Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson


Goodreads: Mistborn
Series: Mistborn #1
Source: Purchased
Published: July 17, 2006

Official Summary

Once, a hero arose to save the world. A young man with a mysterious heritage courageously challenged the darkness that strangled the land.

He failed.

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.

13 thoughts on “Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson

  1. revgeorge says:

    My wife read the series way back in the olden days, i.e. before ereaders. 🙂 As I remember she liked it, but it’s not normally what she would read. Whereas it’s something I would normally read but never have. I’ve read a few other works by Sanderson and found them good, but not entirely gripping. One of these days, though, I should read Mistborn.

    But then I say that about a lot of books… Thanks for the great review!


    • Briana says:

      So far I’ve read Steelheart, Elantris, and the Mistborn trilogy by Sanderson (well, I’m still working on the last Mistborn book). I think Steelheart might be a little different since it’s YA and about anti-superheros. But, for Sanderson’s adult books, I think Mistborn is more outrightly gripping than Elantris. It has a grittier feel, a more wild cast of characters. Elantris was interesting but really more political. So in terms of pure excitement, Mistborn wins–though I obviously think it has a lot of other things going for it as well.


  2. DoingDewey says:

    I just finished this and I enjoyed it, but I wasn’t as blown away as I was by his The Way of Kings. Both do have fantastic characters and world building, but the plot in this one was far less intricate. I think Mistborn also suffered in my estimation simply because I read it second. The Way of Kings seemed unique from any other fantasy books I’ve read, but this was similar to The Way of Kings in a lot of ways, so it got fewer points for being unique. Great review!


    • Briana says:

      I haven’t read The Way of Kings yet, so it will be interesting to see, once I get to it, if I think it resembles Mistborn too much! 😀 Sometimes our opinions of books really do seem strongly based on what order we read things in. But I am excited to hear The Way of Kings is even more intricate!


  3. rebekahbissett says:

    Great review! I read this a month or so ago and really enjoyed it. I did find the allomancy description to be a bit overdone but I imagine it would appeal to a lot of people! I didn’t find myself overly drawn to read the sequel though, usually I can’t stop after book 1 of a series!
    Have you read the whole series? What do you think, should I read the rest?
    Love the blog ☺


    • Briana says:

      I really enjoyed Mistborn as a standalone too and was pretty tempted just to leave it there, even though I love Sanderson’s writing. (I did that for Ender’s Game, just refused to read the rest of the books because I liked the story where it was!)

      I just finished the third book tonight, though, and I did really enjoy the rest of the series. I think Mistborn is the best, but I tend to think that about series–that things just go downhill from the first book. The Well of Ascension was pretty similar in execution. I think the plot twist in The Hero of Ages was too broadly hinted at, though. It was the only book of the three where I was able to predict the outcome, and fairly early on.

      Liked by 1 person

      • rebekahbissett says:

        Oh wow, that’s so funny, I did the exact same thing with Ender’s Game! Thanks for replying, I won’t rule out reading the rest of the series then. Sometimes it’s fun being able to predict the end of a book anyway…

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Adam says:

    This is one of my favorite stories. I’ve always been impressed with Brandon Sanderson’s writing, but this book really impressed me. I think what I most loved was how the story first shows magic as impossibly powerful, then gradually reveals the rules, which elevate this “power” to an art, requiring skill and precise control to master.
    Even something as simple as being cheerful becomes admirable in this story.


      • Adam says:

        He has some great articles out there on his methodology. Among other things he cites that he approaches all magical systems as a balance of 3 factors: who/how many can use the magic, what preparations are necessary before hand, and what toll does it take on the user. I’m so grateful that one of his students decided to film his teaching sessions.


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