Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Well of Ascension (Mistborn 2)

By Brandon Sanderson. Sequel to The Final Empire.

Overall entertaining, but mostly light reading. Sanderson concentrates more on interpersonal relationships in this book than on further developing the magic systems that he is (perhaps) well known for. There is one scene near the middle that I have trouble accepting as "in character", but it could just be my naivete.

The ending, however, is certainly unrealistic; it feels like Sanderson couldn't think up a better plot device to do what he wanted and so left the gimmick from the first draft (or whatever) in there. It kind of reminds me of the scene in Toy Story 2 in Woody's Roundup where the dog barks and Woody interprets: "Oh! What's that? You say Sparky and the others are stuck in the mine on the other side of the canyon without any water or light?" I may not remember this line exactly, but you get the idea: impossible detail is read into the situation by some of the characters.

I also felt somewhat cheated with regard to the plot mysteries; there is only one that I felt there were enough to clues to figure out early (and I felt like an idiot when it was revealed because it was so obvious in hindsight). The world-building details also seem a little lacking: you see a lot of big-picture things like the color of the sky and the brown (not green) plants, but political structure outside of the city and what the lower classes do inside the city seem formless and void. They can't all be thieves, can they?

This is entertaining fantasy, but somewhat lacking in intellectual satisfaction. Still, it has going for it that it's very clean, the main characters are all somewhat sympathetic (Sanderson is careful to show that the thug character loves and cares for his family), the world is interesting (even if we'd like to know more about it) and the action scenes are plentiful. I am still looking forward to book 3 (as yet apparently untitled), even if the ending of this one was lacking in verisimilitude. (There's a 50-cent word for you.)

On an editorial note, there is a two-page summary of the first book at the back which should have been at the front. That's just my opinion, though.

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