January 31, 2023

Gabbing Geek

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Geek Lit: Mistborn: Final Empire

Book one in Brandon Sanderson's fantasy series set on a world where, a thousand years earlier, an epic quest to defeat an ultimate evil failed.

In many a standard fantasy series, the heroes gather to go on a quest, usually behind some lad with a quiet background but a grand destiny, to travel far, overcome various challenges, and then defeat an ultimate evil.  Think Gandalf gathering the Fellowship where Frodo (or, depending on how you read it, Sam) becomes an unexpected hero in order to toss the One Ring into the fires of Mount Doom and save Middle Earth.

Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series is set a thousand years after that quest would have occurred.  And, by the way, the good guys lost so that ultimate evil did conquer the world.  Here’s a review for the first book in that series, The Final Empire.

The novel opens on a plantation run by a nobleman.  His workers, called skaa, are treated horribly, but the nobleman in question is moving up in the world so he doesn’t care.  One man seems to give the nobleman a funny look, but he can be dealt with later.  Or, as it turns out, not at all.  That man is Kelsier.  He is a nearly legendary figure, a skaa thief who managed to escape from a prison camp that has never seen a man escape alive.  He also has some secrets of his own about powers beyond those held by most.

As it is, Kelsier is not the main protagonist of this book.  While he does get a fair amount of time as one of the various individuals Sanderson uses as his point of view into this world, his actual protagonist is a young woman named Vin.  Vin is a thief with heavy trust issues (for a very good reason), and some minor powers she initially calls “luck” that seem to help her crew pull off cons and such.  As it is, Vin’s a lot more powerful than that if the right person were to teach her the ways of Allomancy.  Allomancy is the magic of this world.  It involves those with the gift, often called “Mistings” or “Mistborns” depending on how powerful they are, to “burn” certain metals within their bodies to produce certain magical-type effects.  Most people can’t do anything along those lines.  A few can use one metal to do one thing, but if they’re smart they do it very well.  And the rarest, the Mistborn, can use all the different metals to do all the different tricks as long as they have some within their bodies.  Effects are rarely overtly flashy.  Tin, for example, enhances the senses.  Pewter can enhance various physical attributes.  Iron can pull metal to the user (provided the iron is not heavier than the user) and steel can push it away (same as with iron).  Not every metal does much of anything, but nobody’s tossing fireballs or anything.

The book follows Vin as she gradually learns to trust under Kelsier’s training.  Kelsier has a plan:  he wants to overthrow the Lord Ruler, the dark, supposedly immortal despot who has been running the Final Empire for a thousand years.  Kelsier isn’t perfect himself, though.  He tends to see any and all nobles, plus the people who work for them, as evil individuals not worthy of life.  Part of the plan is to have Vin infiltrate the nobility.  What happens when she sees some of them might not be terrible?

Sanderson has set up an intriguing world with a unique style of magic.  This is a world were ash routinely rains down from the sky, plants are brown, and unearthly mists cover everything once the sun goes down.  There’s a good twist at the end revealing the true identity of the Lord Ruler, and I’d say there’s a good chance I’ll try another of these books at some point in the future.  In the meantime, let’s say this one gets nine mistwraiths out of ten.

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