Friday, November 6, 2015

Book Review: Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson

Mistborn is an original fantasy epic where certain people (called Allomancers) have the ability to ingest and then burn certain metals to give them superhuman abilities. Most people who have the power can only burn one sort of metal and gain one sort of power. Tin enhances the senses, brass soothes emotions, for example. But the rare few can burn all the metals and use all the powers. These people are known as Mistborn. They have so much power that they are not afraid to go out at night, when the mists come. Rumors say that Mist Wraiths inhabit the fog that envelops the world every night. Daytime is little better, with a constant fall of ash. Legends speak of a time when there was a yellow sun and green plants, but a darkness has covered the land.

For a thousand years, the immortal emperor known as the Lord Ruler has had authority over the world. He rules over the nobles, powerful families who control production and trade. Under the nobles are the Skaa, the average workers who slave at plantations, mines, and factories to produce what everyone needs to survive and the nobles need to thrive. The metal burners, or Allomancers, are all from noble blood and uprisings by the Skaa have always failed. Of course, sometimes the nobles consort with Skaa women but they are supposed to kill them before any offspring can appear. They don't always succeed, and thus we have Vin. She's a street thief who begins the story working with her brother and a gang of thieves. Their gang is attacked and she manages to escape (she's always had an uncanny sort of luck, as if she could soothe the emotions of others). She winds up with a new gang with more grandiose plans--they are going to mount a coup against the Lord Ruler and the nobility. This gang is full of various Skaa Allomancers, including their leader Kelsier--a charming Mistborn who wants to stick it to the nobility. Vin discovers her abilities (she's a Mistborn too) and begins training for the daring mission to uncover the secrets of the Lord Ruler and end his tyranny.

The book is the beginning of a series and is a well-detailed introduction to this world. In addition to crafting a fascinating and detailed metal-burning magical system, Sanderson introduces an interesting social and economic system. The long history of the world is also hinted at. The characters are all distinct and likable. The story moves at a brisk pace, with plenty of action (some metals let people push and pull on metal objects, enabling the people to toss items around or fly themselves around when the metal is firmly anchored). The book has a definite ending (sometimes these stories just go on and on with no satisfactory intermediate resolutions) and leaves open interesting possibilities for the future. I'm looking forward to the next volume!

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