Which problem seems bigger to you? Marriage troubles? A trio of different armies sieging your hometown? If you answered the former, than you are correct.
Mistborn: The Well of Ascension is an excellent sequel. It expands on the story and characters established in the first book wonderfully while introducing new characters that compliment them perfectly. It also does a lot to build on the many mysteries established in the first book, proving answers that are both shocking and satisfying while still making perfect sense in hindsight. It’s a rock solid book from beginning to end.
One of these days, I won’t open a Sanderson review like that. But that day is not today.
The world established in The Last Empire was super interesting, but it felt small. The whole setting was, after all, confined only to one city.
The Well of Ascension says “LET’S JUST BLOW THAT SHIT UP LIKE A GODDAMN BALLOON!”
One year after Vin killed the Lord Ruler, the city of Luthadel, now led by Elend, is under siege. In order to defend it, Elend, along with the rest of Kelsier’s crew, must come up with a plan to outwit their attackers. Meanwhile, Vin begins experiencing events similar to the original Hero of Ages, leading her to believe that she is next in line to visit the Well of Ascension and defeat the Deepness.
The biggest addition here is in the world. Before, we only knew about two of the magic systems, some of the history, the Noblemen and the Ska, and Condra. Here, the whole world gets blown up to all hell! We meet an all new race in the Kolas, which are suitably creepy, and we learn a hell of a lot more about the Condra, which is equal parts interesting and disturbing! Plus, with the Final Empire divided, we get more new and interesting governments to compare and contrast to Elend’s, which gives the world much more variety!
Speaking of Elend, he gets some really good character development in this book! We see him change from a young idealist to… well, a king! Watching the innocence slowly vanish, to be replaced by a hard determination, is a very interesting arc to read through!
Vin is also much more interesting in this book than in the first one. Her struggle against her feelings of inadequacy regarding her relationship contrast beautifully with the confidence and power she displays during all of her Mistborn shenanigans. One minute, she believes that she is the Hero of Ages, destined to save the world and fully confident that she can do it. The next, she’s a teenage girl who just wants to make the relationship with her boyfriend work out. It’s an interesting dynamic, one that works incredibly well and makes Vin a super compelling protagonist.
All the new characters are pretty interesting, too. Zayn is a fantastic antagonist, the perfect foil to Vin, who stars in some of the creepiest and most exciting scenes in the book. Tindwyl, Elend’s teacher in the ways of a king, is an excellent compliment to Sazed; plus, watching her bully Elend is some of the most fun this book has to offer. Cett, one of the other antagonists, is one of my favorites; he’s blunt and ruthless, surprising features for a paraplegic man. All of them are absolutely fantastic and drive the plot along in interesting, unpredictable ways.
Speaking of unpredictable, let’s talk about the twist at the end. I won’t spoil what it is, of course. But I can safely say that this is one of my favorite Sanderson twists yet. It takes a classic genre trope that we all thought was so simple and straightforward and flips it on its head in an incredibly simple but interesting way! It completely recontextualizes everything we know about the whole series. Better yet: it sets the stage for the final book flawlessly!
This book is the perfect example of a sequel. It takes everything laid out in the first book, expands on it, and recontextualizes it in a fun and interesting way. It’s one of the most incredible fantasy books that I’ve read this year.
I say one of. Because by the time I finally finished this review, I’ve already finished The Hero of Ages.