Mistborn: The Final Empire, On Taking on Tyrannical Emperor-Gods

Borrowed from brandonsanderson.com

Genre: Epic Fantasy

Synopsis: The Lord Ruler is the God of his empire–he’s immortal, he’s powerful, and he’s physically present. The nobility are descended from his friends, from people who helped him establish his rule. The mistreated skaa are descended from those who opposed him.

The skaa serve as slave labor on plantations, or live in the slums of cities. They may be killed by nobles with impunity. And half-breeds must be prevented, by order of law. Because power runs in the noble bloodlines, power said to be granted to them by the Lord Ruler himself. And any skaa with noble blood might inherit that power, which could potentially threaten the stability of the whole empire.

No rules are perfect, which is why Kelsier is a very powerful half-noble, half-ska called a Mistborn. And he isn’t planning on letting the empire stand as is any longer. He assembles a team of ska with powers and connections–including a young thief who is also a Mistborn–to take on the tyrannical rule of the immortal Lord Ruler.

Series: First book in a trilogy, self-contained.

POV: Third person, 2 main POVs (covering 99% of the book).

Romance: A very peripheral one.

Preview: The prologue, with chapters 1-3 linked to in the “Navigation” drop-down, and at the bottom.

This book is really something. As the first in a trilogy, I thought it would serve as the opening gambit for the events that are going to unfold–however, it can hold its own even without a continuation. It brings the problems set up in the beginning of the book to a conclusion, with the later chapters hinting at later story problems which can follow in the second book.

At first, we have the introduction to the story, where we meet the characters, get a sense of who they are, and an idea of their goals. This works nicely because the characters are quite likable. I love Kelsier and Vin, our point of view characters.

Kelsier has a long history behind him. He’s grown and changed and loved and lost before the story even opens. He’s got baggage, he’s got the loyalty of his people, and he’s got a goal. Of course, none of this stops him from developing as a character even through the course of this book. He’s still got room to grow, and lessons to learn.

Vin, in contrast, is a young street urchin. She’s lived a very different life from Kelsier, growing up with no one but her older brother who eventually abandoned her. She learned not to trust anyone, not to attract attention to herself, and to keep herself useful so she isn’t cut loose. Recruitment into Kelsier’s crew is an eye-opener for her, and it takes time for her to believe in a group that actually trusts each other. She grows into a different person as she gains the opportunity to strive for something other than simple survival.

The supporting cast is also interesting–my favorite has to be Hammond, the man with a brute-like power and a fondness for philosophical discourse. I also really like Marsh, former leader of the resistance, who came to believe that the enemy was made up of people, too. And Sazed, the steward who amassed knowledge of all the religions of the world against a time when people would be free to pursue them again.

After establishing the cast and their goals, the group starts to put their plans in motion. How they manipulate events to their advantage and deal with set-backs is interesting here, but this is also where a lot of the character development happens. Vin has only ever known one kind of life, and she has a lot to learn. How she reconciles these different ways of living changes her. And Kelsier finds that his actions might have unintended consequences, and finds his way to a greater sense of responsibility.

Meanwhile, we’re treated to passages at the beginning of every chapter–at first, the context is left out so we don’t know what we’re reading, but it doesn’t take long to figure out what these passages really are. And knowing what they are makes following them very interesting. Because this story isn’t even remotely a typical quest fantasy with a hero’s journey, but it does play with some of those archetypes in some cool ways.

Things really take off in the end game. And that’s when it becomes clear that one story is ending and another is beginning. There are several journeys that feeding into the main story and the backstory. There’s a ex-hero who’d fulfilled his prophecy, and now exists in the unexpected aftermath of that quest. There’s a person with no prophecy at all to fall back on, acting out of belief, need, and desperation. There’s a kind of passing of the torch to the next generation.

I really wasn’t expecting this book to get as much plot taken care of as it did. It’s fairly self-contained, with this leg of the journey neatly wrapped up. There are indications of what kind of problems will crop up in the second book, but nonetheless, I have no idea what shape the story will take in the rest of the trilogy.

But I’m planning to find out soon.

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4 Responses to Mistborn: The Final Empire, On Taking on Tyrannical Emperor-Gods

  1. Mistborn is like my second all time favourite book. I read it last summer and was completely blown away, even though I knew it’d be something amazing what with it always been mentioned by fantasy lovers. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to carry on due to me going on my year abroad and having all the books physically sat at home.

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