Off the Shelf: ‘The Well of Ascension’ and ‘The Hero of Ages’ (Mistborn vol. 2 and 3)
On my recent long vacation I finished up the second and third volumes of the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson. I had previously read the first volume a couple of years back and had started the second one, but was put off by the change in tone from the first book to the second book. But, memory fades, I enjoyed the first book enough to give the second another chance, and continue to enjoy the Writing Excuses podcast, of which Mr. Sanderson is a core member.
The Mistborn series is a fantasy set on a world where there is a form of magic all based around the consuming and ‘burning’ of various metals and alloys, each of which has a various effect or power, this magic is called Allomancy. The most powerful Allomancer are called Mistborn and can burn all of the various metals, Mistings are less powerful Allomancers who can only burn a single metal.
In this world an immortal leader called the Lord Ruler controls everything and has for all of recorded history. One part of the population, called Skaa, live as slaves and the other part, Nobles, live frivolous lives based on the work of the Skaa, fighting between themselves and holding lavish balls and events.
The first book follows a group of Skaa who attempt to rob the Lord Ruler, and what happens when they find out that there is more to the plan than they first expected, basically it is a heist story wrapped in a phonebook sized epic fantasy. Which is where I ran into trouble, the second book, not to give away a ton of spoilers, is not. It is a story of people, many of whom were in the crew that did the heist from the first book, trying to build up a lasting peace. The third book follows the same characters as they try to save their world.
All along the way we come to understand what Allomancers were and how exactly the Lord Ruler fit into all of this. One of Mr. Sanderson’s best abilities is to take a throw away idea or scene and show you that not only was it no a throw away, but that he had a plan for it all along, nd that plan might be integral to the whole story. Or he is really good at making it look that way.
The characters stay at the center of the story, even as the details start to pile on, and the magic systems, yep there are more than one, are developed and expanded upon. I kind of thought that I would be frustrated by the amount of time and detail that is put into the various types of Allomancy, and the other magics, and magical beings. And towards the end of the series, how much the plot was driven along by the nature of these magics, but the way Mr. Sanderson keeps the characters at the core avoided that frustration. I thought of Blackbirds by Chunk Windig, a book that I felt frustration with because the main character, at least to me, lost a lot of agency to her powers, in these books I never felt that frustration.
TL;DR review: Anyway, if you are looking for a pretty damn good series of epic fantasy books, Mistborn is a great choice.