Mistborn: The Final Empire Review

by Matthew Harbin 3 years ago in fantasy

An Excellent Beginning

Mistborn: The Final Empire Review

Note: This is only the review for the first book of the trilogy. I will be reviewing the next two in the future.

Potential mild spoilers, though I'll do my best to avoid them.

Brandon Sanderson was always on my radar as an excellent fantasy writer, but for one reason or another, I never got into his works. It's a shame it took me so long, because if the rest of his work lives up to the quality of this book, then he might be one of my absolute favorite authors, and that's not a title easily earned.

Mistborn, released in 2006, takes place in the fictional world of Scadrial, where ash falls from the sky, and the sky is red. The world is ruled by a tyrannical king heralded as a god, known by the title of The Lord Ruler, who earned his status after he saved the world a thousand years ago. The majority of the story takes place in the capital of the Lord Ruler's empire, Luthadel.

The story itself revolves around Vin, a street urchin, and Kelsier, a charismatic thief, who plot to take down the Lord Ruler once and for all, with a group of other supporting characters to back them up.

One of the most important aspects of any fantasy book is worldbuilding, and Sanderson nails it. Small details are thrown in carefully to help construct the world without overloading the reader. Often times, during character interactions, we'll get key features of the world, the government, and the magic system.

If there's one thing that Sanderson is known for, it's the way he handles magic. I imagine that this book was likely the one that gave him that reputation, and there's a very good reason. It's easy to watch a show or read a story with a magic system where, randomly, the protagonist or whoever needs it will get some miracle buff that saves the day. But Sanderson doesn't do that.

Allomancy is the burning of certain metals to create certain effects. For example, if one burns tin, then the user's senses are enhanced, and if one burns pewter, then their strength is increased. Most people only have control over one metal. These people are called mistings. But a select few can burn all of the metals, which is where the title of the book comes from. I can safely say that Allomancy feels like one of the most compelling magic systems I've read.

It feels both powerful and limited at the same time, which is a hard thing to balance. It's organic, and vulnerable just like it's characters. It's this very thing that makes Allomancy feel like a character in its own right.

Thankfully, Sanderson's characters don't disappoint either. While obviously Vin and Kelsier are the stars of the show, the supporting characters don't disappoint either. While certain characters such as Clubs, a cranky misting who can hide the use of Allomancy from others, don't get the amount of development they probably deserve, their interaction and implied history with other characters makes these scenes all the more entertaining.

Vin is a young, quiet girl who's spent her entire life in extreme poverty, living with different thieving groups and, until he abandons her, her brother Reen. When she's thrust into Kelsier's world due to her accidental use of Allomancy, she has to grow out of her shell and learn about the world around her, which makes her an excellent vessel for the reader to discover the world and Allomancy. Her progression feels natural and is incredibly entertaining to watch.

But it's hard to deny that Kelsier is the one who steals the show. Extremely charismatic, very funny, and an implied dark past that keeps him grounded, Kelsier was the most compelling character in the book. His motivations, as revealed over the course of the book, feel realistic.

The plot itself is also really good, but it's easy to see this as the weakest point. Not that it's weak, but its pace can be rather slow at times. Still, there are plenty of intense and dramatic turn-paging moments that can at times go at neck-break speeds. But there are also some sections of the book that seem just a bit too slow. Thankfully, the excellent characters and writing hold these moments up.

I could go on and on about the excellent climax, the fantastic fight scenes, and the numerous other characters that bless this book, such as Elend or Sazed, but it's hard to justify spoiling any more of the book than I have to. If you're still undecided, don't be. Check this book out. It's worth every penny.

Matthew Harbin
Matthew Harbin
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