This is the second book in the last couple months I’ve read by Brandon Sanderson, the first one being Elantris. I absolutely loved that one, and went into this book with high expectations, because I heard that this series is one of his best. But, by the end of this book, I found my expectations did not quite match my mixed feelings of this book. Despite that, I do want to continue on in the series. Let me explain.
Synopsis: (from Goodreads because I thought it was perfect) “Once, a hero rose to save the world. He failed. For a thousand years since, the world has been a wasteland of ash and mist ruled by the immortal emperor known as the Lord Ruler. Every revolt has failed miserably. Yet somehow, hope survives. Hope that dares to dream of ending the empire and defeating the Lord Ruler. A new kind of uprising is being planned—one that depends on the cunning of a brilliant criminal mastermind and the determination of an unlikely heroine: a teenage street urchin named Vin. Once, a hero rose to save the world and failed. This time, can a young heroine succeed?”
There are a lot of things to love about this book. It contains Sanderson’s signature highly developed worlds, which I adore. The magic system of Allomancy, which burns metals to create magic, is both fascinating and brilliantly created. The characters are understandable and interesting. Their motivations are complex as the society in which they live. Also, the overall goal of the book is well executed. The one and main problem I had with this book, is it sits at over 600 pages (at least my paperback copy does) and I felt like only about 150 were really very good. The first 50 pages drew me into the story, and the last 100 really closed the first book well, but the middle chunk was too slow-moving for me to really enjoy. I didn’t feel like there were much progress until the very end.
Let’s break down each of those things before going onto a short spoiler section for the end.
There are a wide array of characters, but I never really struggled to remember who was who. There were the noble characters, the characters of the rebellion, and the antagonist characters, among others. I’m sure I forgot a few minor characters, but for the most part Sanderson really does a great job of developing characters with distinctive voices.
Saying that, the whole plot of the heist seemed really to distract from actual story progression. I found myself zoning out for much of the middle, at least 400 pages, which was honestly not a good sign. There were a few interesting scenes among the boring ones, but I felt like the few scenes couldn’t make up for the pointless parts. One example of this is Vin intermingling with the nobles. So many of these scenes added nothing to the story.
The world was expertly developed. You had the Inquisitors obeying the Lord Ruler. You had the corruption among the nobility. You had the skaa (the slaves of this world) fighting the rebellion to gain freedom. It never felt like this wasn’t simply a real world, despite having all these unrealistic types of magic.
Now, let’s get into some brief spoilers.
I was extremely sad when Kelsier died. He had been the mentor of Vin, and though I knew he wasn’t the main character, he was the main driving force of the rebellion. However, it was from his death to the ending when the story finally picked up and pulled me in, so I can’t be too sad about it.
Brandon Sanderson certainly knows how to end the first book of a series, if this novel is any example. In the end, the Lord Ruler is killed and his dying words are something about him really saving the world, and them being doomed without him. Even though the ending is mostly happy–Vin saves the city and peace is restored, satisfyingly ending the book–there is still a little hint that this is only the beginning.
I hate when books rely on the sequel to keep a reader interested, like the author is saying, “I know you are completely unsatisfied with the end of the first book, but I promise that if you read on, all your questions will be answered.” But this in a sense breaks the promise the readers were given in the beginning. For example, in this book it was promised early on that the main goal was to defeat the Final Empire, led by the Lord Ruler. The question is: would they succeed?
Let’s say at the end, they were still fighting. That would break the promise to the reader to find out the answer. Instead, Sanderson lets the rebellion defeat the empire, only to add the twist of, was it really a good idea for them to defeat it?
In this way, I loved the ending.
I do plan to read the next two books, but I am worried I’m going to find the same weaknesses I found in this first book. In fact, I wasn’t even going to bother reading the next one until I got to the end of this book and really got pulled into the story again.
Have you heard of this series or read it? Does it look interesting? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more musings and, as always,
Best wishes in your life full of adventure,