Monday, April 20, 2009

Discover Exactly What "Compulsively Readable" Means With Sanderson Epic

(Image from Wikipedia)

In a world where ash falls in constant flurries, soot stains every surface and swirling mists descend nightly, hope has almost ceased to exist. For the kaa people - enslaved to wealthy masters, who beat, rape and kill as often as they feed, clothe and reward - life is especially bleak. As a half-skaa orphan, Vin knows well the life of the downtrodden. Unwilling to submit to a cruel overlord, she has instead chosen a life on the hardscrabble streets of Luthandel. Her unique talents make her useful to the city's criminal bosses. Hardened by her difficult life, Vin is a skittish wraith, who's learnd that everyone has an ulterior motive. In her experience, trust always brings betrayal.

Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson introduces us to this frail creature, whose world flips when she encounters a brilliant thief named Kelsier. Vin has known plenty of petty criminals, but Kelsier is different - the scars criss-crossing his arms bear witness to his incarceration in the Pits of Hathsin, a prison from which no one has ever escaped. Until now. There's only one explanation for his survival - Kelsier is a Mistborn, an aristocrat with mystical powers. Only this aristocrat isn't like his comrades. This aristocrat wants to overthrow the Lord Ruler, whose 1,000-year reign has brought his people nothing but misery. Although the terrible ruler has few friends, a rebellion is tantamount to suicide. Rumor has it that the Lord Ruler is immortal. Kelsier's obviously insane, but there's something about him that attracts Vin. Possibly it's only the fact that he offers hope to a world starving for something to believe in; or that he seems like someone on whom she can rely; more likely, it's because he holds powers similar to Vin's own. Joining his crew means Vin might finally be able to understand her own powers. Soon, she has aligned herself with the charismatic leader, for better or worse.

As Vin studies and trains with Kelsier, she's astonished to learn that she, too, is a Mistborn. Like her mentor, she can leap to impossible distances, travel with impressive speed, fight with super strength and more by harnessing the power of Allomancy. Each member of Kelsier's crew is a brilliant allomancer in his own right, but Vin and Kelsier are the only ones with the exceptional powers unique to the Mistborn. Between them and the rest of the crew, battling the Lord Ruler may not be quite the suicide mission they once believed it to be.

The first step of Kelsier's plan involves creating a distraction. To this end, Vin must impersonate a noblewoman to glean insider information. It's a dangerous job - not only must she conceal her powers, but she must also hide her street-sloppy manners beneath layers of jewels and lace. To complicate matters, she's caught the attention of a handsome nobleman and his jealous ex-fiancee. Vin's slow transformation from cowering street urchin to confident Mistborn comes will challenge, frustrate and empower her in ways she never imagined possible.

Despite the Kelsier/Vin Dream Team, overthrowing the Lord Ruler will not be easy. There will be bruises, heartache, despair, even death along the way - can Kelsier & Co. overcome it all and accomplish their mission? Or will the so-called Hero of the Ages lead them all to their deaths? Only a harrowing battle against an impossible evil can decide the outcome.

With vibrant characters, a well-drawn setting, and plenty of action, Mistborn: The Final Empire has it all. It's an epic sci fi/fantasy that will appeal to readers of all stripes. It's a familiar enough quest/coming-of-age story made wholly original by Sanderson's vivid imagination. Although the story starts out a little slow, the characters will make you care enough to stick around; by the 3rd chapter or so, you will have discovered exactly what "compulsively readable" means. I guarantee you'll be flying to your computer to order the other two books in the series. I did. Although Mistborn: The Final Empire lacks the absolute magic of Lord of the Rings or The Chronicles of Narnia, Brandon Sanderson does the genre proud. All hail Mr. Sanderson, a true sci fi/fantasy master.

Grade: A-

4 comments:

  1. I've been thinking of picking up a Sanderson book for a little while now, but haven't. You may have pushed me over the edge :)

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  2. I've only read Elantris by Sanderson, but I loved it. So, maybe I should try this one out. It's the first of a trilogy, yes?

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  3. Okay, so now I'm confused. The main page says you're currently reading this one--have you moved on to the next book in the series?

    I love Brandon Sanderson. He's one of the very few authors I recommend to absolutely everyone--and have his books on hand so I can shove them at people!

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  4. I'm glad you liked this one! I'd read Elantris before I started this trilogy, so I knew Sanderson was a good writer and storyteller, but Mistborn totally blew me away... especially by how carefully the world, and the magic, and the backstory is!

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