Book Review: The Hero of Ages

WARNING: THIS IS THE THIRD BOOK IN THE MISTBORN TRILOGY. IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE FIRST ONE, GO CHECK OUT MY REVIEW AND READ IT. THIS REVIEW–AND THE SUMMARY–CONTAINS SPOILERS.

Hero of Ages

From Goodreads:

Tricked into releasing the evil spirit Ruin while attempting to close the Well of Ascension, new emperor Elend Venture and his wife, the assassin Vin, are now hard-pressed to save the world.This adventure brings the Mistborn epic fantasy trilogy to a dramatic and surprising climax as Sanderson’s saga offers complex characters and a compelling plot, asking hard questions about loyalty, faith and responsibility.

I usually think of Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy, concluded in The Hero of Ages (HoA), as a single unit, split into three parts, much like Lord of the Rings. This is, I think, partly because of how Sanderson wrote the books, all back-to-back, and had therefore finished the first draft of HoA before The Final Empire went off for copyedits, and so he was able to tweak thematic things to make them fit and flow through all three books. And they flow quite well. The overarching story is nicely continuous, and built up magnificently.

That’s not to say that HoA picks up exactly where Well of Ascension left off. Rather, it starts with a bang, throwing the reader into new and exciting mysteries, and answering questions much more quickly than you would have thought. Sanderson does not save all of his secrets for the big finish, and HoA is an exciting book throughout. If you found Well of Ascension a little boring, do not fear, HoA remedies that and more. The set-up in the first two books begins to pay off in droves, and it is glorious.

It also starts off with the excellent epigraph, “I am, unfortunately, the Hero of Ages.” Remember that as you read it. (If you’ve already read it, I’m sorry—kinda—for doing that to you.)

Sanderson does not give everything away just to keep the book going, though. He saves his best tricks for the end. And what an end it is. The first two books really were just warm-up exercises, all set-up for the climax of HoA. The battles are epic on a scale rarely seen, the stakes are incredible, and the twists are marvelous. And then, just when you think it’s over, Sanderson gives you an epilogue that will make you tear up. Guaranteed, no matter how little you usually tear up at books. If you get even slightly emotional at the end of books, have chocolate and/or ice cream ready. Probably best to have a box of tissues and a friend as well. (If none are available in person, poke me or Nikki on Twitter, and we’ll assemble a support group for you. It may be wise to do this even before you reach the ending.)

I think he can manage this, in large part, because of the characters to whom we have become so deeply connected over the series. Elend and Vin, now married and fully-powered Mistborn, make an excellent kick-butt couple. Vin, in particular, has come so far from the little street urchin who doesn’t trust anyone, and I love how her journey continues here.

Sazed’s quest continues, and it is, in my opinion, the best character arc in the series. Sanderson is a deeply religious man, but that does not show in the slightest in his writing. Sazed’s belief, or lack thereof, is pulled off so convincingly, that it makes me question what it really means to believe, every time I read through the trilogy.

Spook’s arc also has a fitting conclusion, one I feel is fully justified and deserved, given how the other characters have treated him throughout the series. I feel perhaps most like him—shunted to the side, used as an errand boy, and always, always, wanting to do more to help. I do not, in any way, blame him for anything that happens.

Ruin. Ruin is the perfect villain. Simultaneously nebulous and concrete, yet utterly nefarious and evil, Ruin plays his cards so brilliantly that I’m not even disappointed that, at the end of Well of Ascension, we learn that our characters have been doing what he wanted/expected all along. Plots like this usually annoy me, but Ruin is just so… Disgusting and excellent that I have no problems with it here.

In summary, the capstone to Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn Trilogy is a brilliant, feels-inducing, climax that ties up all the right threads and gives us satisfying—if unexpected—conclusions for all of our beloved characters, complete with an epic Sanderson Avalanche. Thought of as a single unit, the Mistborn Trilogy is one of my favorites of all time, and as Hero of Ages is, I feel, the best in the trilogy, I give it Five of Five stars without blinking. Go. Get it. Read it. You’ll thank me when you’re done crying.

Brandon Sanderson.

Goodreads.

Amazon.

Book Review: The Well of Ascension

WARNING: THIS IS THE SECOND BOOK IN THE MISTBORN TRILOGY. IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE FIRST ONE, GO CHECK OUT MY REVIEW AND READ IT. THIS REVIEW–AND THE SUMMARY–CONTAINS SPOILERS.

Well of Ascension

From Goodreads:

The impossible has been accomplished. The Lord Ruler – the man who claimed to be god incarnate and brutally ruled the world for a thousand years – has been vanquished. But Kelsier, the hero who masterminded that triumph, is dead too, and now the awesome task of building a new world has been left to his young protégé, Vin, the former street urchin who is now the most powerful Mistborn in the land, and to the idealistic young nobleman she loves.

As Kelsier’s protégé and slayer of the Lord Ruler she is now venerated by a budding new religion, a distinction that makes her intensely uncomfortable. Even more worrying, the mists have begun behaving strangely since the Lord Ruler died, and seem to harbor a strange vaporous entity that haunts her.

Stopping assassins may keep Vin’s Mistborn skills sharp, but it’s the least of her problems. Luthadel, the largest city of the former empire, doesn’t run itself, and Vin and the other members of Kelsier’s crew, who lead the revolution, must learn a whole new set of practical and political skills to help. It certainly won’t get easier with three armies – one of them composed of ferocious giants – now vying to conquer the city, and no sign of the Lord Ruler’s hidden cache of atium, the rarest and most powerful allomantic metal.

As the siege of Luthadel 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.

Mistborn: The Final Empire, was everything the first book in a trilogy should be. It had all the action, intrigue, and cool characters it needed to get me booked on the series. The emotional beats were great, and it demanded that I read Well of Ascension immediately.

Well of Ascension caught me off guard a little bit, though. It’s not the same book that Mistborn was. Sanderson took a dangerous route by changing up the plot structure, and though the world itself still has the same dark atmospheric feeling, the book itself feels very different from the first.

As expected, Sanderson managed to pull this off with aplomb, crafting yet another thrilling tale.

While Mistborn was a tale of thieves trying to overthrow an empire, a tale of the dark alley ways and shadowy places of Luthadel, Well of Ascension is a political novel and a war novel. With the Lord Ruler and Kelsier gone (I did warn you about spoilers…), and funds running low, the remainder of the thieving crew must try their hand at running an empire, a task that is proving even more difficult than overthrowing it.

An old villain comes into new prominence, and he’s very nasty. Straff Venture, Elend’s father, is one of the generals who is leading an army against Luthadel, trying to claim the city—and the empire—as his own. But he’s not alone. Others want the city too, and they’ll stop at nothing to get it. The impending armies give the book its main sense of drive, and for the most part, they’re enough to keep it going.

Elend is forced to play the part of king, and the novel delves deeply into what this really means, and what the politics of the Final Empire might really look like. I must admit that I found this element of the pacing slow at times, and these were some of the least enjoyable sections of the book.

The rest of the book more than made up for it, though. Vin, growing every more confident in herself and her powers, is up to her usual mistborn antics, and there are plenty of nerve-wracking fight scenes, including two of particular note. The first is still one of the bloodiest, most revolting massacres ever, and I love it for both the visual aspect and the impact it has on me—and the characters—every time. The other, well. Let’s just say it involves Vin, a lot of iron, and a very large sword, and ranks in the top five scenes that I want to see on the big screen. Heck. I’d pay for an entire movie just to see that one scene.

But that’s not to say that the awesomeness is limited to our favorite mistborn. The whole crew from the first book is here, and there are plenty of new additions. The old characters gain new depth—in particular, Sazed continues to develop into one of the best written non-religious (or poly-religious, I’m not sure) characters I’ve ever read, and I truly admire Sanderson’s ability to write viewpoints he disagrees with so very, very well. Everyone gets their own scenes in which to shine, and the variety of the cast makes it an entertaining book.

My favorite character, perhaps because his situation is the most relatable, and because I can understand why he takes every action that he does, is Spook.

And, as you saw in Mistborn, nobody is safe. The feels that Sanderson unleashed on page 573 of Mistborn (Kelsier. Yes, I have the MMPB page number memorized. 588 in the YA TPB edition.) are a good indicator of what is to come. With a whole host of armies sitting around, all of whom want the same thing, you really can’t expect everyone to survive. Have the chocolate ready, especially as you approach the end.

And what an ending it is. While Well of Ascension is the middle book of the trilogy, and almost by necessity, is a little slower than the other two, the ending is still a completely amazing piece of work, and the number of twists and surprises that Sanderson pulls really make it utterly thrilling. And it’s not over until the last page. The last time I saw someone read this book, she went from amazed to horrified, to swearing she would never read Sanderson again to crying from happiness, to demanding Hero of Ages immediately, all in about 10 minutes. This is a fairly typical reaction.

In summary, The Well of Ascension, the second book in the Mistborn trilogy, is another triumph for Sanderson, and while it feels slow at times, it has some of my favorite scenes ever, and adds depth to pretty much every character in the series, all the while raising the stakes constantly and building towards a surprising, twisting ending that will leave you demanding the third book as soon as you can get your hands on it. Five of Five stars.

Brandon’s Website.

Goodreads.

Amazon.

Book Review: Mistborn: The Final Empire

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From Goodreads:

In a world where ash falls from the sky, and mist dominates the night, an evil cloaks the land and stifles all life. The future of the empire rests on the shoulders of a troublemaker and his young apprentice. Together, can they fill the world with color once more?

In Brandon Sanderson’s intriguing tale of love, loss, despair and hope, a new kind of magic enters the stage – Allomancy, a magic of the metals.

Note: The complete title of the book is Mistborn: The Final Empire, but TFE is something of a subtitle, and the vast majority call it Mistborn, which is the only title printed on some editions of the book. I follow that convention in this review.

Second Note: I included the Brazillian cover above as well because of the utterly amazing artwork by Marc Simonetti. It’s my favorite cover, though I don’t have a copy of it–yet.

Mistborn was the first Sanderson book I picked up, after hearing that he would be finishing The Wheel of Time, which, at that time, was my favorite fantasy series. I was wondering who this kid was, and if he was really any good at all. Needless to say, this means that I went into Mistborn with very high standards, standards that I was fairly sure wouldn’t be met.

They were.

I don’t think I’ve read a book that has exceeded my expectations by this much since—every new Sanderson I read continues to blow me away, but I already have the highest expectations of those books, and I have decently high expectations of everything else I read too. Perhaps one or two debut novels—The Emperor’s Blades, for instance—have met this mark, but even that is debatable.

But what makes Mistborn so great? Well, what doesn’t?

Sanderson has brought his signature magic system creation to the table, giving us Allomancy, a skill, generally thought to be genetically passed on, which grants the user the ability to ingest and burn certain metals to temporarily gain magical powers. It’s really interesting, as per Sanderson’s second law of magic, because of its limitations: You can only burn as much metal as you have in you, some metals are incredibly rare, and some metals burn much more quickly than others.

Paired with the Allomancy is the world of Scadrial, another brilliant creation. Covered in giant volcanoes (ashmounts), which belch ash into the atmosphere, staining everything with soot and requiring a huge workforce to keep the cities clean, Scadrial is also subject to nightly mists, which cover the entire planet. These mists are the domain of the Allomancers, which gives them—and the book—the name of Mistborn. It’s an incredibly evocative image of a planet, and one that I loved reading about.

And he’s filled the planet with incredibly interesting people. The skaa, the slave class, have been oppressed for centuries, and forbidden from mating with the non-skaa, for fear that Allomantic powers might leak through. But, of course, this restriction hasn’t really worked out all that well for the Lord Ruler, the, uh, ruler of The Final Empire, and there are some among the skaa with magical powers.

But, of course, the world is nothing, the the story is nothing, without interesting characters. And Sanderson has created a cast of them.

There’s Kelsier, a skaa, and yet, somehow, a full Allomancer, with power over all of the metals. He’s survived an incredibly tragic and harsh past, yet he always manages to smile in the face of danger and despair. He wants revenge upon the Lord Ruler, and he is assembling a crew to help him get it. He and his crew are an utterly awesome band with a really cool dynamic—some of my favorite chapters in the book are the planning chapters, where the whole group is in one room, simply talking.

The main character, Vin, is a street urchin skaa who is trying to survive as part of a thieving crew. But when the crew’s latest hit goes awry, she’s in mortal danger—until Kelsier decides to recruit her. Vin’s growth through the story, as she slowly gains the ability to trust others, and her sheer resilience to whatever life throws at her make her an instant favorite, and she is a truly kick-ass heroine.

Elend Venture is the man I would wish to be if I were living on Scadrial. Born to the nobility, he’s not satisfied with the government, and in an empire where such meetings are declared treasonous by the all-power Lord Ruler, he has a close selection of friends who plot ways to better the government—even if it means going against the Lord Ruler’s orders, or overthrowing parts of his system. He also has an incredible love of books, and an utterly disarming attitude that I absolutely love.

The villains, Lord Venture, the Inquisitors, the Lord-Ruler… They are all utterly terrifying, and Sanderson has done them all brilliantly. In a world where GRRM-like books are becoming more and more common, it’s nice to have some villains I can just straight up hate, and some heroes I can cheer for.

Although, as Kelsier says, “There’s always another secret.”

In summary, Mistborn is the brilliant beginning to one of my favorite trilogies of all time, with an utterly unique Sanderson magic system, a dark, ash-covered world, a spunky, yet flawed heroine, and a cool team of thieves who want to pull of the heist of the millennium, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Five of Five stars, and if you’ve not read this book yet, I may have to disown you.

Brandon Sanderson’s Website.

Goodreads.

Amazon.

Favorite Quotes

I posted a while back about first lines. This time, I’m just going to talk about favorite lines/quotes from books. They’re all my favorites for various reasons. Some encompass the entire series quite well, others just ring so pure and true I can’t deny them, regardless of context. Some of them are just so popular that they can’t be ignored. I hope you enjoy, and leave your favorites in the comments. Be warned of mild spoilers for everything. I’ve included the covers for each book before the quote, so you may want to skim past one if you haven’t read the book/series yet.

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There’s two lines from The Hunger Games trilogy that I want to highlight and talk about, though I tried to keep it down to 1 per book/series.

“I volunteer! I volunteer as tribute!”

This is the line where all of us were hooked, I think. There is little as moving or as heroic as sacrificing yourself for someone else, and when Katniss volunteers… Well, Leevy (Effie in the movie, I think) had it right when she spoke up, saying it was the moment when Katniss truly moved her. It’s a powerful moment, and one that kicks off the entire trilogy, in its own way.

It’s also become, well, synonymous for volunteering for things. Last year, in one of my classes, a student asked for volunteers for his presentation, and another student and I, in perfect sync, without any planning (we didn’t even know each-other), said “I volunteer as tribute.” It was awesome. I’ve also heard stories of people putting Prim’s name of cups of coffee, and when her name is called, volunteering instead when they go to get their coffee. It’s become a very widespread quote that most anyone recognizes.

“May the odds be ever in your favor.”

This one is the epitome of what’s wrong with the capitol, why all of the districts hate it, and why they really want to rebel. The citizens of the capitol are so pampered, so removed from the actual games and the horror of it all, so unaware of what really is going on in the districts. It’s also, rightly so, one of the phrases that the citizens of the districts use to mock the capitol citizens and their accents. I think its repeated use throughout the series really drives home the distinctions, the reasons for the rebellion.

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This one is one of two first lines in the post.

I hope you’re reading this, Mark.

This is literally the only time I’ve bought a book based on the first line. It’s just too perfect. (The books themselves were pretty good, though the last one was… Bleh.)

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While I have most of the first book memorized, and there are plenty of amazing quotes about friendship and family and the things that truly matter in life, the one that always stuck with me is…

“You could have gotten us killed, or worse, expelled!”

This quote is just so great. It encompasses Hermione’s character so fully and perfectly, her love of school, her rigidity with the rules… It’s just too funny, and yet so true, that I had to include it. And it gives her a great place to grow from, as she realizes through the series that some rules are meant to be broken, and what friends and school are really worth.

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This one… I don’t know. It’s not an incredibly powerful quote, either in or out of context, with relation to Kvothe’s tale, but it struck me the first time I read it.

“In some ways, this is where the story begins.”

In my book, US paperback, this quote appears on page 125. No, not page 12, or even 25, but page 125. This was the moment when I realized that I had been reading the book for 125 pages straight, and heck, maybe the story really hadn’t begun yet, but I didn’t care. It’s daring of an author to put something like this that far into their book. Some books are half over by this point. But Rothfuss is letting you know he’s just getting started, and that you’re really, truly, in for an epic undertaking, and it will be amazing.

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And speaking of epic, it doesn’t get much more epic than the Wheel of Time. (Though I really do need to read the Malazan series…)

The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age, called the Third Age by some, an Age yet to come, an Age long past, a wind rose in the Mountains of Mist. The wind was not the beginning. There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning.

This quote (with variations on the location of the wind) open every book in the series. It’s a thread that runs throughout, the idea of an ever turning wheel, of things forever repeating themselves, and it is epic. It also fits perfectly with the final lines of the final book, giving a rare and beautiful symmetry to the series that I don’t see very often.

The Princess Bride, William Goldman

I could quote the whole book–or movie–and it wouldn’t be enough. It’s the most quotable thing I’ve ever seen, and I had a hard time just picking one quote. But, well, here we go.

“Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

Yeah, that line. It’s what drives Inigo through the entire movie, offsetting the love story with one of revenge. I’ve always found his story perhaps even more moving, though I’m not sure why. But I love that final duel, the way he doesn’t give up, the way he keeps repeating this one line until he is triumphant. I could go on, but then I would end up quoting (and rewatching) the entire movie, then reading the book, and I have schoolwork to get done…

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This book is the definition and, according to some, the foundation of epic fantasy. I had to include it, and since I couldn’t narrow it down to just one, here’s my two favorite quotes from the book:

“Come, Mr. Frodo! I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you and it as well.”

Anyone who tries to deny that Samwise Gamgee is the true hero of The Lord of the Rings is lying to themselves, and no line shows it better than this one. He’s followed his master to the ends of middle earth, and he knows his master is being consumed by the ring. He knows he’s not coming home. He knows he can’t take the ring for himself. So what does he do? He finds a way to help anyway, to make sure the ring truly is destroyed.

“I am glad that you are here with me. Here at the end of all things, Sam.”

This one falls firmly into the “This. Is. Epic.” category. And after some 900+ pages of epicness, it’s a well earned line. I feel like those who quote it often diminish it–they use it for their own small endeavors, which they’re glad to have finished, but nothing can compare to the epicness of the original journey across middle earth, undertaken by two small, brave hobbits.

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Let’s take a moment for one last funny line before we get into the ones that will kill you.

“Well, when the fear of death seizes you–when the dark thoughts come–you stare the darkness right back, and you tell it, ‘I will not listen to you, for I am infinite Batmans.'”

My first time through this novella, I was listening to the audiobook. This line, and the build-up, where one man is trying to help another confront his mortality and possible impending death, got me perfectly. I literally fell over, laughing, and couldn’t get up for about five minutes. (I’m not joking. I was walking around, listening, while my dinner was cooking, and then this. I fell over and didn’t get up until the food was done. It was just too perfect.)

Mistborn-Trilogy

Warning: This one and the last, especially the explanations, have HUGE spoilers. Read at your own risk. You’re fine for this one if you’ve read through The Hero of Ages, and the last one if you’ve read through A Storm of Swords in Game of Thrones (Or seen the 3rd season of the show.)

I am, unfortunately, the Hero of Ages.

Best use of “unfortunately” ever. This line, which comes from the first epigraph of the third book in the trilogy, but doesn’t make sense until it’s repeat at the end, well… It’s just such a perfect summation of everything, Sazed especially. It’s so perfectly him, and so emotionally powerful… I still can’t read it without tearing up a little bit.

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A Storm of Swords is one of the most amazing books I’ve ever read, and the second half of the book packs more gutpunches than any other I’ve ever read, except maybe Mistborn. And it’s a close competition. There’s too many incredibly powerful moments to list, but I’ll go with…

“Jaime Lannister sends his regards.”

Yeah, I went there. The Red Wedding. The point where probably 80% of the people reading threw their books across the room, and maybe half of them didn’t pick them up again. The point where you really, truly, realize that nobody is safe. Ever. It’s so perfectly executed, and so… Amazingly horrible. I love it.

So, what are your favorites?