Thursday, May 17, 2007

Mistborn: The Final Empire

By Brandon Sanderson.

Pretty good fantasy. It's set in a dystopia, which is why I waited so long to read it (the author said it was darker than Elantris), but it is not exactly what I'd call dark. Sure, the setting is gloomy: ash covers the yellow sky, there are mists everywhere at night, all the plants are brown, and the world is ruled by the Lord Ruler, apparently immortal and definitely evil. The book itself, however, seems quite optimistic (given that your definition of "optimistic" includes "thousands of people die.") Sanderson, perhaps, isn't that good at maintaining a gloomy, depressing atmosphere, but if he had been I probably wouldn't have enjoyed it that much.

The book is mostly about Vin, a young thief in the capital of the Final Empire. Events conspire to make her part of a plot to overthrow the Lord Ruler... where "events" means "a gang of allomancers." Allomancy is one of the most logical magic systems ever and Sanderson does a good job explaining to the reader how it works, although by the end of the book we discover that there are more secrets he hasn't told us. Allomancy is based on ingesting metals (tin, pewter, aluminum, gold, iron, steel, etc.) and "burning" them to gain access to supernatural powers: enhanced vision, strength, brief glimpses into the future, etc. Unfortunately, that seems to be one of the most logical part of the settings. The social structure of the world itself, with the Lord Ruler in charge of everything, the serfs passively trudging along, and the so-called Great Houses squabbling amongst themselves, is less than convincing. It seems as though there should be more going on in the world, but instead Kelsier (the allomancer who recruits Vin) and his gang are at the center of all the important events. Among other unlikely deeds, they recruit an army of more than five thousand peasants without being betrayed or discovered. Is this likely when the ruler is so powerful that he's been burned to a skeleton in the past and survived?

It isn't that the plot is simple; it's merely simplistic. It seems to rely too much on coincidence. Still, I enjoyed reading this book, especially seeing Vin grow into a capable young woman. Let's hope the author answers the questions he raises in books two and three (not yet out, unfortunately).

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