Book Series: Mistborn

Recently I finished reading the Mistborn book series by Brandon Sanderson, a fantasy series set in his Cosmere setting. This is a brief review of that series.

Brief Spoiler Free Review

These books were great. I found the world building captivating. Sanderson really sells the idea of a society divided into two distinct classes in an ash and mist covered world, devoid of flowers and the colours we are all used to.

The magic systems presented in the book are logically consistent and easy to understand. He introduces them in a good pace, constantly keeping the reader intrigued. They interact well with the world and each other. Sanderson’s adept at describing what is happening without slowing down the action.

The characters are fantastic and well fleshed out. His description of one character was so impressive that when I stumbled upon fan-art it matched my visualisation of the character perfectly. Initially I did not like one of the main characters but quickly changed my mind as they developed. The romance sub-plot is well done, it’s not too intrusive for those interested in the fantasy world, but plays a good role in the later books.

There are parts that are slower. Especially in the second book. But I think they build up the tension adequately. The characters help carry along any of these slow parts.

If you’re looking for a magical heist, mixed with toppling a continent spanning “evil empire” I recommend these books. As the series continues, the stakes get bigger, ending in a very satisfying conclusion.

There will be spoilers below for the three books, if what I said above sounds interesting then stop right here and read them. They’re available in print and in e-book form.

Book 1: Mistborn

Book 1: Mistborn

Mistborn starts with a preview of what is to come. It introduces one of the main characters, Kelsier, a half-skaa, half-noble with the abilities of a Mistborn. It also introduces the socio-political state of the setting, with a noble interacting with an Obligator.

There’s a lot of words to unpack there so here’s a brief summary:

The Skaa are the “slave” people of the setting. They have no rights and are essentially owned by the Lord Ruler, and leased to the nobles.

The Nobles are said to be the descendants of the Lord Ruler’s friends and allies. As a reward for their loyalty they were gifted the abilities of a Mistborn. This trait is hereditary and has been passed down to their offspring. Not all nobles have these abilities, but by virtue of their blood nobles have a chance to inherit them.

A Mistborn is someone who can affect the world through magic known as Allomancy. They do this by burning metals within that they have ingested. They can do things such as push/pull on metal objects, detect sources of metal in the world, influence emotions, detect others using metals, and hide themselves or others from detection. There are people who only inherit one of these powers, known as Mistings.

The Lord Ruler is an immortal man who defeated a great evil one thousand years before the story begins. He controls the world through it’s economy and his control of a rare metal known as Atium.

A half-skaa is someone who had both noble and skaa blood. They’re forbidden from existing, mainly due to the hereditary nature of Allomancy.

Obligators are both the priests and clerks of the Lord Ruler. They are his devout followers and are required to bare witness to all trade deals and negotiations.

The world is covered by nightly mists that have been around since the Lord Ruler’s ascension, and ash often falls from the sky. This has rendered the world mostly barren of colour.

After our introduction to Kelsier, the story starts proper with Vin, a teenaged skaa thief who is part of a thieving crew run by a man named Camon. She is abused and generally treated poorly by her boss and the other members of the crew, but is kept around due to her “luck”. The crew boss takes her on a risky mission where he is impersonating a minor nobleman in front of an Obligator. Vin uses her luck, which gets the attention of Kelsier who decides to recruit her from her gang into the larger plot.

The larger plot turns out to be plan to overthrow the Lord Ruler and steal his stash of Atium. Kelsier has a personal vendetta against the leader for having his wife killed and himself imprisoned in the Lord Ruler’s mines. We are introduced to the key members of the crew: Ham, Breeze, Dockson, Spook and Clubs. Each are Mistings capable of one of Allomancy power each. Kelsier reveals to Vin that he and her are Mistborn, able to use all the Allomancy powers, and begins training her.

The crew also consists of Yeden, the leader of the Skaa resistance. Who is initially sceptical of Kelsier’s plan. Eventually we are also introduced to an imposter playing the role of Lord Renoux and a servant called Sazed, a Terrisman servant.

Vin’s role is revealed to her. She must act as a spy within the nobility and poses as Renoux’s niece. Sazed takes to training her to pose as a Lady whilst she continues training with Kelsier and the others.

At her first ball Vin meets Elend Venture, the heir to one of the largest noble houses in the capital city. She eventually develops feelings for him as the story progresses.

Eventually, Kelsier convinces his brother Marsh to join in their scheme. Marsh is the former leader of the Skaa rebellion and another Misting. His mission is to infiltrate the policing branch of the Obligators. This branch features men known as Steel Inquisitors. These are men with metal spikes for eyes and the abilities of a Mistborn.

With all the pieces in place the plot follows their preparations and the various problems that emerge. One part of the plan is to recruit, and train, a rebel army. Another is to sew chaos amongst the noble families.

One major set-back is when their rebel army is all but wiped out in a foolish maneuver by Yeden. Another is when Vin is nearly killed on a scouting mission of the Lord Ruler’s castle.

Eventually the climax occurs. One member of the crew sacrifices their life to spark a full scale revolt within the city, and Vin has to confront the Lord Ruler.

I’ve summarised this a lot. The book is over 500 pages long and contains much interesting political intrigue, world building, and character development. Vin’s powers develop overtime. Her and Kelsier never seem overpowered, and even though they possess all the magical powers of Allomancy, it becomes clear that the rest of the crew are vital.

My favourite parts of this book is how the relationships between the crew are portrayed and how Vin’s character changes throughout the story. I especially like the relationship between Vin and Sazed. The finale is brilliant, and the aftermath perfectly leads onto the second book.

Book 2: The Well of Ascension

Book 2: The Well of Ascension

During the first book we have had the journal of the legendary hero, Alendi, revealed to us. It plays a pivotal role in that books finale. In this book it is revealed that he was on a quest for the Well of Ascension.

Book 2 picks up a year after the first, the crew have remained to help govern the capital city with Elend Venture having taken the role of king. Whilst calling himself king he instigates the equivalent of a parliament and equal rights for the Skaa people.

This book spends a great deal of time dealing with the political intrigue and problems that occur due to the power vacuum left after the Lord Ruler’s defeat at the hands of Vin.

There is also a religious aspect to this book. After Kelsier’s sacrifice, the Skaa have put him at forefront of a growing religion. As his apprentice, and the one who ultimately defeated the Lord Ruler, Vin is revered as a saint.

Elend struggles to maintain his rule of city when two armies begin to besiege it. One lead by his father, Straff Venture, and the other by a nobleman called Cett. Eventually he is deposed by popular member of the assembly, Lord Penrod.

Vin spends her time protecting Elend from assassination. And the events of the story put a strain on their romantic relationship.

A third army appears, lead by one of Elend’s former friends. It is an army of Koloss. Magically enhanced, and emotionally stunted, giant warriors. This further exacerbates the stalemate between the city, and the besieging armies.

The crew make plans for defending the city and playing off the rulers against each other. Sazed returns from time spent in the east with tales of the mists killing people, and a rubbing of a metal tablet he and Marsh uncover in an abandoned Obligator fortress.

This story further introduces the characters of OreSeur, Zane, and Tindwyl. The former is the kandra who impersonated Renoux in book 1. Kandra are a race able to impersonate a dead human by using their bones. The second is Straff Venture’s Mistborn and bastard son. And the third is another Terris Keeper who comes to assist Elend in becoming a better leader. Tindwyl and Sazed develop feelings for one another.

Zane spars with Vin throughout the book and plays on her doubts about her relationship with Elend. Eventually the two take vengeance against Cett for an assassination attempt. They mercilessly kill his personal guard, and Vin is about to kill Cett before realising the assassination was an attempt by Zane and Straff to destabilise the city and Cett. She confronts Zane and ultimately defeats him with the help of OreSeur who turns out to be another kandra named TenSoon.

Cett withdraws his forces. Sazed and the crew convince Elend, Vin and Spook to leave the city in search of the Well of Ascension. In reality, they want the three youngest of them to survive their inevitable defeat. After sneaking past Venture’s army they continue on.

Straff withdraws his army and the Koloss attack. His intention is to retake the city after the fighting is done. Vin realises that the Well of Ascension is within the city and turns around. She arrives just in time to save Sazed and most of the civilian population by taking control of the Koloss with her Allomancy.

After the battle, Vin assassinates Straff and his generals. She forces the remaining leader to swear allegiance to Elend along with Cett and the forces that usurped Elend’s crown from him, thus naming him emperor.

Vin then discovers the Well of Ascension within the city and unwittingly unleashes a great evil entity that has been manipulating the legends of Alendi and the Well of Ascension for hundreds of years. During this sequence Elend is killed but then revived with the powers of a Mistborn.

Some reviewers complain that this book is the slowest of the trilogy. I disagree. I found the politics within it interesting. Elend’s optimism and good nature polarise well with the other rulers. The eventual acceptance of both Vin and Elend in their roles is handled well. Sazed is developed further and quickly became one of my favourite viewpoint characters. We also see more of the crew and their relationships. We get an insight into how everyone is coping with Kelsier’s death and the Lord Ruler’s demise. More is revealed around Allomancy, including a new, powerful, metal that Vin uses to help her combat the threats around her. The world is built up further via the rubbing Sazed and Tindwyl translate throughout the story. The ending sets up the final book well, and the revelation that Vin and the crew have been tricked into releasing a malevolent entity is intriguing.

Book 3: The Hero of Ages

Book 3: The Hero of Ages

Book 3 is the culmination of the trilogy so I will keep my synopsis very brief.

It focusses on Elend and Vin fighting against the entity they released, known as Ruin. Sazed struggles with a loss of faith, and we get to see how the crew deal with trying to save and conquer other cities in an effort to find the survival caches that the Lord Ruler had hidden across the country.

There is a plot around how Spook and parts of the crew convince a city to join them, and more information is revealed about the various magic systems Sanderson included in this series. Likewise, Vin and Elend struggle to take another city without resorting to all out war. All the while with Ruin plotting in the background and sometimes actively influencing members of the crew.

TenSoon has to convince his fellow Kandra to help Vin whilst imprisoned for murdering his own kind.

Everything culminates with the environment and the forces of Ruin converging on the crew, with Vin facing off against Ruin.

I thought this book was a suitable climax to the series. It really tied up most of the loose ends of the other stories and explained how many of the systems worked and events all fit together.

Closing

I really enjoyed this series. Vin grew quite quickly into a competent and interesting protagonist. The magical aspects were well explained and enjoyable to read about. Most of the characters were well fleshed out, with unique voices and personalities. The politics within is understandable.

If you like fantasy I’d recommend them.

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