Book Review: The Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson

HOLY CRAP.

These three books are probably the best series I’ve read this year.

Not even sort of joking.

They are sooooooooooooooooooo good.

A shout-out to my amazing friend who recommended these to me. I never would have picked them out on my own…and my life would have been missing a piece of itself.

It seems redundant to say, but I give this series 5/5 stars.

Everything is perfect. Just–AHHHHHHHHHHH! How do I describe how much I liked these books?

First, the amazon description of book one, Mistborn:

Brandon Sanderson, fantasy’s newest master tale spinner, author of the acclaimed debut Elantris, dares to turn a genre on its head by asking a simple question: What if the hero of prophecy fails? What kind of world results when the Dark Lord is in charge? The answer will be found in the Mistborn Trilogy, a saga of surprises and magical martial-arts action that begins in Mistborn.

For a thousand years the ash fell and no flowers bloomed. For a thousand years the Skaa slaved in misery and lived in fear. For a thousand years the Lord Ruler, the “Sliver of Infinity,” reigned with absolute power and ultimate terror, divinely invincible. Then, when hope was so long lost that not even its memory remained, a terribly scarred, heart-broken half-Skaa rediscovered it in the depths of the Lord Ruler’s most hellish prison. Kelsier “snapped” and found in himself the powers of a Mistborn. A brilliant thief and natural leader, he turned his talents to the ultimate caper, with the Lord Ruler himself as the mark.
Kelsier recruited the underworld’s elite, the smartest and most trustworthy allomancers, each of whom shares one of his many powers, and all of whom relish a high-stakes challenge. Only then does he reveal his ultimate dream, not just the greatest heist in history, but the downfall of the divine despot.
But even with the best criminal crew ever assembled, Kel’s plan looks more like the ultimate long shot, until luck brings a ragged girl named Vin into his life. Like him, she’s a half-Skaa orphan, but she’s lived a much harsher life. Vin has learned to expect betrayal from everyone she meets, and gotten it. She will have to learn to trust, if Kel is to help her master powers of which she never dreamed.

The review (no spoilers):

There are the characters. Vin, the protagonist, begins the books as a paranoid, skittish creature who you instantly fall in love with for her fragility and at the same time her impossible strength. She grows with the series but she never stops being the person I fell in love with, only becoming more and more amazing. The other characters in the story (I’d list them, but spoilers) are complex, alive, and endearing. None of the characters were flat, and they all were important in their own ways.

Then the plot.

I’m just going to put this out there: in the first pages of the book, Kelsier lays out the entire plan, in detail, that what one would assume the plot of the book will follow.

And yet, these books are the most unpredictable novels I’ve probably ever read. Even though I should have felt like I knew everything that would happen, the series always left me in a state of panic, flying blindly through the intense plot that ties the books together.

The series has something most series lack: continuity. Though the characters grow and change and each book has a distinct plot, the entire series is held together by underlying questions, common themes, and running conflicts. And the series forces you to read all three books, because these strings tying the books together aren’t exposed and explained fully until the end. All three books work together to create a whole; looking back on them, you realize that scenes you thought you understood in chapter one weren’t explained until the end of book three.

Most books out there talk about one “social issue” through their plot, conveyed through some running plot elements and themes. In Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking series, themes of sacrifice and destruction highlight the corruption of power and the trials of war. Through her Gemma Doyle trilogy, Libba Bray speaks about women’s roles in society and the strains power can put on friendship. Power, overcoming stereotypes, war, religion, friendship, love–these are themes we see in almost everything we read today. But usually, an author chooses one or two of these elements to focus on.

Brandon Sanderson chose them all. Over the course of the series, he tackles both sides of rebellion, the disconnect between ideals and reality, the difficulty of establishing democracy, the burdens of wielding power, the roles of kings, women’s rights, being underestimated by society, the effects of abuse, atheism and crises of faith, the power and importance of faith, the meaning of love and friendship. EVERYTHING.

Part of the reason he could work all of these themes into his series is that each book is really long. I didn’t go into the series expecting this, because the books–that I bought–were average in size. Less than an inch and a half thick. But they have very thin paper. Each book has somewhere around 500-750 pages.

But they aren’t a slow read. That is one of the most impressive things Brandon Sanderson accomplished. I never felt a lull in the plot. I was sucked in by page one and hurtled headlong straight through the last page of the third book. Looking at my physical progress though the book, it looked like I was reading slowly, but in truth, I read the entire series faster than my usual pace, desperate to find out what was going to happen next.

And the book should be a slow read. It is in third person, which, at least for me, is usually harder to get sucked into than first person. It is a different area of the fantasy genre than I usually read. It pops between characters, and in the later books, entire plot lines, continuously. By the rules of everything else I’ve read, one of these other plot lines should be less interesting than the other ones, and I expected to feel some disappointment or drag when switching between plots. I didn’t.

OOH! And a quick shout-out to the cover designer. They are really accurate, and if I’d read these books when I was judging books by their covers, this definitely would have gone in the good pile.

Please read these books. If you don’t pick up any of the other books I review on this blog, at least try these. They’re long, sure, but worth it.

Book 1: Mistborn

Book 2: The Well of Ascension

Book 3: The Hero of Ages

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