Series: Mistborn #1
Published: July 17, 2006
Once, a hero arose to save the world. A young man with a mysterious heritage courageously challenged the darkness that strangled the land.
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 even the Lord Ruler himself. A new kind of uprising is being planned, one built around the ultimate caper, one that depends on the cunning of a brilliant criminal mastermind and the determination of an unlikely heroine, a street urchin who must learn to master Allomancy, the power of a Mistborn.
Brandon Sanderson immerses readers into a layered and well-imagined world in Mistborn. Everything, from the history to the politics to the magic is planned and explained. Sanderson even weaves in excerpts from an ancient text, enriching the imagined past of the novel (Better yet, these excerpts are actually interesting! Not every author achieves that.). Fantasy readers will be caught at this intricate world-building, but that is only the tip of the iceberg for Mistborn.
Sanderson’s characters plot to play out the world’s greatest heist; they are going to kill an unkillable god and rid their people of a tyranny that has lasted generations. To do so, they assemble an unusual team, one consisting primarily of professional thieves—an unexpectedly idealistic crew. Their secret weapon: Vin, a skaa girl taken from the streets, a girl who should be too low-born to possess such powerful magic.
There are two results from this set-up. First, Mistborn has a varied cast, featuring characters from all walks of life and cultures. All of them are complex, with secret pasts and hidden hopes. No one here is a fantasy trope. Second, Mistborn is filled with action and intrigue—the good kind, where the scheming is intricate and the outcome unexpected. The characters are actually clever, actually almost-qualified to pull off the impossible. Watching them is both thrilling and inspiring.
Finally, every good magical fantasy book needs a magic system that makes sense, and Sanderson delivers. Allomancy, a magic that “burns” different metals to achieve different effects, has clear rules and seems almost scientific in its logic. And Sanderson is never wishy-washy or hand-wavy about its use. There are, in fact, times when explanation of Allomancy seem overdone, when every detail of a fight seems included and explained, but this demonstrates the thoroughness of the invented guidelines of the system, and there are definitely hardcore fantasy fans who will love (and dissect) the minutia.
Mistborn is fantasy writing at is finest, a complex but highly readable book that brings readers a good story, good characters, and good messages. It happens to function beautifully as a standalone but readers will be scuttling to finish the trilogy.