Book #33: The Well of Ascension

The Well of Ascension is the second book in Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy and, like all great middle sections of trilogies, it doles out equal doses of action, character, and tragedy. A year has passed since Vin, the young vagabond turned Mistborn, defeated the Lord Ruler. But instead of things getting better for the Final Empire, it's gotten worse. The various city noblemen have begun to war with other in attempt to grab and expand their power base. The skaa, the peasant class of the lands, are starving, and the mysterious mists are coming out in the daytime, killing people seemingly at random.

Vin and her love Elend, the new ruler of Luthadel, are trying to make the city work, but being the largest city in the Empire, coupled with the rumor of a vast treasure of atium makes it an attractive target for the greedy and evil. Soon two vast armies are camped outside their doorstep, and a third, comprised of the hideous Lord Ruler-created Koloss, are an unpredictable factor.

Sanderson spends most of The Well of Ascension fleshing out the motivations and drives of his main characters as Luthadel tries to play each side of against the other. A pervading sense of dread hangs over everything, and instead of making his heroine more heroic, he takes the smarter, harder road - he plays Vin like the unsure young girl she is. Filled with more power that anyone has ever seen, and labeled as the Heir of a new religion founded on the martyrdom of her mentor Kelsier and her own role in the destruction of the Lord Ruler, Vin is many things to many people, yet all she desires is to love Elend, and not be the tool of destruction she is forced to play if the city is to survive.

The intricate magic of Allomancy, the ability of those gifted to "burn" various metals in their body for superhuman powers, is again at the forefront of a vast imagination at play. The prophecies from the first book come back full force as well, and the ending of the book makes a complete reversal of everything we thought we knew about the nature of the mist, the mysterious Deepness that almost killed the world, and the true role the Hero of Ages plays in all of this.

Sanderson weaves all this together in a mesmerizing story that is devastating to its characters, never cheating what needs to happen, and making you leap for the next book in the series even as you're turning the last few pages of the book you're still reading.

And if THAT's not a hearty recommendation for The Well of Ascension and Brandon Sanderson in general, then I don't know what is.