Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Mistborn: A Book Review

The Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson has been on my reading list for quite a while. I love epic fantasy, and I was first introduced to Sanderson by way of Robert Jordan's epic Wheel of Time series. When Robert Jordan died before finishing the 14 book series, Sanderson took over. Both Jordan and Jordan's wife thought Brandon Sanderson could handle the job. I was apprehensive at best, but he surprised me. His writing was stylistically different, but well done. He took the characters I had fallen in love with and continued their development organically. Actually, one of my favorite story arcs of all time is in the books Sanderson wrote. He did WoT right.

So naturally I had high expectations for his own original works.

The first one I read was Elantris which wasn't bad. It wasn't amazing (or even above average), but it featured an epidemic and I'm a sucker for diseases.

Even so, when a lot of my fellow fantasy readers recommended the Mistborn series, I thought I'd give him another chance. After all Elantris was his first widely released book, so maybe he's gotten better. He certainly was great with WoT. So I finally got around to reading the first in the series.

Here's the basic premise: In a world covered with ash and shrouded at night in mist, a young street-rat girl, Vin, discovers that she can use allomancy, a form of magic. She has to learn to control her powers, learn to trust other people, and overthrow the authoritarian god-king.

The plot itself isn't anything new. The execution is average and the writing is average. If I had read this in high school (when I was more indiscriminate) I probably would have enjoyed it. As is, I won't read it again. It's not bad, just not quite up to my standards.

I do want to say there are several things I thought were well done and would have elevated the book if the plot weren't so mediocre.

Firstly, he writes Vin, the protagonist, fairly well. He doesn't stick her in the middle of a love triangle (even though he totally could have). She is self-reliant and skilled. She's deeply flawed when it comes to interpersonal relationships, though to be honest I'm a little sick of the "broken girl learns to trust" gimmick. But he does a fairly good job at writing a female protagonist. Sadly, the vast majority of side characters are male (I only remember two female characters that Vin interacted, both of which were portrayed negatively).

Secondly, his magic system is unique and interesting. The basic idea is that Allomancers (magic users) get their powers from consuming and "burning" metals. Only certain pure metals and alloys are useful. Most can only use one metal, and thus only have one power. These are called Mistings. However there are a few select people who are capable of using all the metals. These are called Mistborn. The magic system is new and dynamic and Sanderson executes it well. It's unusual to find a system this unique that works, so that's a definite plus.

So if you're looking to read something easy and you like fantasy, than Mistborn isn't the worst choice. I might even end up reading the rest of the trilogy since the ebook I bought has all three. On the other hand, there are a lot of other books I would recommend before this one.

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