This is a spoiler-free review for Mistborn, by Brandon Sanderson.
As a dedicated follower of the Writing Excuses podcast, there was only so much about Brandon Sanderson’s books that I could hear before I snapped. This past week, it happened. On a whim, cryptic references to the books, and the suggestion of a trusted source, I bought the Mistborn trilogy boxed set.
That’s a first.
Though I have only read the first book of the trilogy, it has not disappointed me. I’m excited to read on, though other purchases and new finds also require my attention. You shall surely see some of those reviews in the coming weeks.
By far, Brandon Sanderson’s most praised skill is his ability to create magic systems. Mistborn was my first opportunity to see such a system, and I was extremely curious. Coming from middle grade fantasy, I thought every magic system was the same– it came from within, occasionally channeled through mundane items like wands or words. Mistborn proved me wrong. Right from the beginning, the magic is strange, but intriguing; and as the story unfolded, constantly relying on this system to give plot twists credibility, I became amazed at the sheer brilliance of it all. I’ve heard it a couple times before, but I never really realized: what’s the point of magic if it can do anything? The best parts of magic systems are their limitations.
Things like Fablehaven play around with several magic systems at once. There’s the fairy magic, potion magic, and artifact magic– everything you meet has its own brand of power, but there is no central system. Mistborn used a maximum of two, maybe three, systems to create a world like none other. By the end, I couldn’t dream of flying by any other means than Steelpushing and Ironpulling.
Not only that, but the civilization– the slaves, the noblemen, and the government, constantly struggling against each other. The political fights within the noble families, the gutter brawls between the slaves, the battle for power within the government, all lending to the same feeling of turmoil. All are ruled by the Lord Ruler, an immortal man with untold powers.
Yet, through all the chaos, an Ocean’s Eleven-style crew works behind the scenes to inflame both sides of the conflict. Capers are fun anyway, but capers to overthrow the evil overlord? Perfect.
But enough about the story and the world– it was brilliant, enough said. The style was similarly interesting. The book was written in third-person limited, but it never lacked viewpoints. It was an interesting style, not one I’ve seen many times. The two main narrators, however, were interesting enough. Perhaps they were too close in style, but I don’t really mind– the personalities separated them enough. Most interesting, however, was the way the author included thoughts. It was rather ordinary, actually, but I found it interesting. Both of the main narrators are loners, so they spend much of their time on their own. Their thoughts were remarkably well introduced, however. I enjoyed it.
Really, everything was perfectly done. Every nuance of the narrative was acceptable, since all of them had been introduced fairly early on– odd terms like Tineye and Coinpusher were perfectly acceptable, though they weren’t explained much. At several places, my jaw was hanging open in awe of plot twists. (Unfortunately, in the most notable instance, the plot twist I thought had occurred hadn’t, so it was a bit of a letdown. Nevertheless.) There was romance in the book, but not enough to make me hate it– that was the first pair I have shipped in a very long time. I thought the ending was a little weak, but the overhanging shadow of doom was enough to keep me interested. I would have suggested an explosion or something as an extra hook.
The book isn’t quite for young readers– there is realism that you don’t get from middle grade fantasies. It wasn’t constricting or prevalent, but things were stated matter-of-factly. Try the prologue and see what you think.
If I ever go cosplaying, I am going as Kelsier.