Brandon Sanderson – The Well of Ascension

It’s been quiet around here lately (again). First, I was fighting a huge book hangover induced by a certain man named Brandon Sanderson. Then the Hugo shortlist was announced. I’ll just leave that standing here. But I haven’t stopped reading and I’m back with a few reviews.

I said I wouldn’t wait long to continue the Mistborn series right after I read the first book. That was a lie. A very long ago lie. But a few weeks ago, I got in the mood for some Sanderson and didn’t remember enough of part one, so a re-read was in order. Because I’m lazy and love audiobooks, I went and bought the Graphic Audio version of The Final Empire. Whoa – let me tell you, these Graphic Audio adaptations are something else! My poor paperback trilogy is sitting there sadly because I then bought parts two and three in the series on audiobook as well… (SPOILERS FOR BOOK ONE AHEAD, obviously!)

well of ascensionTHE WELL OF ASCENSION
by Brandon Sanderson

Published by: Tor, 2007
Paperback: 796 pages
Audiobook: 22 hours
Series: Mistborn #2
My rating: 8,5/10

First sentence: I write these words in steel, for anything not set in metal cannot be trusted.

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.

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My re-read of Misborn: The Final Empire isn’t really worth a new review (as the plot hasn’t changed) but I absolutely need to mention the Graphic Audio adaptation. I have always been a fan of audiobooks – in fact, I grew up with fairy tales on cassette tape – but a full cast and narration and music and sound effects AND it’s all unabridged? That’s like a childhood dream come true. And it works. The actors are fantastic, the voices distinct, the action scenes thrillingly told with fitting music in the background. It’s ridiculous how quickly I got through the long first audiobook. And the second and third didn’t take much longer, although they are each over 20 hours long…

Now I should mention, these Graphic Audio thingies don’t exactly come cheap. But 42$ is also not that much more expensive than some regular audiobooks. If it were for me, I’d never listen to books any other way again. Consider also that my review is heavily colored by my love for the medium. I’m certain the slower parts of the book are much more difficult to get thorugh without the lovely music and sound effects.

well of ascension graphic audio

Vin and Elend are back – or rather, they never left. The Lord Ruler has been killed, the Final Empire overthrown. So where do they go from here? Elend does what his book learning has taught him to do and tries to navigate politics and keep his people alive and out of a war. With his father’s army outside of the city, that’s not an easy task. Vin, on the other hand, has taken on the role of bodyguard but she can’t shake the Lord Ruler’s last words. She suspects that the terrors are not over yet, that they simply may come from a different, unexpected source.

There’s always another secret. This still holds up and I caught myself, yet again, trying to put the puzzle pieces together and figure out the truth. But Sanderson is a careful author, one who foreshadows but never so obviously that the revelation feels cheap. There are still some unsolved mysteries from the first book but, being ambitious as well as crafty, Sanderson adds a few new secrets into the mix to keep readers like me on their toes.

What I loved most is how Sanderson developed as a writer. I know I am way behind on his career but I did feel that Mistborn: The Final Empire was too constructed, too obvious in what it wanted to do in every chapter. In The Well of Ascension, it became less obvious and I had the chance to just go with it. I absolutely fell in love with Sazed, I found myself actually caring about OreSeur and I was as undecided as Vin when it came to certain aspects of her future, romantic and otherwise. While the first book was highly plot and idea-driven, this one got me right in the guts. Not only is there a beautiful story arc involving the siege of Luthadel, there are numerous side plots – all of which will be important in the future, I’m sure.

art by Sam Weber

Vin’s relationship with Elend went past the first butterflies-in-stomach stage and into something more serious and steady, more adult. We must not forget that these two are still very, very young. So it is only natural that when Vin meets another Mistborn, she questions her place in the world. But I cared as much, if not more, about her developing relationship with OreSeur. They bicker and dislike each other but are stuck together by necessity. How this initial disgust turns into a tender friendship is just beautiful and I must credit the actors once more on a job brilliantly done.

Sazed came as a surprise. He has quickly turned into my favorite character of them all. He is not the only one going on an emotional journey – Spook, Breeze, and the others do too – but he was the one I most feared for, the one whose pain hurt me the most. You guys know I am a character-reader so no matter how breath-taking the reveal at the end may be, if the characters aren’t good I won’t love the book. But here it all came together so damn well. Vin is far from the person she was when Kelsier picked her up, Elend had to lose some of his idealism, Sazed is a changed man, even Breeze had to learn hard truths about himself.

But there’s always another secret. At first, the little intro texts to every chapter left me disappointed. I thought Sanderson was going to use the same trick he did in the first book. Feeding us tidbits of a text that will later turn up in the story and help the characters solve everything. But apparently, Sanderson agrees with me in that this would be… well, lame. The text in question turns up early in the plot and is known to the characters – so worry not. This is not a repeat of The Final Empire. And yet again, my suspicions and guesses were completely wrong. Just how I like it!

In retrospect, it is easy to see all the little seeds the author has planted but when I read it first, I had absolutely no clue what was going on. And the hints were THERE ALL ALONG and I thought I was being so careful. Not only did I fail to guess this book’s big revelation, I also got completely strung along on a side-plot which lead to a lot of gasping on my part when the truth came to light. Having now finished the trilogy, I can even appreciate the bits mentioned here and there that may not be vital to the plot of The Well of Ascension but that are important to the overall story.

I can now also say that this middle volume was my favorite in the trilogy. It balancec characters, plot, relationships, action, myth and allomancy beautifully, without ever losing pace. The stakes have only grown higher, the characters are much dearer to me than they were before, and allomancy still has a few tricks up its sleeve. I wholeheartedly recommend this book, although I must caution you to have The Hero of Ages handy – after this ending, you won’t be able to wait for the grand finale.

MY RATING: 8,5/10  – Excellent

divider1The Mistborn Series

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