I had a lot of friends who screamed at me to read these books back in school. Like, a lot. Practically daily, I might add. Come to think of it, that’s probably why I didn’t want to for a while. But now I have, so you bastards can shut up and leave me alone!
Although the Stormlight Archive series was the first of Sanderson’s work that I actually read, Mistborn was my first real exposure to his work. Mostly in that seemingly every kid in my junior high and high school had read them and refused to shut up about them. I’d always been a bit curious, but I never bothered.
But now I’m here to put that old demon to rest. At long last, I’m going to review the first Mistborn book: The Final Empire. And surprise, surprise: it’s really good and I was missing out.
No, I’m not going to admit that to any of those kids. Like, ever.
Mistborn stars Kelsier and Vin, a pair of half-skaa thieves living in the Final Empire, a land ruled by the immortal god known as the Lord Ruler. These two are Mistborn, powerful Allumancers capable of manipulating metal. Sensing her potential, Kelsier recruits Vin to aide him in his biggest job yet: to topple the Final Empire, liberate the suppressed skaa, and kill the Lord Ruler.
Let’s get the big one out of the way: the characters. I love Kelsier! He’s such a wonderful hero! His struggle with his past, his ego, and the sheer difficulty of his goal are incredibly compelling! Plus, his plot-twist secret plan at the end is absolutely incredible! I absolutely love this dude!
As for Vin… meh. She’s not bad by any means, but I don’t find her especially compelling. Her backstory and character arc are pretty generic. She’s basically a fusion between Kaladin and Shallan from Stormlight. Although I guess she did come first, so… that point is mute, isn’t it? I dunno, I just didn’t care for Vin’s story. I was much more interested in Kelsier.
The other characters are pretty good, too. All the other members of the crew are really well-defined and the group has wonderful chemistry! Unfortunately, the villains of this story are all pretty generic evil dudes. They’re either snotty assholes or egomaniacs who think that murdering helpless people is somehow the best thing to do for the world. That, or they’re just murder monsters. TL;DR: the heroes are all great and the villains are pretty bland.
The setting, on the other hand, is anything but bland. The Final Empire is an incredibly dark and interesting setting! The sheer contrast between the skaa and the nobility is emphasized perfectly in the story, making our hero’s struggle incredibly easy to root for. But it isn’t painted in black and white; there are hatable skaa and lovable nobles. It gives the world this gray morality which is explored super well in the story.
Allumancy is also used to spectacular effect! The fight scenes in this book are some of the most fun I’ve ever read! Watching our heroes and villains throw armor, swords, and coins through the air to fight is a joy! It’s like everyone is Magneto and I love it!
But my favorite part of this story, by far, is the Lord Ruler. His personality isn’t all that interesting, he’s just a typical tyrant; sort of like the Emperor from Star Wars, only less charismatic. No, it’s the concept that I love! An ancient hero turned immortal tyrant? That’s amazing!
All in all, this story is pretty good! It definitely isn’t my favorite of Sanderson’s work, but I can see why people love it. At the very least, it got me interested enough to invest in the later entries in the series. Who knows? Maybe Well of Ascension will blow me away!
I say that in passing but it’s a very real possibility.