I’d never actually read any of Brandon Sanderson’s ‘proper’ fantasy, despite owning signed and dedicated copies, and considering how much I loved The Rithmatist. I knew I’d love them but for some reason it took me an inordinate amount of time to get round to picking them up. Still, several years later, here we finally are.
Book one: The Final Empire (no spoilers)
I loved this book. I wanted to be reading it every second of every single day. When I wasn’t reading it, I wanted to be.
It’s what I’d call ‘proper’ fantasy. There’s a completely developed world with its own class system and politics, and the characters spend a lot of time sitting around discussing the latest plot development to really give you an in-depth understanding of what’s going on. There’s lots and lots of dialogue and scheming, with no sex and no pointless, graphic violence for shock value.
It is, on the whole, a political book. That’s a good thing when the political system involves classes based on which metal you can burn to achieve special abilities e.g. pewter gives the user super strength and resilience, as an example. There’s a rebellion in the offing and concerns are growing about the Lord Ruler, the mysterious tyrant who controls strange creatures to keep the population in check.
There’s not a whole lot of action, as the story mainly revolves around planning the afore-mentioned rebellion. I can’t say resent the absence when the end result is an exceedingly well planned and well-thought out plot with enough twists and turns to keep anybody happy. The action that does occur is great, as parties use their different metals to strategise and off-set the abilities of their opponent.
The characters could perhaps use a little work. Kelsier wasn’t quite rogueish enough, Clubs wasn’t quite grumpy enough, etc. I could see what ‘types’ they were meant to fulfil, but none of them really went quite far enough to be interesting. They all seemed very similar with perhaps the occasional statement to remind you who they were meant to be. It wasn’t enough to affect my enjoyment of the book… aside from Vin. She’s the main character so you’d expect her to be the most rounded, but this is emphatically not the case.
Quite a big deal is made of the fact that she was raised to not trust anybody, to assume that everybody will betray her, etc. She thinks about it constantly, which gets a bit annoying. But then her actions and her behaviour don’t gel with that, aside from her persistent sulking. Her character doesn’t really make sense and her actions aren’t consistent with her thoughts.
But whatever, this book is great and I loved it.
Book Two: The Well of Ascension
This book is much slower than the first book. I did still enjoy dialogue and world-building, but this book revolves around the establishing of a new government and it is mostly political. There’s barely any action at all until somewhat near the end. It’s good… but, you know, the world is built now. You can stop.
Speaking of the political attributes, there’s all kinds of upheaval going on. Without being too spoilery, it’s emphatically clear which side you’re meant to be rooting for, but it wasn’t completely sold to me that that side was in the right. I mean, I could absolutely see the point of view of the opposing faction and that made it difficult to really care about the end result. Ha. How’s that for non-spoilery? 🙂
Ah, Elend. I really liked him in the first book – he was dry and sarcastic, and didn’t really give a crap. Now he’s all mopey and annoying… but not as bad as Vin. Bloody Vin. She makes stupid, stupid choices because she is also mopey and annoying. She doesn’t really have a set personality – it just settles on whatever
her character needs to be at that moment, she never seems real. Their romance is unnecessary and there’s no ‘spark,’ or indication that they even remotely like each other.
Oh oh, you know what really annoys me? Yes, I know there’s a lot of things. But in this case I’m talking about that stupid ‘oh, I know I just got my powers but now I’m a genius with them’ thing. It pops up all the time and I just don’t see it as necessary.
Two things saved this book, however. The first is the kandra storyline, of which I would happily have read an entire series on its own. The kandra are essentially a race of shapeshifters, but their Contract and their backstory is riveting and nothing short of genius. I found it absolutely fascinating and I loved it.
The second is a huge twist about three quarters of the way through, and it was so huge and so revelatory that it saved my somewhat lagging interest in the whole thing. I texted Charlotte to read this book based entirely on that one twist.
I wasn’t a huge fan of the ending. It was a twist, I suppose, but a very convenient one for everybody involved. It was immediately evident what the last book in the series would involve, and just how many problems this little quirk would solve.
Book Three: Hero of Ages
This book… this book I actually struggled to finish. I was frustrated with all the faults I’ve already highlighted, but ‘ve since realised that the over-arching problem is a lack of subtlety. Nobody can just be a Mistborn, they have to be THE BEST MISTBORN EVER. We were meant to hate the Lord Ruler, and now suddenly we understand him. Elend and Vin are super madly in love… apparently, but there’s never ever reason given. There’s just no build-up to anything and that is the problem with this series.
I loved the kandra more than ever. Their homeland, their legends, their tasks… it’s fascinating. When I think back to the positive aspects of these novels, but mind instantly fixates on the kandra. Their existence is so well-planned and so perfect, which makes the rest of it all the more frustrating. I wish they had more airtime in this book, but we were too busy chasing after Super Elend.
The main problem with this book is that, instead of it being all battles and magic and creatures, it’s all abstracty and religion-y. It stopped being the ‘proper fantasy’ I was raving about above and suddenly started lecturing me on theological principles. It just couldn’t hold my interest, which I hated. Why change the tone of the book from what had previously made them so interesting!?
I really, really hated the ending. I had to force myself to read the final chapters because I really didn’t enjoy them, although I admit that it had been a long day at work. Still, I skimmed them at best. It felt like it tried so hard to be an epic, grand ending, but never stopped to think about whether it was good or not. It was unique, I’ll give it that, but sometimes you have to wonder if the standard fantasy-esque endings are used time and time again for a reason.
Some parts and very clever and develop in a way that I didn’t see coming, but on the whole I wasn’t overly impressed with this book. Evidently.
Whilst I have an overall positive view of this series, my enjoyment distinctly declined with time. The first book was excellent, one of the best fantasy books I’ve ever read, but that makes it all the more annoying when the second and third books couldn’t follow through.
I do have good memories of this series as there were some really interesting ideas and some great twists. But for me to want to progress to the other series, the characters would have to be better developed and I’d need a much less trite ending.