A masterpiece in every way, Mistborn - The Final Empire doesn't just rise to the top of the fantasy genre, it actually redefines it!
The history books of the Final Empire tell of a battle that took place over 1,000 years ago, when a prophesied hero defeated a threat known only as The Deepness and gained the powers of a god to be come the Lord Ruler. However, the people
of The Final Empire know better! They know that the omnipotent Lord Ruler that now dominates them all is no hero or god, but rather an abomination who enslaves and brutalizes most of his subjects in order to ensure that no one could ever gain enough power to over throw him. After 1,000 years of defeats, most of the enslaved people known as the skaa have lost the will to rise up against or even resist their cruel dominator. But then again, most people are not Kelsier...
A thief and con artist, Kelsier believes he has finally found the proverbial crack in the Lord Ruler's seemingly indestructible suit of armor! And since the Lord Ruler has done everything he can to make the world one without heroes, Kelsier realizes that it will take a villain to save the people of the Final Empire. With a multi-layered plan and a gang of like-minded criminals, Kelsier is convinced he finally has the means to destroy the Lord Ruler and free the enslaved skaa. And possibly his greatest asset in this coming war will be his newest recruit, a teenaged girl named Vin. Vin believes she's just a common thief, but Kelsier learns that Vin is really a Mistborn, someone who can receive specific magical abilities from several different types of metals. Vin reluctantly joins Kelsier's cause, even though she suspects he may be a madman...and she may very well be right! After all, only a madman could believe he could possibly overthrow a god!A gang of rogues embark on an impossible quest to defeat an unstoppable foe...
When I give a book five stars, it's for one of two reasons. Most of those perfect-score
books fall into the first category, in which I gave it five stars simply because I enjoyed it the entire time I read it. These books may still have flaws, and they may lack in some areas, but as long as the author can keep me entertained throughout, a book can still get a perfect score even if it's not actually perfect. But then there's the rarely achieved second category, which I call the game-changers
. These are the books that not only entertain me, they astonish me! They are so good, that they rejuvenate my love of reading and reaffirm my faith that the best authors can weave an absolutely magical tale. I'm happy to report that The Final Empire is such a book, one that will stay with me forever!
Almost immediately, I was sucked into Brandon Sanderson's unique world. Every chapter begins with a quote which gives some insight into past events. While some authors make the misstep of revealing the book's backstory via clumsy exposition, Sanderson makes a brilliant move, revealing some pieces of it gradually throughout the chapter introductions, while also revealing the more significant events in conversations between Kelsier's gang of con artists and their newest member Vin. The more Vin learns of the history of her world, the more devoted she becomes to Kelsier's mission. Using this writing method, the story feels much more cohesive and organic than if Sanderson had simply revealed most of the backstory in one chapter.
While the backstory is very compelling, the main story is even more so. While I've read other fantasy tales where the heroes want to save the world, I've rarely wanted to see a world saved as much as this one! The history of the skaa is absolutely heartbreaking, with some characters revealing the terrible atrocities that have been committed against them and their loved ones. Some of the skaas' tales of hardships and injustice are so sad, they will bring tears to the eyes of even the most stoic of readers. Another powerful theme explored throughout the story was the inequality between the skaa and the ruling noble class. When Vin infiltrates the world of the nobles as part of Kelsier's master plan, she is astounded to learn that they are not all as cruel as she would have imagined. Some of them are quite charming, and a few even do consider the well being of the skaa. Instead of simply adhering to a "nobles-bad, skaa-good"
formula, Sanderson does inject some humanity into the noble side, which makes the hypocrisy of some of their actions that much more startling. Indeed, the "nobles-vs-skaa"
conflict was one of the main reasons why I found that I wasn't just reading this book, I was absolutely feeling
Another strength of Sanderson's world-building is not just in his masterful way of telling the story, but also in it's originality! Let's face it, if you pick up a book off the fantasy shelf, there's at least a 90% chance that an elf, dragon, or wizard will show up (usually all three). But Sanderson's world is utterly different than everything I've read before! Instead of falling back on the ever-reliable fantasy tropes of dragons, the people of The Final Empire whisper terrifying tales about bizarre creatures known as Mistwraiths, and try to avoid the all-seeing glare of the Steel Inquisitors, grotesque royal enforcers with steel spikes for eyes. Even the overall story of the book is a departure from the usual fantasy quest. While most fantasy books feature the heroes searching for some magical item or going off to fight an enemy directly, Kelsier's plan is far more complex. The main "quest"
of this book comes in the form of a giant con, one which seeks to reshape the entire political and economic structure of the Empire. By pursuing such a Machiavellian scheme, Kelsier doesn't need to rely on some magical weapon to save the day, he creates his own magic! And speaking of magic...
If there was any element of this book I had to say was the most original, it would definitely be the magic system. Here there are no wizards merely casting standard spells. Instead, the magic of the Mistborn is entirely dependant upon certain types of metals. Each of the metals gives the Mistborn a specific ability. For example, Mistborn can push against steel, so by anchoring themselves with steel coins on the ground, a Mistborn can push against the coin to fly up in the air! Other metals can give the user enhanced senses or the ability to manipulate emotions. This magic system leads to some truly amazing action sequences. Instead of "been-there-done-that"
battles like swordfights and attackers approaching on horseback, here you may see a Mistborn magically pulling a helmet off of one attacker and pushing it into the second one, then flaring up the second man's anger so that he'll turn around and attack his own partner! In addition, Mistborn can only access these powers by ingesting metals for a finite number of uses, so this adds even more suspense to the battles. While the magic system can be a bit confusing at first, its complexity only adds to its appeal. Indeed, the originality of Mistborn's magic system is only exceeded by the magic present in Sanderson's storytelling abilities!
Of course, all this wonderful storytelling could only achieve so much if the characters were dull, but fortunately Sanderson excels there too. Most of the secondary cast is comprised of various members of Kelsier's crew, each of whom has their own endearing personalities. From gruff Ham who often tries (albeit usually unsuccessfully) to engage in philosophical debates with his crewmates, to acerbic Breeze whose selfish and manipulative ways would have been annoying if only he weren't so amusing to listen too, the supporting cast is more fun than some other book's main characters! But the true stars of this show are Kelsier and Vin. Kelsier is pretty far-removed from the usual fantasy hero...he kills without mercy, he lies and cheats to get what he wants, and he seems to be more in love with himself than anyone else. Yet he is also witty and charismatic, and the more we learn of his tragic past, the more we come to love him despite his flaws (and there are many)
. In contrast, while Kelsier loves to be the in the spotlight, Vin is terrified by it. Plagued by insecurities and cynical of the world she spent so much time hiding from, Vin is more vulnerable than the usual fantasy heroine, but this just adds to her appeal. Even when she learns how to utilize her magical abilities, Vin always retains her humanity, so instead of watching her grow as a heroine, we watch her grow as a person instead! This perfect mix of a fascinating story and engaging characters makes this book a true modern-day classic!DAVE'S FINAL JUDGMENT - THE DEFENSE
- Refreshingly original world and magic system
- Captivating characters whose flaws only make them that much more interesting
- Backstory and main story are both incredibly compelling
- Darker themes like slavery and social inequality are explored in an emotional and effective way
- Unique and exciting fight sequencesTHE PROSECUTION
- Magic system can get a little confusing at times
- Sets the bar impossibly high for any books you read after this! THE VERDICT
Mistborn: The Final Empire is so good, not only will it steal the heart of any fantasy lover, it may very well convert new readers to the fantasy genre!