Wednesday, 20 August 2014
The story focuses on Kelsier - a thief and an allomancer (I'll get to that in a second) who is attempting to cause the downfall of an empire that has existed for centuries. In order to achieve that he has to organize the needed military force from people who seem to be deprived of all their will to fight after ages of enslavement. He also needs to meddle with the complex political system. And last but not least, he must challenge the Lord Ruler who appears to be is a godlike being or immense power. Kelsier forms an elite thieving crew and begins his work.
The characters presented by Sanderson fall into certain types; an astute politician, a reckless and charismatic leader, strong and charismatic general, shy girl who hasn't yet discovered the depths of her powers, loyal servant. At first it seemed shallow and too standardized. However, the author manages to make them interesting and their interactions add an extra layer of complexity to them.
It took me a while to get used to how magic functions in the world created by Sanderson. It's not a force of nature or manifestation of faith. Here it's connected with... metals. There are two basic types of "magicians" here. An allomancer has the power to "burn" certain types of metals and take advantage of the effects they have on strength, stamina, sight. They can also manipulate the environment as long as there are metal elements around. In total there are 16 types of metals and each has different effects on the allomancer that uses them. And then there are the rare Mistborn - those who can use all types. Feruchemy is the second type of magic. A feruchemist can store certain powers in metals and use them when they're needed. Such a person can choose to stay ill for a prolonged period of time in order to store enough power to be able to heal instantly and cure even a deadly wound when needed. And there is also a third type of magic but I don't won't to spoil the fun of discovering it to those who haven't read through the first two books yet.
I also liked the description of Iron Inquisitors - some really mean dudes who have iron spikes hammered through their eye sockets. They are the ultimate law force and mst loyal servants of Lord Ruler. Their powers seem unlimited too... There are also the Kandra and the Koloss, other intriguing creatures inhabiting the world of Final Empire. But I won't go into details as to who they are and what they do as it would spoil the fun of discovering it on one's own.
Sanderson's writing is very dynamic and the books are written in a way that makes putting them down hard. I often caught myself going for "just another chapter" and reading three or four more. There are often various perspectives from which the plot is narrated and each brings something else to the whole. The cast of distinctly different protagonists also helps with immersing the reader in the story. I particularly enjoyed reading fragments that presented Sazed as his wisdom, vision of the world and sense of purpose was something that set him apart from other characters. The only thing that I thought was not explored that well by Sanderson were the male-female relationships. I don't expect interactions that are physical and perverse to the point of pathology, such as some that were shown in the "Game of Thrones" but it seemed to me that there was lack of strong emotions here.
If I was to describe Mistborn in two words, I'd say "clever fantasy". Everything is well organised here. The world, various castes and the way magic works. And the plot - even events that are seemingly unsurprising and should have an obvious outcome can add a new surprising twist to the story. The first tome ended with what appeared to be a hard-fought victory but there was one line said by the antagonist that made me think whether the protagonists have actually done a good thing. The consequences of their actions resonate heavily throughout book 2 and 3 and just when you begin to understand them, there's another twists that puts everything in new context. There seems to be a certain pattern to these books. Each one has a cliffhanger that is resolved by desperate actions of protagonists. Yet each time Sanderson manages to surprise the readers by creating circumstances in which these actions can be seen in a different light.
And just one more thing - from now on I'm going to refer to models cast in metal as made of pewter (not just metal). Anyone who's read at least one novel from this series will understand why ;)