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Martin the Warrior
February 14th, 2010, 07:22 PM
Sometime between when I last started a thread and now, I managed to squeeze in reading the Mistborn trilogy by Brandon Sanderson. I believe I had mentioned it before, but had little details to offer.

To start with, it's a fantasy trilogy-- the first book is typically branded "Mistborn", although it's proper title/sub-title is The Final Empire. The second book is The Well of Ascension, and the third is The Hero of Ages. The author, Brandon Sanderson, happens to be the man Tor tapped to write the final books in the Wheel of Time series following Robert Jordan's tragic passing. Seeing what he can do with a free hand was a nice tease to see how he'd fit with WoT (the answer is very well, but I say that with his first entry in that series already out and read).

I first encountered Sanderson and the concept behind Mistborn when he gave an interview (prior to Jordan's passing, I should mention) and described the book as "What if the prophesied hero stood against the Dark Lord and... failed... and it's now 1,000 years later and he's conquered the world." That's a very simplistic account of the backstory, but it hooked me, so maybe it will hook you.

The centerpiece of the trilogy, though, is its magic system. Or systems, I should say, as he ultimately gives us three. They're not simple spell incantations, producing fire and ice and whathaveyou-- nor are they Force-like manipulations where the mind exerts itself over nature. What Sanderson deserves a lot of credit for is firmly establishing the rules of what his magic system can and can't do-- and then comes up with inventive, non-cheating ways to make it do what you didn't think it could.

The core system (the other two I'll let you discover on your own) is known as allomancy and utilizes metals. Throughout the kingdom are special individuals who can "burn" certain types of metal they've ingested. Most people can only burn a single metal and are called "mistings", but those that can burn multiple ones are called the "mistborn". Each metal has its own distinct use. Burning pewter, for instance, gives you a burst of strength, but it burns incredibly fast. Burning copper shields you from being detected by other mistborn. Tin enhances your senses. And so forth. Burn through all your reserves of metals and you're pretty much powerless.

Some of the ways Sanderson comes up with to use allomantic powers are truly impressive and very easy to visualize-- something I hope translates into film, as the first book has already been optioned.

Plotwise, the first book can be best described as a heist story set in a fantasy world. An Ocean's Eleven/Dirty Dozen/Great Escape type crew come together to steal the biggest store of the most precious metal-- atium-- from the Dark Lord himself. The story centers around a female protagonist, Vin, who is recruited into the group and discovers that she's actually a mistborn (which is a nice device to introduce you to its rules along with her).

All of that, however, is only the starting point. By the time you hit the second and third book, you realize the story is about much, much more-- it's about the very nature of prophecy itself and how it can be used and usurped. In all three books, each chapter begins with an epitaph from a secondary in-world book that reveals key points about the past and adds only another layer to the story being told.

Along the way, Sanderson does an excellent job of throwing curveballs at you and leading you down one path, only to surprise you at the end by revealing it wasn't the path you thought at all.

If I'm being a bit vague, it's because these books are worth going into knowing as little about as possible. Just know that they're excellent, excellent reads. Sanderson is undoubtedly going to be a titan in fantasy based on completing Wheel of Time alone. Mistborn shows, however, that he'd deserve to be anyway.

So, there. One post to start breathing some life back into the old place and a specific topic, rather than sub-forum style topic. I'll have more of those soon. ;)