Mistborn

Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy is the second series that I was able to read this summer. I liked his debut novel, Elantris, a lot, giving it 4 stars out of 5, so I looked forward to reading his first trilogy.

Note: Spoilers here.

Book 1: The Final Empire. Kelsier has returned from the Lord Ruler’s supposedly inescapable atium mines in Hathsin, where, having lost his wife, he “snapped,” bringing forth latent allomantic powers and eventually becoming a very powerful mistborn. (Allomancy is the ingestion and subsequent “burning” of metals that temporarily gives extraordinary abilities, depending on the metal. For example, burning tin heightens one’s senses, while burning atium enables one to see very briefly into the future. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allomancer for a description of all the allomantic metals. Individuals who can burn all the allomantic metals are called mistborn; those who can burn only one are called mistings.) Kelsier organizes a crew of the most powerful allomantic thieves — Ham (metal: pewter which gives strength), Breeze (metal: brass which soothes or fires up emotions), Clubs (metal: copper which hides allomancy), Clubs’ apprentice Spook (metal: tin), Dox (not an allomancer, but a brilliant organizer), Marsh (not a thief but actually a Steel Inquisitor and Kelsier’s brother), and the abused street urchin Vin (a mistborn), the heroine, whom Kelsier apprentices. The crew’s goal is to end the tyranny of the Lord Ruler by instigating first a skaa rebellion and then war among the noble families, and they succeed against great odds. Kelsier dies a martyr, and Vin, with the help of the crew, Sazed (a Terrisman and therefore a feruchemist), Elend (heir of the strongest noble family), and the mist, kills the Lord Ruler.

RATING AND COMMENTS: I give this book 3.5 stars out of 5. I liked best the magical systems that Sanderson invented — allomancy, feruchemy (which works like allomancy except that the metals are not ingested but are kept in one’s possession), and hemalurgy (using special metallic spikes to kill an allomancer and transfer his allomantic powers to another). However, I found the detailed fight/flight scene descriptions of how metals are “pushed” and then “pulled” and so forth boring. I liked how Vin gradually learned to trust people, beginning with Kelsier, though I found her transformation from street urchin to alluring lady (she had to pose as one in order to infiltrate the nobility) a tad too fantastic even for a fantasy novel. I prefer Elantris to Mistborn, yet The Final Empire was apparently the book that prompted Robert Jordan to pass the reins of The Wheel of Time to Sanderson.

Book 2: The Well of Ascension. Elend is now king of the Central Dominance, where the capital of the empire lies, with Vin as his protector and lover, and she and the rest of the crew help him thwart three (!) simultaneous sieges. The first is led by Elend’s father, Lord Straff Venture, now king of the Northern Dominance, who has a “secret weapon,” his powerful though apparently mentally imbalanced mistborn son, Zane. The second is led by Lord Ashweather Cett, now king of the Western Dominance (which Cett seized after the events of Book 1). The third is an army of koloss, bestial creatures made by the Lord Ruler, led by one of Elend’s old pals. It is Vin who eventually kills Zane (but not before she almost got seduced) and his father Straff. It is also Vin who massacres almost all of Cett’s men. And it is also Vin who learns to allomantically control the koloss, something which only the Lord Ruler could do. So it is also Vin (duh) who coerces the nobles and Cett to take Elend as Emperor. And, of course, it is also Vin who finds the Well of Ascencion, where she unwittingly frees the primeval force (a.k.a. god) Ruin from the imprisonment of its nemesis, Preservation. Unfortunately, Preservation is almost gone from this world, having given much of itself to the world, and so the countdown to the world’s end begins.

RATING AND COMMENTS: I give this book 3.5 stars out of 5. What I liked most is that it was not easy to guess who would win among the armies that came against Elend. I was also astonished at the cruelty of Elend’s father, who arranged for Elend’s assassination in Book 1 so as to provoke a war, and who manipulated his powerful mistborn son, Zane, who, like Vin, was treated cruelly while he was growing up, but who, unlike Vin, had no Kelsier who would teach him the value of trust. The most interesting character for me was TenSoon, the kandra (another creation of the Lord Ruler, which could shapeshift into the being whose bones/body it ingests; in this book, TenSoon is a giant hound) planted by Zane to be Vin’s servant but who, because of Vin’s trust, eventually “turned” against Zane. An effective though irritating literary device was the the “prophecy,” which was apparently riddled with contradictions because of Ruin’s ability to change anything written unless it is on metal or in one’s mind, and which actually caused Vin to make her big booboo in the end.

Book 3: The Hero of Ages. Elend is now Emperor and a mistborn more powerful than Vin, though less skillful. (He became mistborn after Vin gives him the larasium bead in the Well of Ascension in order to save his life after she unwittingly released Ruin. Larasium formed Preservation’s former body, in the same way that atium formed Ruin’s.) Elend’s (and his crew’s) major task this time is to stop the end of the world. In the end, Elend and Vin and everyone else in the crew except Spook die, Preservation and Ruin reunite in Sazed’s consciousness, and Sazed, now god, renews the world and makes Spook, who will lead the people, mistborn.

RATING AND COMMENTS: I give this book 3.5 stars out of 5. Though it is quite satisfying that all questions are answered in this book (e.g., Who/what exactly is Ruin? What are the mists actually? The deepness? The kandra? How did the magical systems come to be?), the way the questions are answered sometimes feels like Q&A: too much narrative. The characters of Elend and Vin have long ceased to be interesting; the only characters that could have been interesting here were Spook and of course, the reluctant Hero of Ages himself, Sazed, but Spook grew in wisdom too fast and Sazed was too whiny and therefore rather boring. Still, Mistborn was a good high fantasy trilogy.

Thanks to Kathleen Go for the books!

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