For a thousand years the ash fell and no flowers bloomed. For a thousand years the Skaa slaved in misery and lived in fear. For a thousand years the Lord Ruler, the “Sliver of Infinity,” reigned with absolute power and ultimate terror, divinely invincible. Then, when hope was so long lost that not even its memory remained, a terribly scarred, heart-broken half-Skaa rediscovered it in the depths of the Lord Ruler’s most hellish prison. Kelsier “snapped” and found in himself the powers of a Mistborn. A brilliant thief and natural leader, he turned his talents to the ultimate caper, with the Lord Ruler himself as the mark.
I first picked up Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn when I heard that he had been selected to finish Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. A few days later I was hooked, and when I finished the book I promptly bought the next in the trilogy. I’ve since become a loyal fan.
The setup is as follows: The main character, Vin, is a street urchin who is picked up by a crew of revolutionists (sort of). She is discovered to be a Mistborn, a rare and powerful variety of magic wielders. Together with her mentor Kelsier, also a Mistborn, and his crew, they intend to overthrow the corrupt political structure and free the oppressed lower class. But to do so they must take on a seemingly impossible task: they have to kill an immortal god known as the Lord Ruler. The book is a clever twist of a fantasy and a heist novel. Think Ocean’s 11 with magic and immortal people. Not spoiling the ending I will just say that it had its satisfying moments, though perhaps a bit anti-climactic.
One of Brandon Sanderson’s strengths found in the entire trilogy of Mistborn novels is his ability to remain unpredictable. The moment you think you have the remainder of the plot figured out, something happens and you don’t know what will happen next. Unlike the film Ocean’s 11 things never go according to plan. This increases the realism of the plot and keep you guessing.
Probably this novel’s strongest aspect is its originality. They say there’s no such thing as a truly original idea these days, but this book had me wondering. The system of magic is unique. Put simply, a magic user, or Mistborn, ingests certain metals and can then “burn” them internally with some magical effect allowing the wielder to push or pull against metals, heighten senses, increase strength, etc.
I personally fell in love with many of the characters, particularly with Kelsier, the crew leader, who possessed a charisma I’ve rarely seen written so well in other books. Many of the other characters are just as likable, however, many of them do not seem like the type of people that would even consider trying to take on the Lord Ruler. The stakes are too high. However, as the trilogy progresses you get to see a little deeper in the personality of these characters. It would have been nice to have written a few more of these hints in the first book to make them more believable. Another down side to the characters is the protagonist, Vin. At the start of the book, Vin holds a natural distrust of everyone. She is also quiet, reserved, and prefers hiding in a corner away from everybody. Considering the lovable quality of the other characters, you naturally want her to trust them and it becomes rather irritating when she doesn’t behave the way you want her to. This, however, wear’s off as the book progresses and you become more interested as she begins to take a larger part in the crew’s plans.
The Antagonists are truly terrifying, creating an ‘on your toes, ready to run at any moment’ atmosphere. I would run if I saw a huge man with spikes rammed through his eyes. The Lord Ruler himself becomes terrifying through reputation and not through actual interaction. This is why it appears somewhat anti-climactic when he is finally confronted at the end.
Overall, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn is a masterpiece of fantasy. A few flaws can be forgiven and are not sufficient to keep it from becoming one of the most original fantasy books ever written, sure to please even the most casual reader.