Book #13: Mistborn

Like his previous stand-alone novel Elantris, Brandon Sanderson goes to great lengths to set apart the way magic works in Mistborn, the first novel in his recently completed Mistborn trilogy. The art of Allomancy, passed down through the pure, noble (in name if not in deed) bloodlines, allows the ingestion and "burning" of particular metals that bestow upon those that can wield them powers of strength and endurance...the ability to "see" the future, or the past - either how it was or how it could have been. Those who can only control one of these many powers are called Mistings. The rare person who can utilize all the mystical metals are the Mistborn.

Mistborn the novel has carries over all of the great bits of Elantris, but improves upon the former by giving all Sanderson's characters more room to breathe, to develop at a natural pace. Perhaps it's the knowledge that it's not hampered by the limitations of being confined to one novel, but Sanderson's pace of doling out knowledge, character embellishments, and plot points never feels rushed or unnatural. Although the story mainly focuses on the perspective of two main characters (with a brief excerpt devoted to a minor character), the supporting cast all are given choice moments to come to life.

A thousand years ago, a Hero was chosen to vanquish the Deepness, an unnamed evil presence that threatened the world. The Hero failed, and though the Deepness has been kept at bay, the evil and seemingly immortal Lord Ruler has reigned ever since, keeping the general populace enslaved by the nobles, who in turn are monitored by the Obligators and Inquisitors.

A quick word about the Inquisitors. There are very few times when I wish, while reading a book, that I could see what's being derscribed in a film immediately. I'm usually content to imagine it in my head. One exception was a brief passage in China Mieville's awesome (used in this context as "full of awe") Perdido Street Station, when the main character enters a bar guarded by a steampunk door man.

That's now been replaced by Sanderson's description of the Inquisitors, and the battles they have in Mistborn. Someone needs to get on this now, and get it right, because it is unbelievable.

Okay, sorry about that. Anyway, the Lord Ruler's oppressing everyone, no one remembers a time when ash wasn't falling from the sky, the plants were green, and the skaa, the serfs of the world, weren't treated like they were less than human. Kelsier, a master thieving crew leader and Mistborn, decides that he and his crew are once and for all going to end the reign of terror. Into the mix he recruits Vin, a young thief who's been abused and abandoned time and again, until she no longer understands the meaning of the word "trust." It's their relationship, as Vin comes to realize that not only is she a Mistborn, but possibly something even greater, that propels the story along at a fantastic pace.

The story has a lot of focus on relationships: between thieving crews, friends, and family. The nature and meaning of religion is addressed, slavery and servitude are not overlooked, but never do the social concerns Mistborn tackles feel like they're overshadowing what is at heart a terrific first chapter of an epic fantasy series. Can't recommend this enough!