Saturday, June 24, 2017

Mistborn (The Final Empire)

While pondering what I should read next, I came upon the name of Brandon Sanderson, the man who finished The Wheel of Time series. I decided it was time to check his original work and bought the Mistborn trilogy boxed set. The trilogy -- and the following series -- starts with Mistborn: The Final Empire, although this set's print has only 'Mistborn' on its cover. Which kind of makes sense -- it marks it as the first volume.

I do not know if it was because I had just finished reading a predictable Salvatore novel, but I found Mistborn to be extremely engrossing. The world was completely new for me and I could not guess where exactly the story was going. I read the book in two lengthy sittings as I had hard time putting it down.

One thing that definitely made me like the novel is the magic system, or specifically the one used by the protagonists. Allomancy allows its users to "burn" digested metals for different supernatural effects. Only few metals work and the alloys, too, need to have exactly the right mix to do anything.

For instance, burning steel allows an allomancer to push metal items away from them while bronze makes one able to detect someone else using allomancy. The magic system is symmetric (if that is the right word to use) and very defined. Some reviewer even called it video game like. Regardless, I greatly enjoyed it and its well-paced exposition.

Most allomancers can make use of only one metal and are called mistings. Each of them also has a nickname based on their metal: coinshot for steel user, seeker for bronze, etc. Rare few allomancers can burn every allomantic metal. Such individuals are called mistborn.

Vin, the protagonist, is one. She is of course an unusually powerful mistborn too -- after she learns about her powers anyway. Vin never becomes an omnipotent character, however, even if she is a force to be reckoned with. The challenges she faces and her character flaws stop from her becoming boring.

I suppose Mistborn is a coming-of-age story for young Vin but it does not have the thing why I tend to dislike such stories: a stupid protagonist -- Vin is quite smart in fact. Her problem instead is her inability to trust people -- a result of the harsh environment she has spent much of her childhood as a street urchin.

I find it curious how she is pretty much the only female character in the novel, though. The final empire does not seem like a place for women to get into powerful positions but I think that Sanderson could have made at least one of the many members of the thieving crew a woman instead. The few other female characters encountered in the book barely get names.

On the surface Mistborn is an old story about overthrowing an evil ruler (godlike Lord Ruler) and a society where nobles oppress peasants, the skaa. And I saw some criticizing the novel for being PG-13. But that hardly tarnishes the deep and gripping narrative. Sanderson also seems to love little twists. "There's always another secret", as Kelsier, one of the main characters, puts it.

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