Books in Series
The Final Empire (2006)
The Well of Ascension (2007)
The Hero of Ages (2008)
The Alloy of Law (2011)
Shadows of Self (2015)
The Bands of Mourning (2016)
The Lost Metal (2022)
What’s it about?
The Mistborn Saga, by Brandon Sanderson, is a fantasy series set in a world where an immortal emperor reigns supreme over a world covered in ash. The first three books form a trilogy which follows Vin, a street thief turned rebel, as she comes of age and into her powers. The unique magic system, Allomancy, involves ingesting and burning metals to gain specific powers. The narrative explores themes of power, oppression, and sacrifice as the characters strive to overthrow the oppressive regime and the consequences thereafter. The latter four books follow a lawman named Waxillium, a descendent of one of Vin’s companions, in a world much altered by both magic and technological progress. Sanderson's world-building is meticulous, and the series is characterized by intricate plot twists, dynamic characters, and lore that spans centuries. Overall, the Mistborn Saga captivates readers with its inventive magic system, engaging characters, and thought-provoking exploration of societal dynamics in a fantasy setting.
Why did I like it?
I began reading the first book in the series on the recommendation of a dear friend, who thought it might inspire my own writing. At first, I thought it was clever but not groundbreaking. The magic system (systems, really, but allomancy takes the front seat for most of the series) was novel and the mechanics behind it seemed to be well thought out but not overly explained in the text. I appreciated that the narrative changed point of view a few times before settling into place behind Vin (and sometimes her mentor) for the remainder of her arc. By the time the final act was coming together, and the twist was revealed, I was already hooked. Because I was not challenged by the vocabulary, the depth of the worldbuilding and the character arcs snuck up on me.
I also enjoyed the thought experiment of how a millennium of rule by a single individual might warp both the individual and society itself. If power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, then you might imagine how bleak things might look in Sanderson’s The Final Empire. Though it’s not fully explored or explained until books two and three, the world itself seems ruined even beyond the reach of any earthly emperor. Ash falls from the sky on a regular basis, and a nightly magical mist keeps superstitious folk inside after dark. I won’t spoil things here beyond my impression that Sanderson makes an incredibly salient point about humanity’s impact on the global ecosystem over the course of the first era of books.
What really cemented my love of the saga was the transition to the second era, and how the consequences of Vin’s crew played out over hundreds of years. We get to witness a reshaped world, and the interplay between old magics such as allomancy and new technology such as firearms. This interaction serves to illustrate the double-edged sword of progress. New technology is as often wielded by the heroes as the villains, enhancing the impact of both.
Furthermore, characters we grew to know in the first era sometimes have streets, districts, or even whole towns named after them in Waxillium’s time. This connective tissue of long-term continuity made me rethink my own writing, and consider the implications of its historical figures more carefully. I have, too often, read a series of books following a single protagonist where the world does not fundamentally change. Sanderson takes aim at this problem, and blows it away while meting out an ever deepening and widening understanding of his metal-magics.
Why should you read it?
Honestly, I don’t know if everyone would enjoy it as much as I did, but the themes are broad enough that I suspect most people would enjoy the first era of books, as long as you don’t mind a fantasy backdrop. Vin is an excellent protagonist, and her voice comes across as authentic as she shifts from a troubled teen into a powerful figure of legend. The second era of books requires a bit more of a love of detective fiction (and a dash of steampunk) to dive in, but the banter between Wax and his sidekick Wayne are truly worth it. Overall, the books go down easy, and are quite a fun diversion if you need a break from the heaviness of the world.
What do you think?
Have you read this book? Leave me a comment below to tell me what you thought about it.