Wednesday, 23 May 2012

MISTBORN: Five out of five!

When I first finished The Final Empire, I was itching to write a review about it. The book was stunning, enthralling, and utterly different to any fiction I’d ever read before. I was so addicted to the series, however, that any spare time I might have dedicated to writing a blog was used devouring the second and third books in the trilogy. So, here is my review of the trilogy as a whole.

How great is this cover art?!
In the Mistborn trilogy, Brandon Sanderson takes us to a world where the dark forces have established a seemingly unshakeable reign. The sun is red, ash falls constantly from the sky, and society is broken into two distinct classes. The nobility, descendants of the Lord Ruler’s friends, preside over the skaa, who are seen as physically lesser beings. The skaa are forced to work on plantations and in the streets, and are raped and killed at the whims of the nobility who own them.

On the fringes of The Final Empire, however, exists a black-market network of skaa thieving crews. A young girl, Vin, is kept as a part of a thieving crew because she seems to be “lucky”. When Kelsier, the leader of a particularly efficient crew, comes across Vin, he endeavours to recruit her as part of his next mission – overthrowing the Lord Ruler and his Final Empire.
After a lifetime of abuse and exploitation on the streets, Vin is initially reluctant to trust Kelsier. However, when Kelsier opens Vin’s eyes to the fact that she is not merely “lucky”, but an exceptionally powerful Mistborn, she begins to invest herself in the mission, and with the crew itself.

Sanderson’s characters are drawn with vividness and individuality that can only be described as extraordinary. Vin is the series’ protagonist, and she is an exceptionally good one. She is fiercely loyal, incredibly powerful, unexpectedly intelligent and mentally disturbed. Her past has left an indelible impression on her mentality, and everything she does is affected as a result. Kelsier is an interesting character – he is fanatically, perhaps zealously, passionate, and a gifted orator. He uses unorthodox and often shocking methods to motivate the skaa to rebel, and is revered by the other members of the crew as a genius. It is what happens to Kelsier in the second and third books of the trilogy that is perhaps most intriguing, however…one could say, without spoiling anything, that he becomes something of a god.
  My favourite character was Sazed. He is a Keeper, whose magic system enables him to store powers and capacities in metal bands upon his body. Most importantly, however, Sazed stores knowledge. His personal focus is upon religion. He collects information about all the religions which existed before the Lord Ruler established the Final Empire, and is searching for theological truth. A quiet, subservient and gentle scholar, I felt that Sazed was the most powerful character throughout the series. Although Vin had endured such difficulty and pain throughout her life, it was for Sazed that I felt the most empathy.  I think, too, that Sazed is an expression of Sanderson’s interest in religion…more on that in another post, though.

Brandon Sanderson is known for being particularly adept at creating magic systems. Allomancy (magic of alloys) is completely unique. In the world of the Mistborn series, magic comes from metals. Allomancy is practiced by Mistings, who can “burn” (ingest and use) a particular metal to produce a certain effect. Each Misting’s ability is confined to the use of one metal, and each metal has a particular culture that goes along with it. Those who can burn pewter for enhanced strength, for example, are called Pewterarms or Thugs, and tend to be used as security, soldiers or bodyguards.
  Then there’s the Mistborn – Vin and Kelsier, and a few rare others. Mistborn can burn all the metals, and are essentially superhuman. Through clever use of steel and iron, they can almost fly, and their strength and endurance is unparalleled. I won’t reveal too much about the other magic systems, Feruchemy and Hemalurgy, as they’re integral to the plot.   

In the Final Empire, Kelsier’s gang overthrow the Final Empire. In the Well of Ascension, his crew is left to govern the fractured nation which has been thrown into frightened disarray after the loss of their familiar, if tyrannical, leader. In the third book, The Hero of Ages, the series comes to a climax, with the omnipresent force of Ruin threatening to destroy the world. I’d like to make a quick comment on the ending, also; many readers seem unhappy with the way that Sanderson ended his enthralling trilogy. I, however, felt that the ending was excellent. Every loose end was tied up, details that were briefly mentioned throughout the first two novels were revealed as being vitally important, and characters’ storylines were resolved in unpredictable, yet fitting, ways. Sanderson’s subtle use of an unreliable narrator provided a twist that resonated with me for days after finishing the book.

If you’re a fantasy reader: read this book. You won’t have read anything else like it before, and the characterisation is out of this world.

If you liked The Hunger Games and are looking for your next series: read The Mistborn. With a damaged but hardy female protagonist, a dystopian setting and an upcoming apocalypse, The Mistborn has many similar themes to Suzanne Collins’ successful trilogy. It is much more sophisticated, both in language and content, but I think fans of the Hunger Games will appreciate it nonetheless.

If you don’t read fantasy: read The Final Empire. It’s not your traditional fantasy book, and the qualities that often put people off fantasy (one-dimensional characters, predictable plot, unnecessarily complicated magic systems and made-up languages) don’t apply. You never know, it might convert you. The Final Empire is quite resolved in and of itself, so take a chance and read it as a stand-alone, and continue on with the trilogy if you enjoy it.

Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy gets an undisputable five out of five stars from me.

After finishing the Mistborn, I immediately purchased Sanderson’s other works, some on my e-reader and some in hard copy. I’m currently reading Elantris, and plan to move onto The Way of Kings and then Warbreaker. I’m also interested in Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84, so I may read that in the middle for something different. Other series that I am planning to move onto include the Malazan Book of the Fallen, Stephen King’s Dark Tower and Brent Week’s Shadow trilogy. I plan to eventually tackle the Wheel of Time, which Brandon Sanderson is currently finishing. I am listening to the first book in audio format, but I’m not particularly committed yet. I’d appreciate your thoughts on what to read next!

Have you read the Mistborn? Do you think you will, now you’ve read my (somewhat rambling) review? Have you read Sanderson’s other works? How do you think they compare? If you’re informed on the topic, how does the Wheel of Time series as a whole compare to Brandon Sanderson’s own works?
Thanks for reading!