Monday, November 4, 2013

CBR V Review #39 - 41: Mistborn Series: The Final Empire, The Well of Ascension & The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson

“There's always another secret."

I'm reviewing this series as a whole as it seemed to make the most sense.  If you love fantasy, you should check out this series.

This series takes place in a world ruled by a tyrannical God-King, known as the Lord Ruler.  Class oppression is the status quo, with their lowest class (also known as the skaa) serving as slaves for the aristocracy.  There is a very elaborate system of government, with the day to day governing handled by fierce officials called Obligators, and where the laws are enforced by terrifying figures known as Steel Inquisitors.  Not surprisingly, not everyone is satisfied with the world as it is, filled with so much oppression and such class division.

Perhaps the most important element in this world is how metals figure in.  There are supernatural powers involved, called Allomancy and Feruchemy (and, in the third volume, we're introduced to Hemalurgy).  Allomancy is the most significant power, the ability to ingest and burn certain metals in order to gain abilities.  Of the small portion of the population bearing this gift, most can only utilize one metal, or one ability (there's a full chart of which metal does what that I am not going to reiterate here).  An example would be someone who burns pewter becomes incredibly strong.  However, a very tiny portion of people are what are called Mistborn, and these people can use all the metals and all of their powers together.  It makes them incredibly powerful, a skill the the nobility frequently uses for defense and assassination.  Skaa are not supposed to be able to be Mistborn - the use of metals comes from the noble lines, as the powers originally were a gift from the Lord Ruler to those loyal to him.  Nobles, however, are not notorious for keeping it in their pants, and sometime neglect to murder the women they force themselves on; when this happens, sometimes skaa Mistborn are the result.

Our main character is a feisty young woman named Vin.  Abused and skittish at the beginning, Vin learns of her Mistborn abilities and is trained in Allomancy by Kelsier, the Survivor of Hathsin - but more importantly, she learns how to trust from the entire gang that Kelsier leads.  Kelsier's gang, at least in the first volume, gives a very Ocean's 11 feel to the book.  They come up with an incredibly elaborate plan to overthrow the Lord Ruler, and work to see it through.  In the subsequent books, they work together to try to create a better world, and to deal with the consequences of the world going rapidly to shit due to the rising stakes of an ongoing war between two actual gods (The Lord Ruler not actually being a god, but merely exhibiting godlike qualities).

The first book focuses on the mission to overthrow the Lord Ruler.  The second is about reclaiming the power from the Well of Ascension, where the Lord Ruler originally gained his godlike powers 1000 years before the start of our story.  The third is about the fallout from what was actually in the Well, and the battle to save the world our characters are now left with.  The books have a wonderful build to each climax, and while Sanderson may not be George RR Martin, he isn't afraid to let you know that the characters you love are not necessarily safe.  The stakes are high and grow progressively higher, but there is almost always a sense of levity to much of the proceedings.  Kelsier's Crew is filled with fantastic characters that you can't help but love, even when they are doing less than reputable things. There is less humor to the final volume of the trilogy, but that's to be expected when you move to a war between gods.

Book 1 is unquestionably my favorite, and a story I wish I could have stayed in longer before its conclusion.  There's such delicious, playful energy about it, even as terrible things are happening.  Kelsier's absence is keenly felt in the second two books, as his sense of lightness about everything really makes you fall a little bit in love with him.  His easy laughter is a lot of what keeps the first book lighter in tone, and the crew aren't the only ones to miss him when he's gone.

Definitely a series worth exploring, and one I'm glad I took the time to enjoy.

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