I’d been looking forward to another book from Brandon Sanderson since I read Elantris, and this summer, Mistborn: The Final Empire came out. Sanderson is one of the few genuinely fantasy authors I read any more. If you read a lot of fantasy, you’ll probably agree that a lot of it is all the same–a set of easily recognizable archetypes for characters journey to and fro in a world that looks an awful lot like medieval Europe, with magic and/or creatures from a bestiary thrown in, with a plot that seems to come from a standard play book. Because of the conventions that govern what fantasy is, it’s hard to find original fantasy.
The originality factor is what made me love both Elantris and Mistborn. Sanderson obviously puts a lot of thought into the construction of his novels and his writing style delivers ripping stories. (I have one minor criticism about writing style, though, which I’ll get to later.) In this book, Sanderson delivered an intriguing and new style of magic, a very formidable set of villains and henchmen, a fully realized society, history, and culture, a very charismatic duo of heroes, and a plot that–though I knew roughly were it would end up–that kept me wondering how the protagonists were going to pull it all off.
One thing about this book that I really liked was the way that Sanderson handled gender in this book. In fantasy novels, there are a limited set of female characters–the damsel in distress, Amazons, evil sorceresses, etc. But in Mistborn, Sanderson gives us Vin, a character who visible grows during the novel from a frightened abuse-victim to a powerful Allomancer (the name for someone who practices the magic system in this book) who helps to finish the work that her mentor started. Vin’s story was amazingly fresh and believable, and I look forward to seeing more of her in the next books.
Oh, and a short word about Kelsier, the other protagonist. I really wish there were more characters like him in fantasy. He was a lot of fun to watch.
The only criticism I have about Sanderson’s writing style is that often, when he was describing how the magic system worked, there was too much telling and not enough showing. In a few sections, it felt like I was getting a mini-seminar on Allomancy, the magic system. I know there was a lot to cover, given that this system is unique in fantasy, and you can’t bring prior knowledge to bear, and that telling is really the most efficient way to cover the necessary background. But it did slow things down. Hopefully, the future books will have more showing, given that we readers have the basics down now.
That said, I am really glad there are going to be two more books in this series–there is a lot more I want to know about this world. (And, in the mean time, I have Warbreaker to keep me busy.)