Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson is truly a great book. After finishing it, soaking up its awesomeness, the only real question is, “Why haven’t I heard of this book before?” Mistborn needs more attention, more accolades, so more people will read this thing and maybe get it made into a movie! I’m not a fantasy buff, but if you liked Hunger Games, Divergent, and Shadowhunters, then you’ve got to read this!
In a fantasy dystopian world, Vin, a young thief girl who is half slave half nobility, learns that she has rare Allomancy powers after a heist goes terribly wrong. She is taken in by a mentor with the same rare powers and teaches her how to use them. By swallowing different metals, such as iron, steel, tin, pewter and others, she can push and pull against those metals, enabling her to appear to fly or move objects, effect other’s emotions, and many other subtle abilities. Her teacher is also an underground hero who is leading a secret and growing rebellion against the Lord Ruler, a false god who has ruled the Final Kingdom and its surfs, the skaa, for the last thousand years with the help of the corrupt nobility. As her powers and abilities grow, Vin plays a leading role to confront the Lord Ruler, who has mysterious and seemingly unstoppable powers, in efforts to take the reins of freedom for all. Vin also has her own demons of mistrust and lack of love which she must make peace with in a world of betrayal and pain.
This book has so many things that other bestsellers in this young adult science fiction genre have:
1. An attractive young girl who learns that she’s not just an insignificant thief but a powerful magician with the potential to defeat the darkest evil (think Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Cinderella, Divergent, the Matrix). Vin is very easy to relate to and that is quite refreshing. She had a tough brother who beat her but was hard on her to keep her strong. She was a bastard child of a powerful Obligator, who help the Lord Ruler keep control over the nobility and slaves, so many will relate to feelings of abandonment (ahem … again, Harry Potter), she is reluctant to use her abilities to bring power to herself (a noble girl), and though she is very tough and untrusting, her weakness is that deep down she really just wants true love. Most people can relate to this, too.
2. A dystopian world, which is very popular today (consider the surprise resurgence of Orwell’s 1984, and again the Hunger Games etc.). I’ve heard it said by some supposed book agents, that ‘dystopian novels are out of fashion.’ Hogwash! Dystopian novels like Mistborn have always been in fashion and they will always be in fashion. Most people in this world can relate to a story about a majority of people being subjugated to live under horrible living conditions (slavery, forced labor, serfdom, oppressive taxation, plantation life, terrible environment, grossly unequal money and power). Consider that the life described by Judea under the Romans in the four Gospels continues to be a best seller. More recently, dystopian stories continue to not only be popular among readers, in fact, but many of them tend to become classics, e.g. 1984, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Fahrenheit 451, The Handmaid’s Tale, Brave New World, The Giver, Animal Farm, The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Road, The Iron Heel (Jack London!), Atlas Shrugged, Battle Royal, The Trial, Neuromancer, The Maze Runner, Snow Crash, The Superunknowns, Master and Margarita, Logan’s Run, and many, many others. Readers have ALWAYS loved dystopian stories and they ALWAYS will.
3. A detailed and convincing setting. The world created by Sanderson is incredibly detailed and convincing. There’s a lot of information about how Allomancy works, and at first it can almost seem like too much information, but Sanderson masterfully eases readers into the story, and lets them get a handle on how things work by seeing how Vin uses her new powers in action, which is how it ought to be: a good writer shows instead of tells. What’s more the world of the slaves, the skaa, and the politics of the nobility sucks the reader in with the authenticity of characters and scenes. A skaa girl is taken from her family by force by a plantation ruler in the middle of the night, to be killed after lustful abuse, but then saved by an Allomancer. Nobility attend mindless ball after ball, while plotting against one another. Inquisitors, half-human creatures created by the Lord Ruler to enforce his brutal will, troll through the oppressive cities searching for Mistborn like Vin. The full scope of this new world, which could actually be a future of our world thousands of years from now (the author doesn’t really clarify this), is so real at times that it almost seems like the author could be talking about things, people and places that he’s met and seen firsthand. That is exactly the kind of fantasy book we all lust after – one that convinces us that it’s all possible without so much information that excessive details snap us back into reality. More to the point: it’s easy to lose oneself in the Mistborn fantasy world. Yummy!
Admittedly, especially early on in the book, the development of the story moved a little slow, but that was partially due to the fact that the author had the lay the groundwork for the detailed, characters, background and storyline. The level of Sanderson’s detail and the depth of the Mistborn world remind me of Game of Thrones, which is a very good thing.
If you are searching for the next science fiction / slash fantasy sure-thing to read, and you haven’t read this, pick up Mistborn. You will not be disappointed. Mistborn is part of a trilogy, so be sure to check the other books out, too.
Review By Austin Reams
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