Brandon Sanderson – The Hero of Ages

Holy shit, I get it now. I understand why legions of fans put their trust into Brandon Sanderson’s capable hands for (literally) thousands of pages. They know it will pay off. I keep hearing the Mistborn series is a good starting point, although not Sanderson’s best stuff. I can’t judge that yet but I do know that I loved where this series went. Book one was fun while it lasted but didn’t stick with me. Book two blew me away, and book three just continued the awesome ride. SPOILERS FOR THE FINAL EMPIRE AND THE WELL OF ASCENSION AHEAD!!

hero of agesTHE HERO OF AGES
by Brandon Sanderson

Published by: Tor, 2008
Paperback: 724 pages
Audiobook: 27,5 hours
Series: Mistborn #3
My rating: 8/10

First sentence: Marsh struggled to kill himself.

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.

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Yet again, Brandon Sandersons changes his game. In this last part of the (first) Mistborn Trilogy, we return to a well established world with not just one magic system, but three. Allomancy may have been the first book’s Big Thing, but we’ve always known about Feruchemy although it didn’t get to shine until The Well of Ascension. Here comes Hemalurgy, the third and most disturbing aspect of this world’s metal magic.

One should think that – after the huge, world-shaking revelations of books one and two – there aren’t too many secrets left to explore. But trust Sanderson to keep some aces up his sleeve at all times. In general, the stakes for the final epic battle are clear, but there seems to be no solution. The world is ending quite literally. What makes this book differ from the other two is the constant sense of dread and helplessness. It pervades each chapter, influences the characters and shows just how different they are in how they approach the apocalypse. Some stand up and fight and plan to do so until the very last moment, others lose hope. All of them are relatable.

Apart from the atmosphere, there were a few key aspects that I really enjoyed in this last part. Obviously, my overall opinion was decided by the ending, but more on that later. Returning to Marsh was one of my personal high points in this novel. I had always rather liked him, although he’s never been center stage. Watching his struggle did a number of interesting things. It was a chance for Sanderson to show off his skill with characterization as well as showing just how powerful the antagonist really is. If there weren’t enough fear and depression in this book already, the Marsh chapters would have taken them to eleven.

Another aspect I enjoyed (to my own surprise) was watching how religions are formed. Ever since Kelsier’s sacrifice in The Final Empire, things have been building up and by now we’ve got a fully formed religion. I love how we were in on it, behind the scenes, right from the start. We know Kelsier isn’t a god, we know he didn’t survive his death. But we also see how people gain hope and strength from their belief. Despite being an atheist myself, I can’t deny the power of belief and I loved how Sanderson (religous himself, as far as I know) shows this power without judging. Different characters have varying opinions about The Survivor and the zealots, so we get to see various points of view on the subject.

Hero of Ages

art by Sam Weber

Sazed, a man who has made it his life’s work to learn about and collect all religions, remains my favorite character of them all. But I must admit I have grown ever more fond of Elend and Vin, especially as a couple. I don’t like them so much because of their romance (they aren’t exactly the cheesy kind) but because of how well the work together. Be it politics, fighting, strategy, or constantly saving each other – they make a phenomenal team.

I’ll insert a small note on the Graphic Audio edition here. In the two previous books, the little tidbits at the beginning of each chapter were read by Vin, as if she was reading the documents out loud to the listener. In this book, Spook narrates the chapter intros. I thought this particularly clever, although I can’t go into details about the reasons. It was diversion and confusion done to perfection, making me question my own assumptions about who the Hero of Ages is. Sometimes the most obvious answer is the right one. But then again, sometimes it’s not…

Now, the ending. I have heard very different opinions about how it all played out but by that time, I was so emotionally invested that it’s difficult to find much fault with it. Sometimes, I need fiction to break my heart. Sometimes, there can’t be a perfectly happy ending. I have never been able to guess the big reveal so far, but in The Hero of Ages, things come together so beautifully, seeds that had been planted in the very first book suddenly make sense, puzzle pieces fall into place. I am proud to announce that I managed to guess one tiny bit a few chapters before they were made official. But – and this is a sign of quality – this book isn’t really all that much about the ending. It’s about the journey there, about the characters and their growth, about failing again and again but still standing up to fight at the end. I get glossy eyes just thinking about it.

I don’t think I’m quite ready for The Stormlight Archive yet (although I’ve read half of the first book) but I completely trust Sanderson when it comes to the Mistborn universe. With two new titles announced just a little while ago, I believe I’m ready to dive into The Alloy of Law pretty soon.

MY RATING: 8/10 – Excellent

divider1The Mistborn Series

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