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Saturday, March 10, 2012

cover of 'Mistborn'

What could be just another run-of-the-mill fantasy novel-- with an oppressed people, and a rebellion brewing to overthrow the evil tyrant, and the obligatory orphan-waif discovering her powers -- somehow isn't. I think the biggest reason for this is the unique metal-based magic or "allomancy," which is fascinating and different from any other magic I have ever read about. There are "mistings" and "mistborns" who can burn metals for different effects, and there are also the secretive, nearly wiped out Terrismen who can use metal to store things - knowledge, power - in what they call "metalminds." The rebellion is a bit different, too-- instead of the normal, honorable rebels, the ringleader Kelsier recruits a crew of cons and thieves, which is why he thinks they might actually be able to succeed.

It was fun to discover and learn about the various metals and their powers along with former street-rat (the orphan/waif) Vin; she learns some from Kelsier, who is also a full mistborn (one who can burn all the metals), and some things can only be done by using two powers in tandem, such as pushing and pulling against metals as a crazy, exciting way of traveling that might put spider-man to shame. But because Kelsier is busy planning a rebellion, and also because he is wise, he makes sure that Vin also learns from the various mistings (who can burn a single metal) on the crew (and, of course, each type has a name relating to their ability: smokers, soothers, tineyes, coinshots, etc.).

In addition to learning to use and control her allomancy, Vin also has to learn how to dress and act like a lady. This is so that she can attend the balls and spy on the Great Houses and noblemen, since setting the Houses against each other is part of Kelsier's plan to throw the city into unrest. This subplot leads to some entertaining parts of the story, since Vin was raised as a thief on the streets, and has to learn to negotiate a different world and try to understand the politics and rivalries, all without using her abilities, since many of the nobles are at least mistings if not mistborn. This also allows the author to flesh out the world in more detail, as we see first-hand the attitudes that most of the nobles have towards the commoners.

In addition to the detailed, well-thought out varieties of metal-based magics, the world of the book seems more alive because of the sense of history and myth. The story of the great hero is unfolded slowly to the reader at the beginning of each chapter and as Kelsier and the other characters research the story for information about how to overthrow the Lord Ruler; clearly something went dreadfully wrong in the conflict that the hero was foretold to win, which lead to the current situation, where they are ruled by a seemingly-immortal tyrant. In the end, Vin and Kelsier are only able to figure things out because of their friendship with Sazed and knowledge of the different kinds of metal-based magics work.

This was a surprisingly fun, quick read. I'm looking forward to reading the sequels when I get the chance.

Title:Mistborn: The Final Empire
Author:Brandon Sanderson
Date published:2006
Series:The Mistborn Trilogy
Number of pages:657
Notes:recommended by Sari


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