Brandon Sanderson’s books have been on my To Read list for ages and I finally checked out a copy of Mistborn: The Final Empire, which is the first installment of his praised Mistborn series.
Let me tell you right now, it did not disappoint. Spoilers are below!
In the brown, dry world of Scadrial, ash falls from the sky and the Lord Ruler has controlled the population with an iron fist for a thousand years. Peasants, called skaa, struggle to get by while the small percentage of nobility (descendants of those who helped the Lord Ruler rise to power) thrive. Allomancers, while not directly in political power, are high in the world's rank for their abilities to control metals and use fantastic, magical powers. Mistborn are the most rare and dangerous of Allomancers.
Kelsier, a Mistborn with a plan, gets together his old thieving crew and gives them their most insane job yet - to take down the Final Empire. He recruits Vin, a young street urchin with allomantic abilities far beyond normal. Together, the group attempts to start and win an impossible battle.
The only complaint I’ve ever really seen about Brandon Sanderson in all the reviews and book forums I’ve read is about his simple language. He’s not the master of dramatic and beautiful prose. He doesn’t write dozens of pages for the sake of describing trees. (Still adore you, Tolkien.) I know some people don’t like the style but it’s just fine with me. In my opinion, his writing doesn’t make the story stumble at all.
I do have one complaint. I thought the name “Lord Ruler” was a little cheesy. I guess that might be addressed in later books though, so I’m not too upset by it.
Now, on to the praise.
The Allomancer’s abilities are the coolest. And so detailed! They can “burn” metals after ingesting - basically, using the energy these metals give them. (Most Allomancers only use one metal, Mistborn use all eight.) Each metal gives something different: increased physical powers, the ability to manipulate emotions, or awareness of other Allomancers. Most importantly, perhaps, are iron and steel, which allow Mistborn to Push and Pull on pieces of metal around them using their own physical strength. Small coins become weapons, clothing becomes dangerous, and metal can be used to fly through the air. All of this made the book a fun read, because it put my brain to work imagining the fight scenes.
Kelsier and Vin, the two main characters, had great chemistry and I enjoyed the mentor/mentee relationship. I liked Kelsier a little better, mainly because he was more complex. His motives for rescuing the skaa and bringing down the empire were both altruistic and selfish; he was a charismatic leader not afraid to use those around him. As a street urchin whose new life revolved around finally being able to understand her gifts, Vin was a little easier to figure out.
I liked the nobleman Elend and Vin together and I cannot TELL YOU how happy I was that their romance was NOT a key part of the story. Yes, several important events and subsequent conversations were caused by their meeting and I’m sure they’ll be an official item in later books. But Vin wasn’t constantly moping around, daydreaming about his eyes. Her character wasn’t defined by her crush and that’s refreshing. Most of her time was spent trying to master her new powers, while learning how to trust her team and shake the bad habits from a lifetime of abuse. It’s nice to have a female lead character actually develop.
Some of the minor characters were a little stereotypical, but the story was intriguing enough that I could overlook that. The pacing of the novel worked well. I was never bored waiting on the final battle. The ending had me sad, frustrated, and content all at the same time. I can't ask for more than that!
Simplistic as the writing in this series may be, I loved the worldbuilding and main characters so it’s an easy 5 stars for me. Sometimes I read a book in a series and don’t bother finishing the rest, but The Final Empire is not one of those. Sanderson is officially one of my “Read Everything This Person Publishes” authors.