Easily one of my favourite fantasy novels! I originally read The Final Empire early last year on my kindle and really enjoyed it. It was my first real fantasy novel in a long time and took me a little while to get into. It was also my first Brandon Sanderson novel and I have to say I was impressed! I’ve put off writing a review for a long time because I haven’t been sure I could do the book justice. It’s become one of my favourite series, evidenced by the fact I own them all now in hard copy, and also bought the first book for my sister as a birthday present not long after I read it! I’m also currently reading another of Sanderson’s series, The Stormlight Archives and loving it.
Sanderson is well known for his use of magic systems. For each series he writes there is a different system and in Mistborn the main magic system is Allomancy. Basically, there are different metals which gifted individuals can consume and draw on for different powers, and depending on your talents you might have one or more or all of these metals in your repertoire. A Mistborn is someone who can use all the metals, and therefore have all the powers available. This magic system seems less magic and more scientific to me, and there’s a lot of jargon surrounding the character’s usage of it. Once you get used to that and can understand it all, it’s easier to get into the book. It was one of the main things that meant it took me a while to read, but once you get your head around it you’re set for the rest of the series, which is totally awesome. There’s also a glossary to help you out which is cool, oh and maps. I love it when books have maps!
The main character is a bit of a Cinderella; rough around the edges and stuck living a rough life and only surviving with a bit of luck. Little does she know that this luck is actually her subconscious use of allomancy. Even better than Vin being Cinderellaish, she’s a total badass and as she gets more skilled with her allomancy she becomes incredibly dangerous and powerful. Vin is discovered by Kelsier and he and his crew take her in and start to train her. One of her jobs in the novel is to infiltrate the nobility as a spy. And of course this involves a ball. And dresses. And handsome noblemen. See what I mean about the Cinderella thing? The main handsome nobleman is Elend who is always reading a book at a party. There’s enough romance in this whole set up to appeal to readers like myself, but it’s deftly woven into the overall plot so that it isn’t a distraction from the action or drama of the text.
Another thing I like about Sanderson’s world building is that history, politics, magic and religion are woven together in a complex backdrop for the plot. Each chapter begins with an excerpt from a historical text, which can be interpreted as clues of a sort. Another part of the history is that after the Lord Ruler came to power, the world suffered from some climate changes. It is now covered in mist, which appears in the night. The mist is something people are superstitious about and keeps them from going out at night. There is also a class system, with skaa as the oppressed lower class and the government and upper classes made up of nobles. Religion is a big theme in the text, mostly presented by Sazed whose people’s duty is to record history and religions.
If you enjoy fantasy novels and stories on an epic scale then I suggest you read this novel. Or anything by Brandon Sanderson probably, but this is a good place to start. He is a master of world building and writes a tight narrative with no loose ends. Vin is one of the cooler female protagonists I’ve come across and there are a number of awesome other characters who become more significant as the series continues.
I rate this series really highly, if you can persevere with all the jargon as you read the first book then you will be well rewarded with a fantastic fantasy series to read. My original rating was 3/5 because I struggled with all the jargon, but I think if I re-read it now with my current understanding of the magic system it would easily be a 4/5 if not higher!
Have you read anything by Brandon Sanderson? What did you think?