Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Book Review: Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson

The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson
(my own photo)
Whether it's The Matrix, Harry Potter, or The Chronicles of Narnia, we all know stories that centre on the "Chosen One/s" attempt to defeat evil. Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy attempts to examine this trope by exploring a world in which the Chosen One has failed.

The Final Empire is the first book in this series. It focuses on a thieving crew, lead by Kelsier, and their attempt to overturn the Final Empire, a dystopian nation governed by the tyrannical Lord Ruler. The protagonist, Vin, learns that she is a Mistborn.  Mistborns have the ability to use Allomancy, a form of magic that uses metals to activate certain skills, such as becoming stronger and faster, or the ability to soothe other's emotions. Through the use of these capabilities, Vin and the rest of the crew attempt to gather an army, infiltrate the government, set the nobility against each other, and eventually destroy the Lord Ruler.

This book was an enjoyable, faced-paced read, with enough creativity to hold my interest over 643 pages.

The pacing was quick and tight, which means that it was a gripping read.  I also really appreciated the way that the plot was paced in terms of the series as a whole. Although this novel is part of a trilogy, and there is still more story to tell, the book was satisfying and enjoyable on its own. My friend recommended this book to me on the basis of the plot twists, and it delivered on that front.  While there were a few that I saw coming, that may have been due to the fact that I was looking out for them.  It is one of the few novels where you genuinely believe that the main characters could die early on in the series. Overall, the plot was one of the book's strengths.

The world-building was excellent. Many of the supernatural elements in the novel, such as Allomancy, aren't based on any particularly well-known myths and legends, but the ideas are still easy for the reader to follow. Even though there is a glossary at the back, most readers probably won't need to use it.

The book provides an interesting take on the "Chosen One" narrative. Certain elements of Vin's plot seem to be playing this idea fairly straight, but there are plenty of other aspects of the book that subvert this trope. While it is entirely possible to write a compelling "Chosen One" narrative, this idea has become slightly overplayed, and is often written poorly.  It is refreshing to see someone engaging with the idea in a slightly different manner.

That being said, the book isn't perfect.  On the one hand, it seems to be conscious of trying to avoid a simplistic good guy/bad guy dichotomy, it often falls into that trap. There are some characters that seem quite complex at the beginning of the novel, but in the end their actions are explained in a way that allows them to be seen as either entirely "good" or utterly "evil".

While I don't know when I'll be able to read the next book, I'm looking forward to finding out what happens next.
Chance of finding it in my imaginary bookstore?  85%