I’m having a full Sanderson throwback month. Over the next 4 weeks I’m going to be looking at the three books in his first Mistborn trilogy, then reviewing the trilogy as a whole. Sit tight folks, it’s going to be a long ride out on the Sanderson Avalanche.
Brandon Sanderson must be one of the most well-known fantasy authors of our generation, having written more books than those monkeys in the Shakespeare Typewriter room with each gaining massive recognition and critical acclaim. The man is more typist robot than organic author with the sheer volume of work he puts out. But enough about the man, the myth, the legend, on with the review.
The Final Empire is the first book in the first Mistborn Trilogy, and it serves as our glorious introduction to the world and characters we will live with as we read the full 2,000+ pages of the trilogy. First and foremost among those characters is the street urchin Vin. Vin begins as a timid, frail young girl belonging to the world’s slave class. She has learned a life of hiding away in shadowy corners and riding the fine line of being invaluable to thieving crews while drawing as little attention to herself as possible. Her life of thievery quickly comes to an end, though, when she is noticed by the book’s second main protagonist, Kelsier.
Kelsier and his crew have a plan, and Vin is crucial to it. They intend to dethrone the Lord Ruler, ending his thousand year reign and freeing the slave people from his oppression. Vin’s inclusion in this is twofold. She will act as an imposter and spy among the capital city’s aristocracy, and bring to the table her valuable skillset as a Mistborn.
What is a Mistborn, you say? Ohhh lordy have you got a journey in store.
To say Brandon Sanderson is famous for his magic systems is like saying Lance Armstrong is famous for riding bikes. We already know. The important thing is this is the magic system that made his magic systems famous. The story’s magic users are known as ‘Mistings’, drawing their power from metals. Most can access the power of just one, but a select few have access to all the usable metals. These few are the Mistborn. It stands as one of the most original magic systems I’ve ever read, with a deep set of satisfying mechanics that leave just enough room for innovation. This allows you to have a full understanding of how everything works while leaving the characters the wiggle-room to do amazing things you hadn’t thought of yet. And they keep doing it all trilogy long.
For what it’s worth, Vin starts off not knowing she is a Mistborn.
The story plays out like a classic heist. A crew of people is gathered, each with a specific skillset and a specific role to play, and they aim to defy the odds and out-smart a much more powerful enemy. Only this time the enemy isn’t a bank, it’s a thousand-year-old pseudo-deity.
And so the book ponders down this path. I’ll avoid spoiling the twists but the ending should be obvious. After a heist, the bank has been robbed and the good guys get away.
It’s here I’ll say the one bad thing I’ll ever say about Brandon Sanderson. This book isn’t always quite so well paced. It’s his first trilogy, and it truly reads like one. The young BrandSand still had much to learn at this point in his career, and in places it definitely shows. There will be times when you wonder when you’ll get a nugget of something that isn’t the characters pondering on their own traits again (yes we get it Vin, you find it hard to trust). But those nuggets are truly fantastic when they come, and on the whole that keeps you going just long enough to reach it. The alpha and omega of BrandSand’s writing.
The Sanderson Avalanche.
I can say the pacing is a little off at times, but I could never in my life fault Sanderson on his endings. At times you may only read the book for the sake of the last 100 pages, but it’s those very same pages that will have you picking up the next Sanderson volume off the shelf. Brandon Sanderson may take his time setting things up, but once it’s all there he’ll show you what his favourite thing to do is. He fires all his guns at once. Every Chekhovian teaser is brought to a loggerhead in synchronicity. The plot accelerates to breakneck speed. The revelations fly past you like a motorbike gang on the opposite side of the highway. The questions spin through your head like socks in a tumbledryer-gone-rogue.
Then when the dust has settled, you realise there’s just one more question.
So you go and buy the next book in the trilogy.