Review: Mistborn: The Final Empire

Mistborn: The Final Empire (Mistborn, #1)Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Do you ever feel like stopping everyone you see on the street and telling them about the exciting book you just read? Well, that’s how I felt after finishing the last page of Mistborn. The last chapter was that satisfying an end to the massive tome.

But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. First, the beginning, or rather, the middle, because that’s what I felt like after reading the first couple pages of Mistborn. Sanderson drops readers straight into the brown-shaded world of the book, right in the middle of the action. It’s disorienting at first, but after the first fifty pages or so, I caught my bearings.

The main plot of the novel isn’t a revolutionary one. It’s the age old tale of the represses masses under the overwhelming control of the privileged and a god-like, evil, dictator. That’s not the draw of the novel. Sanderson drew me into the story through the duo of magnetic protagonists, an excellent heist, and one of the best magic systems in any fantasy book I’ve read so far.

Typically, I’m the first to cringe about magic in my fantasy books. Yeah, yeah, a quick glance at my recently read books will say that I read a lot of fantasy books, and yes, a lot of fantasy books have magic, but a lot of fantasy books also have god-awful magic systems. This isn’t so in Mistborn. No, in this novel, magic is based on different types of metals. Specially skilled people have the ability to ingest different metals and “burn” them in their bodies. In doing so, they gain some kind of power for the duration of the time the metals are burning until it runs out. The powers range from useful things like enhanced strength and speed to less physical things like being able to see who’s currently burning metals.

The magic system is the heart of the book, which is apparent through the sheer number of pages dedicated to details of the system. This was helpful at first, but toward the end, I was wishing the editor had cut out some paragraphs going over the system in such painful detail. It was a bit insulting how Sanderson thought readers needed so much explanation of how things worked.

Despite the overly explanatory sections about it, the magic system was instrumental in making the handful of heart-pounding action scenes. Some of these scenes felt so physical that I felt like I did after beating an awsome video game boss fight using my character’s super-enhanced abilities. I could definitely see some of these scenes recreated pixel by pixel.

Secondary to the well fleshed-out magic system are the two main characters, Kelsier and Vin. Kel is the charismatic leader of a thieving crew planning the greatest heist ever, and Vin is a street urchin theif just trying to get by. Not the most original characters to appear in a book, but I found myself drawn to them anyway. They were flawed characters, but they were also characters who grew as the story went along. I was also drawn to Sazed, a scholarly, secretive character whom I wished had more background story, but perhaps that’s for another book.

The richness in which Kelsier, Vin, and Sazed were described made the secondary characters rather flat in comparison, which is one reason why I couldn’t call this a perfect book. Other members of the crew were likable, but were also just archetypes of a heist story. While the book is already very long, more pages dedicated to those characters and less pages over-explaining the magic system would have been preferred.

Even though, when it boils down to it, the story in Mistborn is one that’s told over and over again, the way it’s told is a good one. Good enough that I finished the massive book in just a few days. In the end, it’s an exciting heist set in a fantasy world with characters that I cared about.

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