Review: Mistborn

Right before finals, I finished up Brandon Sanderson‘s book Mistborn (Amazon). I have to say, I was genuinely impressed. I started reading it after getting a recommendation for The Way of Kings via @feliciaday, though I wasn’t prepared to buy a new hardcover. Not when I could get an earlier trilogy for even cheaper. And I was curious to see what kind of author puts the “Epic” back into “Epic Fantasy.” And I’m going to say, while I don’t know that he did it in Mistborn, I can definitely see that he’s capable.

The first thing that sets Mistborn apart is that it takes place in a world where evil won. So many fantasy books involve worlds where evil is about to win, but in Sanderson’s novel the Lord Ruler already slaughters the innocent and oppresses the weak. He rules the known world, and has done so for over a thousand years as an immortal God. It’s a good foundation, and it’s clear from early on that Sanderson has a true knack for world-building, though my wonderment with his creation only grew as the book went on. I will go so far as to say that Mistborn may be my favorite fantasy novel with only one race.

Even with only one race, Sanderson’s world is rich with new takes on old tropes. Magic comes in the form of allomancy, various methods of manipulating metal, from controlling people’s emotions to flying through the air. To do so, you must consume small quantities of metal. Sanderson’s city feels real, and so do the monstrous mistwraiths and kandra. Everything about the book makes it clear Sanderson really thought this one out.

The world-creation that astounded me the most were the Steel Inquisitors, monstrous beings with steel spikes for eyes. What amazed me the most was that, even at the end of the book, a book filled with the Steel Inquisitors as antagonists, he didn’t give all their secrets away. I left the book with more questions. There’s no way to know if I would have continued on to read The Well of Ascension and The Hero of Ages otherwise, but that mystery alone is enough to propel me on to the next books.

The plotting and pacing and prose are not perfect, however (though one could hardly expect perfection). Like I said, I could see how, in some future book (possibly The Way of Kings?) Sanderson might create a true epic fantasy that rocks my world. This was not it. It was good – really good, but there are times where the pacing is plodding, and others where developments feel heavy-handed (if not quite reaching the level of deus ex machina).

I’d definitely recommend it to any in the mood for a good fantasy novel. I quite enjoyed it, and once I was down to the last fifty pages, it really came together and I had to finish it in one go. I’d give it five iron spikes out of seven.

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