What if Frodo had failed? What if the Dark Lord won? These are the questions that Brandon Sanderson asks in this book. I suppose the best way to describe Mistborn: The Final Empire is Epic Fantasy that dares to be a bit different.
Coming into this book, I was excited but also a little nervous. This book comes with a lot of hype, which is always something I am always a little wary of as hype is the best way to be disappointed by a book. Thankfully, I found, as with the only other book by Sanderson that I have read – Skyward – that the hype is pretty much justified.
Set in a world where ash falls from the sky and the immortal Lord Ruler has ruled for a thousand years while the nobility live opulent lives of excess while oppressing the Skaa to short, brutal lives of slavery, Mistborn: The Final Empire follows the story of Vin – orphan and street urchin with a mysterious talent – and Kelsier – brilliant thief and leader – as they plot, plan and attempt to pull off the ultimate job: one that will not only make them unbelievably rich, but more importantly, overthrow the Lord Ruler and free the Skaa of a thousand years of tyranny.
One of the great strengths of this book is the setting, which feels fresh and different from most others. After all, the dark lord won in this one. The detail that Sanderson goes into and planning he must have done when bringing this world to life is extraordinary. Nowhere is this detail and planning more evident in the magic systems we have. In this book we meet two: Allomancy and Ferumancy. Both run on metal, but both are subtly different. Allomancy relies on you ingesting metal and using, or ‘burning’, their natural magical properties with each metal having a different power. Ferumancy uses metal as well, but instead of burning them, you use the metal to store physical traits, such as strength or speed, and can call on them in times of need to make yourself stronger or quicker. Really, I should have known that the magic would have been good in this as that is a big part of Brandon Sanderson’s reputation. A quick Goggle will tell you that he is known for writing good magic systems.
Our eyes into this world, and through who we learn about the magic systems, are Vin’s, with the occasional glance through Kelsier’s. Of these two characters, Vin was my favourite. Her character arc and transformation is incredible and really well done. It feels completely natural and the pacing of her change is perfect: not feeling hurried or forced at any point. As for Kelsier, I didn’t quite warm to him as much, though I loved many of his crew. Of these Sazed and Breeze were my personal favs. Sazed was especially interesting, especially his role as a Keeper – a secret order dedicated to preserving knowledge of the world in the face of the Lord Ruler’s tyranny – while Breeze was just plain fabulous. Aside from named characters, I also loved the Inquisitors as a group. Everything about them just oozes menace and they are plain terrifying. I hope we get to see more of them in the next books in the series! They are great villains.
Now, for all this that is done well, the book isn’t perfect. I found the start a bit ‘meh’ personally and it wasn’t until about a third of the way through that I really started to feel gripped by it and invested in the story line. By the end though, I was thoroughly engaged! I can’t wait to pick up the next book! One thing that this book does really highlight to me is, when compared to Skyward, how much Sanderson has grown as a writer in terms of writing action. A few of the fight scenes I found hard to follow and imagine what was really going on, but this is a pretty small complaint for what was, overall, an amazing book.
So, do I recommend this book? Obviously! If you like fantasy, then I have a hard time imagining you won’t at least like this, if not love it. Though, I am quite late to the Sanderson party and I suspect, any of you have already read this. But if you haven’t, go out and give it a try!