Brandon Sanderson – Mistborn: The Well of Ascension
Length: 590 pages
Started: 15 May 2008
Finished: 19 May 2008
WARNING!: The review below contains spoilers for the first book, The Final Empire.
Summary: It seems as though Sanderson is using the Mistborn trilogy to examine some of the conventions that most fantasy readers take for granted. We all know that the good guys are going to win, so in the first book he asked the question: What if the prophesied hero had failed? Similarly, once the good guys win, we all know the world’s going to be okay, so in this book, he asks the question: is it? Is defeating the bad guy enough? How does a civilization respond when you take away their God, even if he was a tyrannical, despotic God?
This book opens a year following Vin’s defeat of the Lord Ruler, and Elend Venture is king in Luthadel, although his hold on power is tenuous at best. There are three separate armies besieging city, intent on claiming power for themselves – one of them made up of bloodthirsty, barely-controlled monsters, and one of them headed by Elend’s father, Straff Venture. There are near-constant assassination attempts, a traitor in their inner circle, a rival Mistborn of unknown alliance taunting Vin and making her question herself and her relationship with Elend, a squabbling political structure that seems all too ready to hand their city over to another tyrant, and, hanging over all of it, is the Lord Ruler’s final warning – that he controls the mists, and that by killing him, Vin was dooming them all – that seems to be coming true.
Review: It is an impressive trick, one that not all authors can pull off, to have the last few pages of a book contain a revelation that doesn’t seem out of place, but is still shocking enough to make the reader completely re-evaluate everything that has come before. The only other example I can think of at the moment is Atonement – completely different genre and style, but that same moment of electrifying clarity, that same moment of literally sitting bolt upright and gasping out “No way!” (true), that same moment of immediately wanting to go back and re-read, now that you get it, now that you finally understand.
For most of the 600 pages, this book was ticking along at about a solid 4 out of 5. I was definitely enjoying it, although not quite as much as The Final Empire. Part of that is because I found the plot of the first one a little more absorbing – rebellion is more interesting than holding against siege, I guess. Part of that is also because what so enchanted me about the first one was the world-building, and that’s largely done by the time The Well of Ascension starts. There are still the same excellently-described action sequences (although not as many), the same well-drawn characters and sense of growth (we also get more viewpoints than just Vin – Elend and Sazed, mostly, although pieces from others as well), and there are still clues being dropped and questions being answered – What was the Deepness? What were the prophesies about the Hero of the Ages? What’s the deal with the kandra? What are the mists, really? – but the novel excitement of having a brand-spanking new world to explore had worn off. So, most of the book, solidly enjoyable if not world-shaking… and then I got the the last chapter and epilogue – and that was all blown out of the water. I can’t imagine an ending that would have made me more anxious for October, when The Hero of Ages is scheduled to be released. 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: Not quite as good as The Final Empire, but only by a small degree – and the series is so good overall, taking the familiar forms of epic fantasy and inverting them into something wholly original, that it’s well worth the read. Recommended.
First Line: The army crept like a dark stain across the horizon.
Surprisingly, none. Or, at least, none that I noticed.