Mistborn – Brandon Sanderson

About the Book

For a thousand years the ash fell and no flowers bloomed. For a thousand years the Skaa slaved in misery and lived in fear. For a thousand years the Lord Ruler, the “Sliver of Infinity,” reigned with absolute power and ultimate terror, divinely invincible. Then, when hope was so long lost that not even its memory remained, a terribly scarred, heart-broken half-Skaa rediscovered it in the depths of the Lord Ruler’s most hellish prison. Kelsier “snapped” and found in himself the powers of a Mistborn. A brilliant thief and natural leader, he turned his talents to the ultimate caper, with the Lord Ruler himself as the mark.

Kelsier recruited the underworld’s elite, the smartest and most trustworthy allomancers, each of whom shares one of his many powers, and all of whom relish a high-stakes challenge. Only then does he reveal his ultimate dream, not just the greatest heist in history, but the downfall of the divine despot.

But even with the best criminal crew ever assembled, Kel’s plan looks more like the ultimate long shot, until luck brings a ragged girl named Vin into his life. Like him, she’s a half-Skaa orphan, but she’s lived a much harsher life. Vin has learned to expect betrayal from everyone she meets, and gotten it. She will have to learn to trust, if Kel is to help her master powers of which she never dreamed. 

Before I start this review, please understand that I’m writing it while being heavily medicated so please don’t expect it to be my usual quality. 

Mistborn is a book I’ve been told to read umpteen times. I finally picked it up from the bookstore and read the whole thing in a day. I didn’t devour it because it was crappy or incredibly good. I devoured it because it was easy to read. The thing about Mistborn is that if you take away the amazingly unique magic system, there really isn’t anything new here.
Mistborn is a hodgepodge of old ideas mixed together in a new world. You have the lowborn protagonist who has an incredible destiny and a motley crew formed of societies underbelly. Interspersed in this are an unjust god ruler and the impossible, overarching goal to overthrow him. It really doesn’t take much effort to realize where the story will go and what the ending will be.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. There are a precious few books that can manage towing the ‘predictable’ line and still remain enjoyable. Mistborn joins the ranks of those few. Truth be told, while this book is amazingly, almost sadly predictable, there are some aspects of it which keep it highly enjoyable. One example would be the metal based magic system.
Usually whenever I hear someone talking about Mistborn I hear something about the amazing magic system. It really deserves to be mentioned. Sanderson obviously took a lot of time building up an incredibly unique magic system and kept it from becoming excessive by balancing it with a hearty amount of limitations. At times, he can, perhaps, talk about it a bit too much, burdening the book with unnecessary and sometimes redundant details.
While many have found that the plot was nicely paced, I did feel that, at times, it dragged- especially when dealing with Vin. Mistborn is roughly 600 pages long and I did feel that, when it was all said and done, the book could have been reduced in size with no ill effects to the story. That being said, Sanderson is using this book to build up a world with complex political problems and a unique history. When that is understood, the somewhat dragging plot can be partly forgiven.
This seems to be more of a character driven book than plot driven. It doesn’t take much time for the reader to realize that the whole heist plotline will take the back burner to Vin’s political learning’s and her budding romance as well as her growth as a person. Vin as a character is fairly well done though there is a slight disconnect between who she started out being and who she ends up being. For example, the romance seemed amazingly unrealistic to me. While I could smell it forming a mile away, the sheltered, quiet and abused girl Vin was just didn’t realistically add up to the self-assured and vocal, flirtatious woman she ended up being. It seemed like Sanderson was trying to extensively develop her but wasn’t quite sure how, so some scenes with Vin come across as being uncomfortable and clumsy.
This trilogy has a huge following and there are good reasons why. Mistborn is a comforting book. Fantasy lovers will be able to escape into more traditional fantasy worlds without all the grunge and language of other popular authors. Sanderson isn’t a bad writer, either. His writing style is simple and easy to understand. While he was dealing with a very unique magic system, he seemed to manage balancing his necessary infodumps with interesting scenarios which, in turn, made these infodumps seem less infodumpish.  
Mistborn is full of typical fantasy stereotypes, which will appeal to many readers looking for a good book to read without much meaningful depth. However, while I do feel that this book is worth reading and I will read the rest of the series, the lack of new ideas (besides the magic system) was a huge downside to me. Even the world would have perfectly mirrored worlds created by numerous other authors; only Sanderson wisely covered it in ash, which made it necessarily unique.
All in all, I really enjoyed this book though I didn’t find it as epic, satisfying or groundbreaking as many other reviewers. This is a comforting traditional fantasy tale told with smooth, descriptive writing. Mistborn is full of interesting, compelling characters and is a fun adventurous romp. If a reader picks up this book with nothing more than the intention of enjoying a fun story, they won’t be disappointed. Mistborn delivers for a simple, enjoyable read but falls far short of the mark with depth and unique qualities.
3.5/5 stars

11 Responses

  • Mark Timmony

    Great review Sarah! I agree with alot of what you say though truth be told I didn't enjoy as much as you seemed to 🙂

  • Kristen

    Great review! And I agree – when I read this I didn't really feel it was quite as original as I'd expected it to be, either. It was a fun book in spite of that, though.

    I've tried to read the sequel twice now, and I just can't get into it, though.

  • Anonymous

    After reading Elantris and finding it rather lackluster i've been hesitant to invest any more time into Sanderson. I respect your reviews and I still see no reason to read this series.

  • Sarah

    Anonymous, I don't think you'd be loosing out on much if you skipped it. It's an entertaining read but not really much more than that. There are definitely better quality things out there to spend your time on.

  • The Evil Hat

    Mistborn was incredibly fun. It wasn't particularly inventive for the most part (outside of the magic system), and it certainly wasn't beautifully written, but I had such a good time reading it that I didn't really care.

  • Sarah

    Evil, you are right, it is a really fun tale, but that's kind of all it was for me. That's not a bad thing, though. Sometimes I have an itch that only "fun" books can scratch.

  • Robin Sullivan

    Perfect Review Sarah – I agree with just about everything you said. The only thing I would add is that I thought the ending was really rushed. From a pacing standpoint it seemed like there were many pages devoted to the build up and as the climax started there were scant few pages left. I kept flipping through 30 – 40 pages and asking myself … how is he going to finish this all up in such a short period. I personally liked the fast-paced ending just wished that the pacing was more even throughout and I also totally did not buy the love interest. But….all that being said. It is still one of the more enjoyable books I've read and I'm VERY glad to have spent some time in this world.

  • Jared

    I came out in the same place you did (our status quo, I think: http://www.pornokitsch.com/2009/11/underground-reading-the-final-empire-by-brandon-sanderson.html). The magic system was really interesting, but I wish Sanderson had invested that effort in his characters instead.

    I was really taken with the initial premise: "Evil has already won. So now what?". But after the book really got underway, it just got more and more same-y. It feels like he could've done more with it, but punted instead.

  • Melissa (My World...in words and pages)

    I really enjoyed this trilogy. No there isn't anything really new in the story line, but its the telling of it with the great new mix of the magic system Brandon adds to it. I think the story line gets better as the books go. I really enjoyed what Brandon did with the characters. Hope you keep going with the series and enjoy the rest of the books. 🙂

  • Jamie Gibbs (Mithril Wisdom)

    You're still on top form, Sarah, even with the meds 🙂

    I've heard a lot about Mistborn, mainly from Sanderson's Writing Excuses podcast, and I've been intrigued by i for a while. Luckily, a unique and complex magic system is one of the major plus points in my kind of fantasy, so the lack of originality elsewhere wouldn't be that much of a bother to me, at least in the beginning. At 600 pages though, I'd probably find my interest starting to wane. Thanks for the review 🙂

  • I probably liked Mistborn a bit more than you. It is flawed, and it’s definitely predictable, but I really enjoyed the setting. The second book in the series has a lot more weaknesses, but the final book wraps the trilogy up nicely and has a lot of moments where reader attention to detail is rewarded. And yes that magic system is incredible. Great review … even with the meds.

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