Book Review: Mistborn – Brandon Sanderson
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.
Before I start this review, please understand that I’m writing it while being heavily medicated so please don’t expect it to be my usual quality.
Mistborn is a book I’ve been told to read umpteen times. I finally picked it up from the bookstore and read the whole thing in a day. I didn’t devour it because it was crappy or incredibly good. I devoured it because it was easy to read. The thing about Mistborn is that if you take away the amazingly unique magic system, there really isn’t anything new here.
Mistborn is a hodgepodge of old ideas mixed together in a new world. You have the lowborn protagonist who has an incredible destiny and a motley crew formed of societies underbelly. Interspersed in this are an unjust god ruler and the impossible, overarching goal to overthrow him. It really doesn’t take much effort to realize where the story will go and what the ending will be.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. There are a precious few books that can manage towing the ‘predictable’ line and still remain enjoyable. Mistborn joins the ranks of those few. Truth be told, while this book is amazingly, almost sadly predictable, there are some aspects of it which keep it highly enjoyable. One example would be the metal based magic system.
Usually whenever I hear someone talking about Mistborn I hear something about the amazing magic system. It really deserves to be mentioned. Sanderson obviously took a lot of time building up an incredibly unique magic system and kept it from becoming excessive by balancing it with a hearty amount of limitations. At times, he can, perhaps, talk about it a bit too much, burdening the book with unnecessary and sometimes redundant details.
While many have found that the plot was nicely paced, I did feel that, at times, it dragged- especially when dealing with Vin. Mistborn is roughly 600 pages long and I did feel that, when it was all said and done, the book could have been reduced in size with no ill effects to the story. That being said, Sanderson is using this book to build up a world with complex political problems and a unique history. When that is understood, the somewhat dragging plot can be partly forgiven.
This seems to be more of a character driven book than plot driven. It doesn’t take much time for the reader to realize that the whole heist plotline will take the back burner to Vin’s political learning’s and her budding romance as well as her growth as a person. Vin as a character is fairly well done though there is a slight disconnect between who she started out being and who she ends up being. For example, the romance seemed amazingly unrealistic to me. While I could smell it forming a mile away, the sheltered, quiet and abused girl Vin was just didn’t realistically add up to the self-assured and vocal, flirtatious woman she ended up being. It seemed like Sanderson was trying to extensively develop her but wasn’t quite sure how, so some scenes with Vin come across as being uncomfortable and clumsy.
This trilogy has a huge following and there are good reasons why. Mistborn is a comforting book. Fantasy lovers will be able to escape into more traditional fantasy worlds without all the grunge and language of other popular authors. Sanderson isn’t a bad writer, either. His writing style is simple and easy to understand. While he was dealing with a very unique magic system, he seemed to manage balancing his necessary infodumps with interesting scenarios which, in turn, made these infodumps seem less infodumpish.
Mistborn is full of typical fantasy stereotypes, which will appeal to many readers looking for a good book to read without much meaningful depth. However, while I do feel that this book is worth reading and I will read the rest of the series, the lack of new ideas (besides the magic system) was a huge downside to me. Even the world would have perfectly mirrored worlds created by numerous other authors; only Sanderson wisely covered it in ash, which made it necessarily unique.
All in all, I really enjoyed this book though I didn’t find it as epic, satisfying or groundbreaking as many other reviewers. This is a comforting traditional fantasy tale told with smooth, descriptive writing. Mistborn is full of interesting, compelling characters and is a fun adventurous romp. If a reader picks up this book with nothing more than the intention of enjoying a fun story, they won’t be disappointed. Mistborn delivers for a simple, enjoyable read but falls far short of the mark with depth and unique qualities.
If you liked this review, check out the discussion, or more reviews on my blog here.