Mistborn, a Review

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.

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105 thoughts on “Mistborn, a Review

  1. I’ve been thinking about reading some of Brandon Sanderson’s work since he completed Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time and was recommended by the George RR Martin himself, but I went to Wikipedia (oops) and it seemed like the series was very convoluted to the point of being too much for enjoyment. I think I may check out Mistborn though, based on your review!

      1. Oh it’s ridiculously long. I started reading well after most of the series was published, but then Mr. Jordan passed and I had to wait several years for the last three books. By then I had forgotten what happened in the previous 12 or so…but I have the last book to read and I’m determined to finish!

  2. I loved that series. My mom found it in the library once, read it, bought it, and shared it around the family, since my whole family reads and loves fantasy. Anyway, she told me to read it sometime later, and when I finally ran out of books to read, I did. I wasn’t disappointed, either. I think either the second or the last book was my favorite, but the entire trilogy was really good.

    Brandon Sanderson is definitely one of my favorite authors, even if I’ve only read two of his series. This and Alcatraz. As far as I know, the rest of his work is too mature for me to read, though my parents enjoy it all.

    1. I looked at Alcatraz, read the prologue and first chapter, but it didn’t pull me in. It was a little too matter-of-fact. “I’ve never been a good boy, so I set the kitchen on fire.” Very detached, very uninterested. Very uninteresting. Can you convince me otherwise?

      1. Well, compared to the rest of Sanderson’s works, Alcatraz is a bit more childish (and, it’s actually a YA novel, so that’s not unexpected), and less serious. In fact, it’s also a little hard to tell that Mistborn and Alcatraz are by the same author. But they are.

        Anyway, the things I enjoyed about it… I think the biggest thing I liked about it is the humor. Some of it’s a little, like I said, childish, but some of it is very funny. The other thing I liked about the book, especially as a fellow writer, is the fact that Sanderson breaks a lot of rules about writing, but he does it in such a way that it doesn’t ruin the book. I’d give an example, but I’d only ruin it, I think.

        I suppose, it’s not really one of those books everyone can like and appreciate. There’re only a few of us who can really enjoy it. But, I’d suggest giving it a try. If you don’t enjoy it—well, the world won’t end because of it. (I think.)

      2. Darn WordPress. This wasn’t supposed to reply to that comment. *sigh * What is supposed to reply to this comment is that I thought the same thing about Kelsier’s death.

    1. Since my home is my school, and I sit at home presently, I can honestly say that I am not out of school. If you ask whether or not I am finished with scholarly pursuits such as… perhaps, mathematics and the sciences, yes, I can honestly say that I am mostly done studying such things.

      1. I’m not going to get a clear answer, am I?

        I don’t want summer to break, either! I don’t have glue that would withstand the higher temperatures so I could fix it!

      2. Aren’t they already clear if they’re transparent, Mr. Spock?
        How about a straight answer? Can I have that?

      3. If they were transparent, they would be invisible, and since our words are not being transmitted through auditory senses, it would be as if I never answered. Thus, we don’t want them transparent at all, which is why I can’t give you a clear answer.

      4. Liam, don’t irritate Robyn. What would you do if she got miffed and never returned? (I know you never would, Robyn. Just asking him.)

      5. If I got that badly irritated with Liam and left, he would lose his puppet commenter. He’d have to brainwash you instead, Amanda.
        Besides, if I left, Liam is not the only one who suffers. This is my favorite blog and I enjoy talking to Liam. Besides, Phil Phorce is actually a mind-control device.

  3. I will add this book to my ever-growing “To Read” list.

    This may seem off-topic (it is), but have you read American Gods, by Neil Gaiman? It’s at the very top of my summer reading list, and I’d be interested to see want you thought of it.

    1. I need to read some Neil Gaiman, but every time I come into a position to acquire any of his works, I forget. I visited two libraries today, for example, and remembered his name not once.

      1. Boo!! *throws tomato*

        Actually the same thing happened to me, sort of. I had the chance to take the book out from my school library all year, but I’ve only started wanting to read American Gods in the last week, now that the library’s closed for the summer. Maybe there’s some type of supernatural force trying to stop me from reading the book.

      2. Yeah, I first became interested in him after watching two episodes of Doctor Who that were written by him (the first one was fantastic, the second was okay).

      3. I’m being completely serious. And it’s an amazing episode. There’s even a nice moment were the Tardis bites the Doctor’s neck.

      4. Some say it’s because they take care of the sailors while they’re at sea, protecting from oceanic nastiness and all that– like a mother or something. Perhaps it’s because sailors feel their ships are alive, and who wants to call such a beautiful thing a he? That just sounds weird. It’s tradition.

  4. I was so happy to hear that Brandon Anderson has come out with a trilogy! Have you read Alcatraz and the Evil Librarians? I loved it.
    Mistborn seems to be a little more serious than Alcatraz. What do you think?

    1. I’ve looked at Alcatraz (see comment above toward magicandwriting583), but it didn’t interest me. Can you convince me otherwise?

      Mistborn is definitely more serious, but it is nonetheless good.

  5. How Sanderson comes up with his magic systems I have no idea! If you read his other cosmere works (Way of Kings, Elantris, Warbreaker etc.) you’ll find that there are even more unique and awesome magic systems! Plus you can read Warbreaker for free on his website 🙂
    I’d be really interested to hear the plot twist that you thought had occurred but actually hadn’t.

    1. Hmm… According to his world, it was impossible, but it would have been cool.
      SPOILER ALERT
      I thought Kelsier’s death had been staged by the kandra taking his place just before, then Kelsier reappearing alive. Unfortunately, kandras can’t take bodies unless the bodies are already dead. END SPOILER ALERT

      1. Ah! I see! I was trying to figure out what it might be.
        That would have been really awesome if it had happened, but I agree it would be impossible.

      2. It’s quite unfortunate. I liked Kelsier, and I loved his death– but if there’s one thing I love more than a beloved death, it’s a beloved false death.

  6. I picked up a copy of this book recently and I’m pretty excited to read it. I have heard such awesome thing about his world-building skills, and I look forward to diving in. 😀

      1. You’re welcome.
        Have some virtual cake. It’s not poisoned, I promise.

  7. Aaaaaand another series goes on Charley’s Summer Reading list.

    Complex magic systems, political skullduggery, interesting style . . . I’m sold.

  8. Brandon Sanderson is a genius. I know he is praised for his inventive magic systems (which are awesome), however I love his books because of the characters and because they have so much truth in them. Trust, belonging, and power are all themes that you can see in Mistborn, even though it’s a genre that usually isn’t known for having themes.

    My favorite Sanderson books right now are Way of Kings, and The Emperors Soul. They strike me as superbly… human. Yeah, human. I think that’s a good description for most of his books.

    PS if you liked the plot twists in the first Mistborn, wait until you get to The Hero of Ages. THAT is a neat plot twist. 🙂

  9. I find it sad that I read Mistborn before you did, and yet you’ve read more of Sanderson’s work than I have. That may or may not have been due to the fact that I was under the impression that my parents wouldn’t let me read much of his books…

      1. The library conveniently didn’t have Rithmatist at the library… but I put it on hold, so I can get it next time, and I finally found the fourth Alcatraz book.

      2. I didn’t like the first one all that much, because I tried to read it as a drama, like all of Sanderson’s other stuff. For the second books and onward I realized they were supposed to be comedies, so… yeah.

        The fourth book was the one with the Shakespeare quoting chapter, right?

      3. Ahh… that could be problematic. The first one was the first thing I’d ever read of Sanderson’s, so I didn’t have that problem. Still, I think the first one was the funniest. This last one was… eh. Like the whole “stoopid” thing was boring and annoying by, what was it, chapter four and a half? I did find the confusing chapter numbers mildly amusing, though.

        Yup. It was Hamlet, I think.

      4. Yes, Alcatraz can get a little repetitive. I don’t really care, because I’m past caring about anything he says, really.

        Indeed. I loved that chapter.

      5. He’d probably be satisfied, then, considering he rather doesn’t want you to care.

        It was amusing. I’d probably like it better if I’d actually read Hamlet, though… Guess I’ll have to reread it after I’m done with literature this year.

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