Modern Fantasy Greats – Mistborn: The Final Empire

Ian likes books. Here is what he thought of one of them.

Late to the party, but isn’t that always better? Rather than waiting bereft and unfulfilled for a hint that Rothfuss or Martin have actually written something new, here, here is a series of epic fantasy that is actually finished! A trilogy, weighty and whole and ripe to be consumed whenever you fancy.

A hero rises to godhood, defeating ancient evil and ruling over the land justly and…wait. No. Scratch that.

Ash falls from the sky, wilted and brown plant life meekly stretches toward scant sunlight. There is a God-Emperor, yes, the Lord Ruler, who cast out evil and ascended the throne. So why does this feel like a dystopia? Why are the nobility so thoroughly corrupt, the skaa people so utterly downtrodden?  Endless ash falling from the sky, plantations, slavery… and the mist. As darkness falls, so comes the mist, all-permeating, rumoured to be full of ill-luck and monsters. This is not this is not your usual pastoral idyll with monsters at its fringe. Here, the monsters are everywhere.

The Final Empire follows Kelsier, half-skaa thief, and Vin, a street urchin with incredible abilities. Together they must do the impossible- confront an empire headed by a living god. The only thing they have on their side is the magic of the mistborn- allomancy. Those with the talent can ‘burn’ metals they have ingested and use their energy for incredible feats- directed telekinesis of metal, shotgun-like attacks as coins are propelled like bullets. Increases in strength, or heightened senses…the system of magic is rigorously worked out, and the implications of the presence of this magic are felt across the society and the world.

mistbornThe Final Empire has a few notable elements that raise it above the generic fantasy tumult. The narrative is tightly wound, constantly leaping forward and pushing the reader through energetic action. Whilst elements of the plot are well-worn tropes, this is mingled with fresh takes on character archetypes and the plot is far from predictable. There is a persistent mix of humour and brutality, which fits well with the strange mix of civility and desperation within this world- that of the nobility and the skaa.

Interestingly in terms of world building something that actually shines through is the believable economy- this is a world where people work, where trade flows. Combining this with a novel aesthetic driven by the world’s magic system (swords and metal armour aren’t very clever when fighting somebody who can manipulate metal, so wooden dueling canes are in vogue), and this industrial-fantasy setting makes Mistborn feel truly singular.

It is not a perfect book- some of the narrative leaps are jarring. Vin is something of a passive character in the central arc of the book, carried by events. The peripheral  characters can feel somewhat flat, with a pair of characteristics defining each- perhaps this is an issue with a planned trilogy, the onus is not there to explain everything you want to explain about the world and characters within one volume. Certainly, at the end of Mistborn: The Final Empire, there are questions- questions that will be answered in book two, Mistborn: The Well of Ascension.

I am all aboard, only a decade late. If you are after some fantasy action, some novel magic, some intrigue and escapism- check out Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson.

Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson @BrandSanderson

Review- Ian Green @IanTheGreen


Pick up Mistborn: The Final Empire through our Amazon link, along with Book 2 ‘The Well of Ascension‘ and Book 3 ‘The Hero of Ages‘, or the whole collection here.

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