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The Wheel Turns: Strong Female Characters Series--Vin

Moon Sedai

[Editor's Note: This is an article Moon Sedai published on Landofnerds.com, on September 12th, 2013; she has several other articles that focus on strong female characters.  It's posted here with her permission.]


This will contain spoilers from the whole Mistborn series.  Read at your own risk!


Strong Females: Vin Venture, Mistborn


First, let me apologize for taking so long to write this blog. I had a rather busy month of August, plus I spent time reading the Mistborn series so I could do a proper showcase for the character of Vin, from Mistborn. I promise that soon, I’ll be getting back to a regular blogging schedule, and catch up on Space City Con.


Before I begin talking about Vin, let me describe the world of Mistborn.  Mistborn takes place in a world known as the “Final Empire.” For a thousand years, a tyrannical god-king known as the “Lord Ruler” has ruled the world. He is the center of the world’s only existing religion and the most powerful magician in the world. He can create, he can destroy, and he is seen as unstoppable.  He also has complete control of the economy.


A thousand years ago, the Lord Ruler did some amazing things, stopped the destruction of the world, and named himself the “Sliver of Infinity” and Lord Ruler. He stamped out all other religions. He worked to actively wipe out entire populations of some people, created monsters and allies to help him run the world, and led a society that was led by the religion he founded around himself. Society is highly stratified: there are nobles, who were the descendants of those who ‘helped’ the Lord Ruler a thousand years before. The nobles have rarely had to battle, breed very few children, and have a tall stature. There are also the skaa. Skaa are a race that has been relegated to little more than slaves. They are generally smaller, have a lot of children, and are raised to be superstitious and complacent. Interbreeding is forbidden, and noblemen who take skaa lovers are encouraged to kill them before they give birth to half-breed children.


The main form of magic in Mistborn is called “Allomancy.” Essentially, Allomancy is magic where the Allomancer “burns” metals in their body, either swallowed directly or ingested through foods. (To learn more about Allomancy, check out the Misborn Wiki entry on allomancy). Most Allomancers can only use one metal at a time, and their magical style is often named after the metal or what that metal does. Mistborn are different, because they can burn all metals. The Lord Ruler’s Steel Ministry seeks out skaa Allomancers to eliminate. They are an abomination.


The planet is not a beautiful world. There are Ash Mountains that spew volcanic ash at irregular periods, covering everything with a dirty grey pallor. Plants no longer produce color. The Sun is a deep red. Every night, the air is filled with Mist: a seemingly powerful source of spooky power that “eats people.”


To those fans of Mistborn, I am going to focus primarily on the first book of the series to avoid spoiling the ending. There are going to be mild spoilers for the series.


1. Who is the Character?

Vin is the primary character of Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series. She is a half-skaa (slave race) half-noble born girl, raised on the streets of Luthadel, the capital of the “Final Empire.” Her father never knew of her existence, her mother was insane. Her brother raised her, teaching her to be constantly paranoid, and raising her to a life of crime.  In the beginning, she has joined up with a thieving crew that depends on her extraordinary “Luck” to help them pull off their heists.


After a botched heist, Vin’s crew is approached by a man named “Kelsier,” who is known as “the Survivor of the Pits.” Kelsier is a legend: He is the only skaa who has ever broken out of the Lord Ruler’s prison.  He hates noblemen with all his being. He is brave, he is strong, he is powerful. He is also openly Mistborn. Kelsier introduces Vin to the idea of Allomancy, lets her know that she is a Mistborn, and trains her to help him pull off the greatest heist known to the Final Empire: The overthrowing of the Lord Ruler.


2. What is her role/career in the world she belongs to? 

In the first Book, Vin is training to use her Mistborn powers. She takes a place on Kelsier’s crew as a spy: She masquerades as a ‘country noblewoman in the big city for the first time” to help spread false rumors and make the noble houses mistrustful of one another. She is also supposed to report what she learns of the various noble houses back to her crew.


As a Mistborn, she becomes one of the most powerful fighters and magicians in the world. She might be from a place of poverty, fear, and paranoia, but Vin becomes one of the most fearsome forces within the Empire.


3. What is the source of her power? Does she have [magic] power because she was born with it? If she was not “born to power,” how did she get the power? (i.e “Chosen” by a mysterious council, win via election, did she take the power or have it forced upon her?) Did she have to put up a fight to obtain her power?

Allomancers are born with something in their genes that allow them to use magic. At some point in their life, after experiencing near-death trauma, they “Snap” and start using their power. They are either an Allomancer, a Mistborn, or a normal person, without abilities. Noble houses often beat their young children to a point to where they either Snap, die, or just take a really strong beating. Skaa Allomancers often don’t need that kind of encouragement. The life of poverty led by most skaa forces their Snapping, and sometimes, they don’t know what it is they can do. Very lucky is the skaa that Snaps and manages to evade the Steel Ministry.


This being said, Vin owes her Mistborn powers to her good genetics. She did not have to fight to get power, she had to fight to survive, and that fight is what allowed her to live.


4. Who are the important men in her life? Can we, in any way, attribute her position, power, or authority in thanks to the men in her life (father, brother, boyfriend/husband/lover)? (Did Daddy give her the power, is she only cool because she’s the Chosen One’s girlfriend?)

Reen: Reen is her brother, who rescued her from their crazy mother after their mother killed their little sister. Reen taught Vin to be paranoid and suspicious, traits that might have helped keep her alive. Ultimately, he abandoned her, confirming to her that “everyone will betray you.”


Kelsier: Kelsier is her mentor. He brings her into the Crew, teaches her how to use her Allomancy. He is a father-type figure, not her actual father, but he cares for her, looks at her like the daughter he never had. Through Kelsier and his Crew, Vin learns what it is like to really trust and work with others.


Sazed: Sazed is a Terris Steward, a man who is of a race that the Lord Ruler subjected to strong breeding programs to eliminate the Terris style of magic (because of this, Sazed is a eunuch.) Sazed teaches Vin about how to act like a ‘proper noblewoman’ and about the different religions squashed by the Lord Ruler. Sazed is a uses Fereuchemy, a power that stores magic within metals worn outside the body.


Elend Venture: Elend, Vin’s ultimate husband, is important because he tells Vin that not all noblemen are bad. He is the only man Vin every really “loves” and is brokenhearted when ordered to end the relationship and when he tries to end it to protect her. Vin goes to great lengths to protect and care for her husband.


5. Is she ever used as a “Damsel in Distress?” If so, how does she handle her capture/stress? Does she rescue herself or did she put herself into the stress to begin with?

Vin only rarely is in distress. Once, when she pushed herself too far with Allomancy, and a second time when she is *almost* killed in a battle. After pushing herself, she was bedridden for a time, and then was ‘forbidden’ from using Allomancy until she was fully healed. Vin did not enjoy this, and she used her powers anyway.

The only time she is directly a “Damsel in Distress” is when she is caught by the Steel Ministry. Sazed uses his Feruchemical powers to rescue her, which ultimately allows Vin to  …{Left out so to avoid a SPOILER}.


6. Sex. Is sex and sexuality important to the character? Does she spend much of her time trying to impress the men around her? Is she the maiden/mother/crone?

 Vin is a weird mix of maiden and mother. In the first novel, Vin must act as an immature, unknowledgeable noble girl, trying to make her place in Court. 

At first, she is annoyed with Elend. He’s a nobleman who would rather read than dance. But she falls in love with him, perhaps because he was genuinely concerned with the state of the Empire, and openly displeased with his father’s actions and how the Lord Ruler ran society.


Vin does not specifically dress up and go to Balls to court Elend. She does not "pursue” him, directly, and once the “jig is up” about her heritage and identity, she actively avoids dressing the part of the flighty noblewoman. If Elend is going to love Vin, he was going to love who she was, not who she pretended to be.


Vin and Elend have a fascinating relationship. They work well together, support one another, and seem to be a true partnership. She is not in power because she’s his girlfriend/wife. She is the one with the power. He takes authority because of her. She is often used as a tool to support his authority, but it is because of her choice.

In later books, she acts as an unofficial mother to the various peoples. To the religion that spawns as a result of the first book, to some of creatures that the Lord Ruler created to help run the empire.


7. How ‘manly’ is the character? Is she a tomboy, or androgynous? Is she really just a male character in a female body?

Vin does not initially enjoy the dresses and make-up of the noble courts. She prefers male clothes, pants, short hair.


Girls who look like boys on the streets are not raped.


She does eventually come to relish the dresses and female clothing, but she prefers to wear the comfortable pants and boots to dresses and corsets.


8. What are her weaknesses?

Vin is paranoid, almost to a fault. She is constantly convinced that her friends and lovers are going to betray her. She constantly hears the whisper of her brother in her ear, telling her that her friends are just waiting to stab her in the back, to turn her in to the Steel Ministry, that they will abandon her, leave her alone, betray her. Her strongest struggle is not with the Lord Ruler, but with fighting this paranoia within herself.


9. How Interesting would she be if she were a male character?

If Vin were a male, it would have removed the relationship with Elend Venture, that is ultimately critical to the resolution of the first book.  Elend ultimately takes place in the rebellion out of his love of Vin, not out of his high ideals and morals.


The thieving crews where Vin got her start might not have considered a male Vin innocuous, might not have mistreated her as badly. She would not have been as useful. Or maybe a male Vin in the thieving crews would have been used as a bodyguard, and given away his Allomantic powers earlier.

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Totally agree with this selection.  Fantastic book, fantastic trilogy....one of my faves.


If you're just getting into BS (hard to imagine by now lol), this is one heck of a place to start (either here or Elantris).


The characters, world-building, magic system.....oh, and the secrets.  Highly recommended.

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I really liked Vin. When I wrote this, I was on my second read-through of Mistborn. 

I am reading a book series by a man named KM Tolan now, and will be reading Way of Kings next. 


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