The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson

The Well of AscensionInformation

Goodreads: The Well of Ascension
Series: Mistborn #2
Source: Purchased
Published: August 21, 2007

Official Summary

They did the impossible, deposing the godlike being whose brutal rule had lasted a thousand years. Now Vin, the street urchin who has grown into the most powerful Mistborn in the land, and Elend Venture, the idealistic young nobleman who loves her, must build a healthy new society in the ashes of an empire.

They have barely begun when three separate armies attack. As the siege tightens, an ancient legend seems to offer a glimmer of hope. But even if it really exists, no one knows where to find the Well of Ascension or what manner of power it bestows.

It may just be that killing the Lord Ruler was the easy part. Surviving the aftermath of his fall is going to be the real challenge.


As readers of the blog know, I’m becoming a huge fan of Brandon Sanderson.  I had nothing by praise for Steelheart, Elantris, and Mistborn.  So suffice it to say that The Well of Ascension showcases the same great writing: tight prose, incredible world-building, etc.  Just assume Brandon Sanderson is amazing at all times so I can get on to a few observations that are more specific to this book.

First, Sanderson continues with very strong character development.  He throws Vin, Elend, and company into entirely new roles in The Well of Ascension, and they react very realistically: with effort, but with doubts.  They are attempting to build an entirely new society, and they have to figure out how they fit into it.

To that end, the book asks a lot of deep questions—about what it means to be a good person, what it means to be a leader, and if the two can ever be the same.  It prods at the question of what it means to be an assassin, if killing can ever be a good skill, if there are different kinds of killing.  And it asks how much one owes society and how much owes oneself.  In a sense, the book keeps asking how people can find balance in their lives, and how they can accept who they are.  The answers are all different but all very good.

One flaw that I have not experienced with Sanderson’s other books (because they are either standalones or the first in their series!): The Well of Ascension does at times feel like a middle book.  The pacing is a little slow occasionally, and there is a definite sense—despite there being a plot arc specific to the book—that we are really waiting to get the somewhere else, the meat of the entire series.  It is not too overwhelming of a problem (after all, seeing how the characters plot to do the impossible, again! is actually interesting), but I was kind of disappointed that Sanderson did not write an absolutely perfect book for once.  Apparently he actually is human. 😉

That said, Sanderon completely makes up for the slow bits with a mind-blowing ending.  A second time.  Usually when authors pull off crazy, clever plot twists, they have difficulty replicating the process.  Not Sanderson.   He entirely upends readers’ expectations in Mistborn and he does it again in The Well of Ascension.  And, again, the stakes suddenly skyrocket.  Vin and her friends are having a really hard time saving the world here.

Sanderson is simply a fantastic writer, one who can deliver both good content and good prose.  He knows how to write a story that is interesting in terms of plot, but which also teaches readers about human nature and asks them to think about how they themselves fit into the world.  Definitely an author to continue watching.


4 thoughts on “The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson

  1. DoingDewey says:

    I thought both this and the first book were a bit slow compared to The Way of Kings series, but I loved the ending. I’ve rarely been so surprised by a plot twist! I also always love the way Sanderson has is characters grow. I feel like a lot of times epic fantasy is all about the big pictures and not enough about the characters.


    • Briana says:

      I still have to get to The Way of Kings, but this book was definitely slower than Mistborn. It didn’t bother me a lot, but I thought it was a little atypical based on the Sanderson books I have read so far.

      The ending is crazy, though! I love that Sanderson continuously comes up with original plot ideas and twists. He certainly is not a standard fantasy writer.

      And I agree about the characters. I think character growth is something readers and publishers are really focused on right now when they think of what makes a “good book,” but a lot of authors still skimp on character development so they can focus on a flashy plot. Sanderson just puts everything in his books!


  2. Adam says:

    I definitely agree that this is a middle book. Both 1 and 3 have such earth-shaking revelations, while this one felt a bit more grounded. I will say, I still love the relationship driven subplots. Characters remain a cornerstone of this series for me, and I really liked the complex and very imperfect relationship between two of the main characters. Too many stories simplify a character into “strong” or “weak”. I was really touched by how one of the characters fights without reservation or fear, but still struggles with insecurities about their relationship with another character. That felt very human to me.


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