Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Mistborn / The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson

Mistborn, as it’s known in the US, or The Final Empire, as it’s known in UK/ANZ, is the first in Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy. I include both covers because my ebook matched the top cover, but I’m fairly confident when I buy the sequels they’ll match the bottom edition (and be less smelly). No points for guessing which cover is which.

The premise of Mistborn is that a thousand years ago the evil overlord took power and began an immortal reign of terror and oppression in the region now known as the Final Empire. The peasants are heavily oppressed by the nobility — descendants of the Lord Ruler’s supporters back when he originally took over. And, although they have more money and power, the nobility are constantly watched by the Lord Ruler’s powerful minions.

Some nobles or people with noble blood (of which there are few because the law is that if a nobleman sleeps with/rapes a peasant woman, she must be killed soon afterwards to prevent half-breed spawn) have magic abilities. The magic system is based around metals. Allomancers “burn” different types of ingested metals to give themselves temporary powers such as super strength, super senses, magic metal vision, the ability to push or pull metal objects towards themselves (and if the object is anchored, to move themselves by pushing or pulling on metal objects). Some people, mistings, only have the ability to burn one metal but a special few, mistborn, can burn all of them.

Enter our main characters. A band of misting (half-) peasant thieves, led by a mistborn, is set to try to take down the Final Empire. The story mostly focuses on their plans and the execution of those plans.

The world-building is fairly thorough, I found. There’s a lot of background things which are mentioned but which seem like they’ll be investigated further in the sequels.

I enjoyed reading all the characters’ PoVs. None of the properly developed characters were annoying, which is unusual now that I come to think about it. All the antagonistic characters, including the Lord Ruler, were mostly off screen or treated like evil forces rather than people. I think this worked well because otherwise we would have been forced to empathise with, for example, someone who killed a lot of good characters. It also reinforces the fact that most people in the world see the Lord Ruler as a god and his inquisitors as an extension of that godliness. “Forces of good v forces of evil” things where the evil doesn’t have much depth to it and is just evil for the sake of it, annoy me. However, Sanderson avoids that trap (explaining how is spoilery) which was nice to see. Also, a lot of the rebellion’s planning involves trying to subvert the ingrained thinking that it’s impossible to rebel against god, which was interesting.

Brandon Sanderson is one of the current Big Names of fantasy and, from this book, I’d say it’s deserved. There was amusing banter, there were lots of cool fights and some clever tricks. The only thing I would have liked to see more of is the development of the love interests. There was only one romantic storyline and I liked both the characters involved but I would have liked to see more of it. Hopefully, there’ll be more in the next book. Oh, also more female characters would have been cool. Only one of the main group, Vin, was female (arguably, she was the mainest character) and the only other women with speaking parts (ie not random peasants being slaughtered) were court ladies who weren’t in that many scenes. The presence of Vin as a pretty-damn-kick-arse central character meant the gender balance didn’t annoy me while I was reading and I only really noticed it looking back.

I recommend this book to lovers of fantasy. I’ll definitely be picking up the sequels when I can.

4.5 / 5 stars

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