The Well of Ascension is the second instalment of Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy. You can read my review of the first book here. This review contains minor spoilers for the first book, mostly in the form of who lives and dies. If you don’t want to be spoiled, just go read my review of book 1, Mistborn: The Final Empire, and don’t read on down. I’ll just say that it’s an excellent fantasy series and I’ve given both books one and two 4.5 / 5 stars each.
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED
END SPOILER WARNING
In The Final Empire, the crew of thieves and allomancers (metal-magic users) that make up the main characters in this series, succeeded in overthrowing the Lord Ruler, the seemingly all-powerful god who had tyrannically ruled over the land for the past thousand years. Where the first book asked (and answered) the question: What would happen if the evil overlord won?, the second book asks the question: What happens next once you get rid of him?
The answer, of course, is almost 800 pages long.
The original crew, plus Elend and sans Kelsier, is trying to hold onto the city of Luthadel and keep the people fed and free. A year after the Lord Ruler’s fall, they’re more or less managing, particularly with Vin to take out any assassins sent against Elend. Then two armies arrive on their doorstep and things get a little bit more tense.
The story follows the crew as they try to hold the city together, prevent the skaa peasants from starving to death or being slaughtered or enslaved again by one of the opposing kings. Unsurprisingly, they face many ups and downs (mostly downs) along the way both external and personal.
Vin, the powerful Mistborn, has grown into her powers and gained a lot of self-confidence, compared with the start of the series. Her bouts of doubt about her place in the world felt realistic and her interactions with Zane, a new character were frustrating, but in a good writing sort of way. Speaking of Zane, I liked the unpredictable element he brought to the plot, but I also spent a lot of time hoping for him to go away and leave Vin alone because she really didn’t need him to make things harder for her than they already were. Another sign of good writing, I think.
The other important new character introduced in The Well of Ascension was Tindwyl, a Terriswoman very different to Sazed, the existing Terris member of the crew. As well as providing a different view of the Terris people (turns out, Sazed is a bit of a rebel) it was nice to see another female character in the foreground. She and Vin are the only two women who are in more than a handful of scenes and who aren’t background decoration (maids, wives, miscellaneous peasants). While they’re both kick-arse characters, I’d still like to see more women, hopefully in the next book.
Overall, this is an excellent book and I would recommend the series to any fantasy readers. I definitely suggest starting from the first book, however, The Final Empire. Handily, if it’s been a while between books one and two, there is summary of book one included at the end of The Well of Ascension.
4.5 / 5 stars