The Final Empire  - Brandon Sanderson

4.5 stars

Buckle up ladies and gentleman. This is going to be a longgggg ride. There’s so much to say in this review. Mistborn absolutely blew me away. It hit me on so many different levels, that I am literally just sitting here thinking about all the different things I want to talk about and trying to figure out how to fit them into a review.

High fantasy has always been a genre that I’ve loved; yet I’ve often not put in enough effort to get through the long books that seem to saturate the genre. But Mistborn was just fast-paced enough for me that I wasn’t bored out of my mind reading it. Yes, some parts of the book were slow, but nothing compared to marathon snore-fests like some parts in A Game of Thrones (which I loved by the way). Brandon Sanderson’s writing was both simplistic and beautiful. Unlike others, I didn’t feel bogged down by the descriptions of metals and what they do, simply because it was interesting.

In this day and age, it's difficult to find a unique story. But so many different aspects of Mistborn astounded me because they were so unique, at least to me. A book that uses metals as a source of power> Allomancy? Feruchemy? I was automatically intrigued and wanted to get to know this world better. And then we have monstrosities like the Inquisitors. And seriously, who can say that they’ve ever met anything as creepy and sinister as the Inquisitors? This description chilled my bones:

“As he turned, Kelsier was able to see that a thick metal spike had been pounded tip first through each of the man’s eyes. With shafts as wide as an eye socket, the nail-like spikes were long enough that their sharp points jutted out an inch from the back of the man’s clean-shaven skull.”

The Inquisitors were not the only ‘characters’ that were cringe-worthy. The Lord Ruler himself was also frightening, and made even more so by the mystery surrounding his immortality. The stark differences between the journal entries we see at the beginning of every chapter and what is known of his 1000-year rule intrigued me throughout the novel. A little tidbit like this one would make me speculate for large parts of the novel:

“I know what will happen if I make the wrong choice. I must be strong; I must not take the power for myself. For I have seen what will happen if I do.”

Aside from the depth of the Lord Ruler’s character, the characterization of the other players in the story was masterfully done. Each character had a purpose in the story. There were none of these random squires like we see in Game of Thrones. Not only did each character play an important role, but each also had depth and made progress throughout the book. And yes, while there were some tropes, like poor, dirty girl suddenly becoming nobility, I think it was done in a way that was relatively realistic.

And the plot. Oh my God. I LOVE plots that are this intricate without bombarding the reader with details or surprising the reader with random plot twists that don’t make any sense. I’m not the type of person to try and guess ahead. While I do like to speculate, I much prefer to be surprised and sit there with a sense of disbelief that the world is still continuing around me. And Sanderson did this to me more than once. I felt totally blown out of the water by some of the events in this book, particularly in the last 15-20%.

While all of this added to my enjoyment of the story, it was really the way that Sanderson’s writing applies to broader happenings in the world today that really hit me and spoke to me. The way he dealt with religion, through one of my favourite characters, Sazed, was beautiful. Sazed collects knowledge about different religions, and attempts to find one that will fit for each of his friends. I just loved his outlook. At one point he talks about how no religion is right or wrong, but that they just have different beliefs. And his wisdom pertaining to the creation of religion is something I think we all need to recognize. This passage particularly affected me:

Vin snorted. “This is no religion we’re talking about, Sazed. This is Kelsier.”
“I disagree. He is certainly a religious figure to the skaa.”
“But we knew him,” Vin said. “He was no prophet or god. He was just a man.”
“So many of them are, I think,” Sazed said quietly.

But Sanderson didn’t just stop there. He also wove together a story in which the poor skaa represent so many oppressed people in the world, and their unwillingness to fight back because they continue to be beaten down. At the same time, he demonstrates what can happen when hope takes over. I find this particularly applicable to the present situation in the Middle East. At the risk of quoting WAY to many times from the book, here’s another one that I highlighted:

“If I regret one thing, it is the fear I have caused. Fear is the tool of tyrants. Unfortunately, when the fate of the world is in questions, you use whatever tools are available.”

I know a lot of other books deal with this sort of thing, but for some reason Mistborn really made me think, not just about what was going on in the book, but also the world around us. Sanderson highlights the differences between good and evil, not by explicitly contrasting a case of each, but by showing the blurred lines between the labels. The nobility is not all evil just because they are all rich and they work for the Lord Ruler. Likewise, the skaa were not all good people, oppressed by the Lord Ruler and the nobility. I really liked the way Sanderson ignored the usual dichotomies that authors often use to challenge preconceptions about certain types of people. Everything about this was just beautifully done.

I’ll definitely be moving on to the next one once I’ve recovered. I must know what happens next!