11 August 2008

Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson

I guess I'm on a bit of a Fantasy kick... I just finished my way through one of the last of the free ebooks given away with the launch of Tor.com, Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson. Note: Brandon has one of the best designed websites I've ever seen.

(Image borrowed from Amazon)

This book is very well written. I had previously read Sanderson's debut novel, Elantris, which was quite enjoyable, although I felt it was somewhat one sided and two out of the three lead characters felt flat to me. Although the setting and story were quite atypical in Elantris, the characters felt like fairly standard fantasy archetypes. Mistborn shows that my initial assessment of Sanderson as 'just another fantasy author' was wrong. The characters start off as archetypes, but quickly diverge and take on a personality all of their own, equipped with a plethora of flaws and mistakes.

Mistborn considers what happens to a fantasy world after the dark lord is sealed away. What does the hero do with his limitless power? What happens to the world? Well, in the case of Mistborn, the hero forms an empire, with himself as not just the head honcho but as an immortal, living deity who enforces a life of servitude for the lower classes, or skaa. In this world, there are a small number of people (referred to as Mistborn) who have the ability to consume small amounts of metals in exchange for magic powers, such as the ability to attact or repel other metals, or sense things that others could not. The story follows the life of a young skaa thief who discovers that she is a mistborn; it follows her life through learning to control her powers and, well, growing up.

The book is excellently written and has an amazing balance between politics and action. Many fantasy stories addressing peasant revolutions get a bit bogged down in the details (Teckla, I think I'm looking at you), but I feel that Mistborn got it right. There's no point in the book that seems to drag on; in every chapter, Sanderson reveals more about the nature of the Lord Ruler, hinting at the truth behind the events which led to the present-day. It's really an amazing hook; I spent most of the weekend reading this book. It took a while to get going, but when it did, it didn't stop.

Unfortunately, Tor is no longer giving away ebooks of Mistborn: The Final Empire, but it is available for the Kindle and in paperback. Now I need to track down a copy of Mistborn: The Well of Ascension, which appears to be dead-tree only... *grumble grumble*

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