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Monday, May 04, 2015

Review: Mistborn

Mistborn is Brandon Sanderson's novel about a rebellion in a fantasy world against an empire ruled by a god. It's part of a trilogy, but can be read alone with a satisfying conclusion and non cliff-hangers, an unusual and notable attribute in this day and age.

The novel starts slowly, introducing the characters and rules of the magic system in the novel (and presumably the series). The main viewpoint character is Vin, a street urchin who's been abandoned by her brother and eventually grows to become a powerful allomancer, a person who can extract magical powers from metals and alloys and then use it to effect the world.

The milieu isn't as detailed as those provided by the traditional classics of the genre: entire civilizations and even the primary political system is barely sketched out. Sanderson's clear emphasis here is on the magic systems made available in the world. The other viewpoint characters are mostly there to mentor Vin, educate her on how the world works, and turn her from a suspicious street urchin into a human being who can trust other people and become loyal to them.

That means, unfortunately, that the characters are also barely sketched out. Even the love interest gets relatively little exposure, while Vin's primary mentor (her steward Sazed) is better described, but you never get the sense that the relationships are real.

Nevertheless, the final quarter of the novel makes everything pay off. The reveals are smartly done, and the villains, unlike the cookie-cutter villains of the old are actually smart and operate intelligently, foiling the protagonists' plans over and over again. The eventual overthrow of the Final Empire is well done and doesn't have major plot holes. And of course, there's lots of action, and the Sanderson might not be able to write a romance to save his life but is definitely great at action.


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