Sunday, 15 November 2009

CBR2 Book 4: "Mistborn: The Final Empire" by Brandon Sanderson

Publisher: Tor Fantasy
Page count: 647 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Date begun: November 11th, 2009
Date finished: November 14th, 2009

Brandon Sanderson was hired by Robert Jordan's widow to finish his sprawling and unfinished fantasy series The Wheel of Time, after Jordan died in 2007. Sanderson wrote the stand-alone fantasy novel Elantris in 2005, and followed this up with the trilogy Mistborn.

Mistborn: The Final Empire is the first part in the trilogy, but somewhat unusually for epic fantasy trilogies, has a self-contained ending, instead of ending with a cliffhanger, forcing the reader to continue to the next book in the series. If one wanted to, this book could be read in isolation, and one would still have a satisfying conclusion.

The Final Empire is a depressing place to live. Once, it is rumoured, the sun was bright and yellow, not a dull red. The fields, trees and plants were green, not a dull brown. There were even things known as flowers. Ash didn't constantly rain from the sky. Now the days are dark and gloomy, and at night the sinister and all-enveloping mists cover everything. A thousand years ago, the Lord Ruler saved the world from the Deepness. He has ruled the Final Empire ever since. Known as the Sliver of Infinity, he is immortal, both emperor and God. Society consists of a limited amount of Noble Houses, and the skaa, the down-trodden and oppressed serf-race. The skaa work on the plantations in the countryside, or do menial tasks in the cities. They have no rights, they can be killed on the whim of one of the nobles or clergy - and any skaa woman who is taken as a mistress by one of the nobility has to be killed before half-noble offspring can be concieved and born.

Some of the nobles possess the power to burn one of ten metals to give them enhanced powers. A few, very rare exceptions, are known as Mistborn. They can burn all ten metals, and hence can control all ten enhanced abilities. Vin, the street urchin who is the book's protagonist, is one of these Mistborn. She is one of the few half noble children who were never killed. Another of the Mistborn is Kelsier, a half-noble former thief and conman. If the skaa are lucky, they get a quick death if they earn their masters' disapproval. If they're less fortunate, they are sent to the Pits of Hathsin, a brutal mine where people first go insane and then die. Kelsier is the only man to survive and escape the Pit, but he lost his wife - and is out for revenge.

Kelsier, with the help of Vin, and his band of accomplices have a grand scheme. They are going to kill the immortal Lord Ruler, destroy the Final Empire and steal the treasury. Everyone is convinced that Kelsier is insane, that the plan is impossible to accomplish - but they're going to try anyway.

One of the best things about Sanderson's book is the magic system the Mistborn control. By swallowing fragments of metal, they are able to burn them to get various enhanced power, like strength, speed, vision, hearing etc. Various metals burn at different speeds, when they're used up, the powers fade. There are also consequences to using the powers, the users are not superhuman, and have limitations. The main characters are pretty well fleshed out and complex, however, some of the supporting cast are pretty one-dimensional. Still, Sanderson has created an interesting world, quite different from that of many other epic fantasy series. I had read several complimentary reviews of this book, and am glad to say that I was not disappointed.

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