes out.

 

i like Brandon as an author though, and i think *crosses fingers* hope he will do the series well.  i think he was a good choice to finish it off.

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