The Mistborn series has been on my list for a long time. A lot of our friends have read it, reviews rave about it and the premise is interesting. I had just recently finished the Throne of Glass Series (a full scope discussion of that coming soon) and needed to pick what I was going to dive into next. Where I read Throne of Glass as each book came out (with the exception to the last (because I hate endings)), I read Mistborn in the span of a month between holiday trips and cold evenings in.
So What Is it about?
Mistborn follows the journey of Kelsier, a criminal mastermind, and Vin, a sixteen year old street urchin as they fight against a world drowned in ash. Together with their special capabilities to use the power of “Allomancy”, they are joined by their crewmates to fight back against a cruel government operated by entities known as Obligators and Steel Inquisitors. Their eventual goal? To take on the world’s tyrant: The Lord Rule and bring freedom to an enslaved people known as Skaa.
As the series evolves, it follows the journey of the world and it’s characters based on the events of the first book, though each had their own contained stories that feed into the universe as a whole.
1. well-crafted world building
To be honest, I had absolutely no idea what Mistborn was about. I did not read the synopsis, I did not let anyone tell me about it – other than to say “you have to read it”; and I’m happy that I did. Sanderson does a great job of dropping you into the world, and striking labels when needed. For example, you learn the difference between “Nobleman” and “Skaa” (the world’s primary “race/status” of people) right out of the gate. The thematic differences painted in the first few pages, with complimentary narrative. As you read, other places, creatures and characters are introduced with intention. At times they are described in detail, perhaps first by a character who has never seen them before. And at others it is a quick introduction that matches the pace of the scene, and helps build the feeling they are meant to evoke.
Each chapter is introduced by a passage that tells a coinciding narrative that compliments its theme, and helps to set up the book’s conclusion. It’s worth paying attention to it, as it creates a big pay off at the end of the book.
2. The Trilogy is complete
Technically, Mistborn is a much bigger series than just three books, but you could read the first three and have a rewarding finish. The total count is currently anticipated at eight books, including two companion novellas, one of which is not released.
THE ORIGINAL TRILOGY
(referenced in this article)
- The Final Empire
- The Well of Ascension
- The Hero of Ages
Companion Novella: “Secret History”
WAX AND WAYNE SERIES
(takes place after the Original Series)
- The Ally of Law
- Shadows of Self
- The Bands of Mourning
Companion Novella: “The Lost Metal”
While there are still books being written, it was fantastic to read the first three of the Original Trilogy without having to skip a beat. There is little more frustrating than waiting a year or two years before picking up the next part of a series, and then realizing maybe it’s worth looking back at it’s predecessor. When I can blaze through a book, I am happy camper. And you’ll want to!
3. a believable cast
Have you ever picked up a book, excited about the setting and the story, but failed to connect with the characters? It’s always a trap of disappointment that you don’t really discover until well into the book. LUCKILY, Mistborn is NOTHING like that. From the beginning the characters have a wide differences in opinion and interesting perspectives to help paint the world. And their struggles? Believable, and relatable. You come to connect with the characters. Are they having an inner monologue, perhaps wallowing in self-pity? That’s ok! Because Sanderson makes you care, and every part has a reason to the larger story as a whole.
Ps. My series favorite character dynamic is Breeze & Ham.
4. The Magic System
Without giving too much away: the magic system in the Mistborn series is unique. It’s not your typical use of magic spells or flashing lights. The series primary magic system is called “Allomancy”. It’s physical, and it’s all derived from the source of different metals being ingested by the user. But not just anyone can do it, and there’s a big secret as to why. There are only so many metals that grant abilities, and not everyone can use them all. It’s a complex, yet simple system that sets the series apart from other high fantasy series.
Each book and the series as a whole takes place over many months, but there is never a large gap within each book that feels like your typical “time skip” arc. There is never a point where you feel as if you were kept out of the loop by the passage of time, and it’s mentioned so nonchalantly that it made it all the more natural. This could be a personal preference, but I find it difficult when you are reading a series or a book that jumps at a slow to erratic pace of time portrayal. Mistborn does a great job of steadily moving along, while not allowing the story to drag.
6. A pleasant simplicity
In the final book of the first trilogy, Brandon Sanderson wrote a forward where he essentially stated that he wanted to do what many great fantasy series do in a 5-8 book series in the span of 3. He does just that, and in the process it never feels like the series reaches to be more than it is. It does not manufacture needless drama or interactions fueled by misinformation due to happenstance, it does not use overly complicated plot points for the sake of action, and it stays true to it’s roots. And maybe I’m just a sucker for it, but a magic system using metals called “Allomancy”, a world tyrant known as the “Lord Ruler”, the capital of a country being named “Central Dominance”? The book says what it means, and in the fantasy genre as a whole that is down right refreshing.