The OF Blog: Brandon Sanderson, Mistborn: The Well of Ascension

Monday, July 09, 2007

Brandon Sanderson, Mistborn: The Well of Ascension

Brandon Sanderson was nice enough to request from TOR that I get a copy of his upcoming 2nd Mistborn novel, Mistborn: The Well of Ascension. Thank you to Brandon and to TOR for the opportunity to get an early look at this story. For those of you who have yet to read the first novel, Mistborn: The Final Empire, and who would like to find out about the story, click this link for my review: Mistborn: The Final Empire

Mistborn: The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson

    While it is impossible to give a plot introduction without spoiling some aspects of the first novel, it’s important to set the stage for this story, so I will do my best. For those who want no hints of spoiler at all, read my review that I linked above and leave it at that... just know that after the second novel, I still stand on my recommendation that Mistborn is a must read for any fantasy fan.

    The Well of Ascension opens a year after the events of the first novel, Mistborn: The Final Empire. The Final Empire has been overthrown and the lands have descended into civil war and uncertainty. Luthadel, former capital and city of the Lord Ruler, is an isolated and idealistic small kingdom ruled by the young king, Elend Venture, supported by Vin and the remains of Kelsior’s thieving crew, and a newly created representative council. With the famed wealth of the Lord Ruler still missing, Luthadel is unstable at best. To make matters worse, the self-made kings of the surrounding lands are coming to take Luthadel and that rumored fortune. An army lead by Elend’s father, Straff Venture, has just arrived and set a siege on the already tense city. With Kelsior gone, how will Vin, Elend and crew save their fragile new freedom? Has the Deepness returned? If so, who is going to save the world?

    Sanderson has caste a compelling vision over his take on a fantasy story, world, and some of the conventions that go into creating both. As I said in review of the first Mistborn novel, the ‘magic’ system Sanderson has created in truly unique, and probably the single most interesting ‘magic’ that I’ve encountered in a novel, perhaps ever. The basic premise is that certain people can enhance their natural capabilities by burning special metals. This process is called ‘Allomancy’. Most allomancers can burn one type of allomantic metal, giving them one specific power, increased strength/endurance, the ability to push metal, the ability to pull metal, increased senses, etc. Some rare allomancers can burn all the metals, and are known as Mistborn. Kelsior was a Mistborn, his pupil Vin is one as well. The growth of this system, as well as the character psychology around the use and nature of these powers is a true strength in this novel.

    In addition to the ‘magic’ system, the very world, the building of which is one of the trademarks of fantasy series, is one both familiar and unfamiliar to the fantasy fan. This is a world where the prophesied hero of the ages was found, accepted his duty, conquered nations, forged armies, and set forth to face the evil threatening all the land. He failed, and the person who took his place, broke the land, enslaved the people, and hid all of this from history. This twist adds a unique feel to an already creative and interesting story.

    The writing is solid and well supports the author’s ambitions in world building, character development, and setting forth an exciting, touching, and interesting story. The action sequences are crisp and thrilling. The intrigue, mystery, and sense of overriding danger are threaded through the novel in artful and creative ways so that while it is always present, it doesn’t overwhelm all aspects of the novel. The characters are flawed. None of them are truly heroes; most are simply trying to live up to the legacy of a dead man. They make mistakes. They’re ill suited for what they’re trying to do. Yet, all this allows the reader more access to this novel, a closer tie to the characters and the real sense of urgency they all feel.

    I feel that this second Mistborn novel is both a little less and a lot more than the first novel. Overall, the book is more consistent, more immediate, and the story moves along in a clear and compelling way. The characterization, though still somewhat limited to a few characters, is deeper this time around. I felt more involved in this book, and I certainly couldn’t put it down. However, The Well of Ascension has a shadow cast over it, both intentionally and unintentionally. No single character, or even a group of characters, comes alive quite like Kelsior did in the first novel. No sequence was quite as ‘edge of the seat, white knuckle awesome’ as some of Kelsior’s scenes in The Final Empire. Sanderson puts this shadow to good use in his narrative and his character building, and it is not really a weakness. How does one replace a dynamic character like Kelsior? One can’t, neither within the context of the story, or as an author trying to write a story. As in the first novel, there are still those moments of dues ex machina and the use of fantasy conventions that stand out from the flow of the novel. Of course, those really only stand out if you’re looking for them.

    For fans of Fantasy, those looking for a different take on the typical fantasy world, a truly unique and imagination capturing magic system, I certainly recommend the Mistborn series. This is a story of action, mystery, politics, misdirection, friendships, betrayals, and people trying their best to be more than they are, for better and for worse. As much as a person can criticize or comment on what they hoped a novel or character might have been, sometimes a story comes along that simply grabs hold of the reader, makes them clutch at the book, and truly creates a memorable and exciting reading experience. I think Mistborn is just that type of story.

Mistborn: The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson
TOR Books
Available: August 21, 2007

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