What We Didn’t Know: Brandon Sanderson – Mistborn: Secret History

Before you read on, please be very aware that here there be spoilers for the Mistborn Trilogy. Seriously, guys, lots of spoilers that will give away all major plot points of Sanderson’s original trilogy. If you haven’t read at least the first three Mistborn books, you want to save this review for a later time. I’d even recommend reading the first two books in The Stormlight Archive before picking this up. There are no spoilers for that here, but it helps to have a deeper knowledge of the Cosmere. Okay, are you ready? After the break come ALL THE SPOILERS!

MISTBORN: SECRET HISTORY
by Brandon Sanderson

Published: Dragonsteel Entertainment, 2016
Ebook: 160 pages
Series: Mistborn #3.5
My rating: 7/10

Opening line: Kelsier burned the Eleventh Metal.

Mistborn: Secret History is a companion story to the original Mistborn trilogy. As such, it contains HUGE SPOILERS for the books Mistborn (The Final Empire), The Well of Ascension, and The Hero of Ages. It also contains very minor spoilers for the book The Bands of Mourning. Mistborn: Secret History builds upon the characterization, events, and worldbuilding of the original trilogy. Reading it without that background will be a confusing process at best. In short, this isn’t the place to start your journey into Mistborn. (Though if you have read the trilogy—but it has been a while—you should be just fine, so long as you remember the characters and the general plot of the books.) Saying anything more here risks revealing too much. Even knowledge of this story’s existence is, in a way, a spoiler. There’s always another secret.

One of the signs that someone is a good writer is when, years after reading a book I can be told a small detail and suddenly all the memories crash down on my brain, making me feel as vividly about the story as I did when I first read it. Whereas I’ve read many good books whose protagonists I can’t even name a week later, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn Trilogy has definitely stuck with me, and that’s a good thing, too, because about the first half of this novella is reliving what happens in those books. Except from a slightly unexpected perspective…

Kelsier is one stubborn man, you have to give him that. Because after he essentially sacrificed himself in The Final Empire, he went to the place where dead people go. A sort of shadowy parallel realm that lets him see his former surroundings – Luthadel’s streets and even its population – as hazy, misty shapes. Oh, and metals glow brightly but he can’t use or burn them. All around him, other people appear (the victims of the battle) but while they are all quite happy to stay in this strange place for only a few seconds and then move on, Kelsier doesn’t want to give up just yet. After meeting what turns out to be a god, whom he jokingly names Fuzz because he’s … a little frayed at the edges, Kelsier realizes he’s in the Cognitive Realm, an in-between place before moving on to actual death.

All of those things are super spoilery for the Mistborn books, but not for this novella, and nothing Kelsier figures out for the first half of the book is much of a surprise for anyone who’s read their way through the Cosmere books. But I was delighted how this book connects the Mistborn trilogies and the Stormlight Archive and how we actually find out a few more details about the greater Cosmere. It was also surprisingly entertaining to follow Kelsier as he watches along, in the limited capability he has, as Vin’s journey unfolds. I didn’t think a rehash of something I’d read before would be this entertaining! But it turns out Kelsier didn’t just stand idly by (althought there’s really not that much he can do) but at least tries to actively help out the people he cares about who are still among the living.

The part between the ending of The Well of Ascension and and The Hero of Ages were the ones that dragged a bit for me. Sure, Kelsier’s character is as amazing as ever and it’s fun to follow him do his thing and use his con artist skills even in the Cognitive Realm but the plot was just a tad weak for me. What kept my eyes glued to the page nonetheless was the casual mention of Shards and other deities, of things going on behind the curtain not just of the Mistborn books but for the Cosmere in general. I sucked up every tiny bit of information like an overachieving student and I’m sure other Sanderson fans will too.

At the end of the book, everything that we read about in The Hero of Ages happens just the way I remembered. Except now we know that there was more going on than “just” the amazing adventures of Vin, Elend, Sazed, Marsh, and the others. And Sanderson wouldn’t be Sanderson if he didn’t at least have one little surprise moment up his sleeve. It may not have had the same shock value as some of his other twists but it was a great ending to this story. So I guess now I’ll have to read the other Cosmere novellas out there and see what else I’ve missed.

MY RATING: 7/10 – Very good

Brandon Sanderson – The Bands of Mourning

I can’t believe it. I am actually all caught up on a Brandon Sanderson series. Granted, it’s only one of his many book series and I still have a prequel-novella to read but novel-wise, I am up to date. And now I have to wait first for the next book to come out and then for Graphic Audio to adapt it. Ah, the beautiful agony that is waiting for books…

bands-of-mourningTHE BANDS OF MOURNING
by Brandon Sanderson

Published by: Tor, 2016
Hardcover: 447 pages
Series: Mistborn #6
My rating: 7,5/10

First sentence: “Telsin!” Waxillium hissed as he crept out of the training hut.

With The Alloy of Law and Shadows of Self, Brandon Sanderson surprised readers with a New York Times bestselling spinoff of his Mistborn books, set after the action of the trilogy, in a period corresponding to late 19th-century America.
Now, with The Bands of Mourning, Sanderson continues the story. The Bands of Mourning are the mythical metalminds owned by the Lord Ruler, said to grant anyone who wears them the powers that the Lord Ruler had at his command. Hardly anyone thinks they really exist. A kandra researcher has returned to Elendel with images that seem to depict the Bands, as well as writings in a language that no one can read. Waxillium Ladrian is recruited to travel south to the city of New Seran to investigate. Along the way he discovers hints that point to the true goals of his uncle Edwarn and the shadowy organization known as The Set.

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Vin’s story is long over but her victory over the Lord Ruler has left its marks on the world. It also left physical relics, such as the fabled metalminds which the Lord Ruler used to make himself practically immortal. Wax and Wayne get tangled up in another adventure that has them search for these Bands. Marasi, Me-Laan, and even Steris, get to be part of the crew and they pick up some new friends – and enemies – along the way.

As in Shadows of Self, it felt like a number of sub-plots were being juggled, but juggled rather hectically and without as much planning as in the first Mistborn trilogy. Where plot strings beautifully wove together to create a bigger whole at the end, here it feels like every book introduces new side plots, new political factions and character side stories, only to unceremoniously drop some (Wayne’s attempts at redemption, or his obesseion with their weapons supplier, for example). Others feel like they should have been foreshadowed way earlier but were instead thrown in quickly and info-dumpy to prepare for the scenes to come.

But I was pretty forgiving of that because of the sheer creativity that is coming from this author. After having explored this world and magic system for five books (of not inconsiderable size) I loved how Sanderson still manages to find a new way (or several, really) to use this type of metal magic. There is very little I can say without spoiling but if you’ve come this far in the series you already know that there’s always another secret.

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This book also took me on quite an emotional joy-ride. Not only was there a lot going on and it was a thrill to follow the characters as they solve problems each in their own way – I will never forget Spoiled Tomato – but I have also come to love all of them for being who they are. Marasi has grown into herself and trusts as much in her instincts as in statistical data, Wayne is slightly more serious, although you still mustn’t take away his hat. Ever! And Wax, who has been through so much, is put through hell once more. The biggest surprise was Steris, in her cold mathematical manner, who showed kindness and courage and creativity in the face of danger. So yeah, I love that gang!

One more aspect took me by surprise, in a very positive way. I had only read one romance penned by Sanderson and while I liked it, many people found it silly. Here, however, we find romance in an unlikely place and I was quite surprised at how much I rooted for this particular couple to work things out. It also shows a deft hand at writing character – Sanderson may have shown us certain aspects of these characters in the previous books, but that doesn’t mean we truly know them. In The Bands of Mourning, almost all of them got to show a different side of themselves and it was great fun to discover how amazing this group truly is.

The very end, of course, dangles a new bit of information in front of our noses, only to end in a cliffhanger. The main story of The Bands of Mourning may be resolved, but Wax’s tale is not over yet, and in the big picture, we have only seen the slightest glimpse of what the Cosmere has to offer.

MY RATING: 7,5/10 – Very good!

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Here are my opinions on all the previous books in the series:

 

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Brandon Sanderson – Shadows of Self

Aaaaand Mistborn continues to be great, although there is a clear departure from the light-hearted The Alloy of Law to this new story arc. While Alloy was just a bit of fun and can technically be read without any prior knowledge of the other Mistborn books, Shadows of Self is set deeply in the world that we first came to know through Vin’s eyes. The tone also shifts and is more serious again as Sanderson delivers one of his most heartbreaking twists yet.

shadows of selfSHADOWS OF SELF
by Brandon Sanderson

Published by: Tor, 2015
Ebook: 384 pages
Series: Mistborn #5
My rating: 7,5/10

First sentence: Waxillium Ladrian, lawman for hire, swung off his horse and turned to face the saloon.

With The Alloy of Law, Brandon Sanderson surprised readers with a New York Times bestselling spinoff of his Mistborn books, set after the action of the trilogy, in a period corresponding to late 19th-century America.
The trilogy’s heroes are now figures of myth and legend, even objects of religious veneration. They are succeeded by wonderful new characters, chief among them Waxillium Ladrian, known as Wax, hereditary Lord of House Ladrian but also, until recently, a lawman in the ungoverned frontier region known as the Roughs. There he worked with his eccentric but effective buddy, Wayne. They are “twinborn,” meaning they are able to use both Allomantic and Feruchemical magic.
Shadows of Self shows Mistborn’s society evolving as technology and magic mix, the economy grows, democracy contends with corruption, and religion becomes a growing cultural force, with four faiths competing for converts.
This bustling, optimistic, but still shaky society now faces its first instance of terrorism, crimes intended to stir up labor strife and religious conflict. Wax and Wayne, assisted by the lovely, brilliant Marasi, must unravel the conspiracy before civil strife stops Scadrial’s progress in its tracks.
Shadows of Self will give fans of The Alloy of Law everything they’ve been hoping for and, this being a Brandon Sanderson book, more, much more.

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Wax and Wayne are irrisistible (especially Wayne). And they’ve got another case on their hands, but this time, they don’t work nearly as alone as they did last time. Marasi has become a constable and helps them wherever she can, although her personal relationship with Wax seems strained, compared to their easy banter from the first book. Which is only natural, considering that Wax is coming more and more to terms with marrying Steris, Marasi’s cousin.

One surprise of this new series was that characters turn out not to be as one-dimensional as they seem at first. Steris in particular turned out to be more than what she likes to show in public. But in Shadows of Self, Wayne also gets to show a side of him that doesn’t fit with his cocky, fun, light-hearted side. It made him an even better character to know that – like anyone else – he has darkness in his past and he can’t just shake it off.

But the most tortured soul in Shadows of Self is definitely Wax. His past confronts him in several ways, but especially the loss of his wife in the Roughs haunts him with every move he makes. It was also Wax who was hit hardest by the ending. I cried big tears for him, that’s all I’m saying. And I am very curious to see how these new developments impact his character development in the rest of the series.

Plot-wise, this was a bit of a mess. Sanderson tries to juggle many, many plot-strings at once. There is the one started in The Alloy of Law with Wax’s uncle conspiring for his own ends, there are the terrorist attacks that Wax, Wayne, and Marasi are trying to figure out, the kandra make a new appearance and wrap up a whole of lot of history since last we saw them. There are labor strikes and unrests, there are politics and police procedures, several religions trying to gain the upper hand… you see what I mean when I say it was a bit too much for one book, especially one comparatively short for Sanderson. I commend him for making the best of every scene, getting out the most of each line, having his text do world-building as well as advancing the plot at the same time. But as a reader, it still felt a bit overwhelming, not knowing which aspect to concentrate on.

I think that piece of legwork was simply needed to give the next book in the series room to breathe. A lot of things have been established here that can be used later without re-explaining them. I appreciated that – despite the abundance of themes – there was still time for character growth and development. The introduction of MeLaan promises a lot of fun for future books, and meeting old (very old!) friends again gave me some readerly joy, even if it was bittersweet.

Although things are resolved at the end of Shadows of Self, this was one of the most devastating endings Sanderson has ever written (at least of the ones I’ve read). It’s a perfect balance between telling a story with a satisfying ending but leaving enough questions open for the next book. He’s always been good at that but this time, it’s the emotional plot strings that are left frayed and I worry for Wax as a person more than for the larger world and its fate. Well… I guess there’s no way around it – I’ll just have to pick up the next book and find out what else lies in store.

MY RATING: 7,5/10 – Very good

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If you haven’t read the the Mistborn Series at all, here are my thoughts on the other books.

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Brandon Sanderson – The Alloy of Law

I have made no secret of my love for Graphic Audio and the way they do audiobooks. With a full cast of actors, fantastic narrators, sound effects and music, it’s my favorite way of listening to a story. It took me a while to get over Vin’s story in the Mistborn universe but now I am ready to read the next chapter set in that big sprawling world of allomancers.

alloy of lawTHE ALLOY OF LAW
by Brandon Sanderson

Published by: Tor, 2011
Ebook: 332 pages
Audiobook: ~ 8 hours
Series: Misborn #4, Alloy Era #1
My rating: 7,5/10

First sentence: Wax crept along the ragged fence in a crouch, his boots scraping the dry ground.

Centuries after the Mistborn trilogy, Scadrial is on the verge of modernity – railroads, electric street lights, and skyscrapers. Waxillium Ladrian can Push on metals with his Allomancy and use Feruchemy to become lighter or heavier at will. After 20 years in the dusty Roughs, in the city of Elendel, the new head of a noble house may need to keep his guns.

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It was hard for me to accept a story set 300 years after Vin’s tale and my mind buckled a bit when Waxilium Ladrian used his allomancy in combination with guns. But I quickly fell into this new version of the Mistborn universe and I really enjoy the different vibe of this story. Other than the epic scope and Dramatic And Important Tale of the first Mistborn trilogy, this is a much lighter, more fun read that makes the pages fly even faster.

Wax is a twinborn, somebody who can use both allomancy and feruchemy, and he has just returned from the Roughs to the city of Elendel to take over his dead uncle’s estate and keep the family name going. This premise already set off an explosion in my head because of course everything hails back to Vin and Elend’s story and there are tons and tons of references to the first Mistborn trilogy. Some are in plain sight, such as city names, others are woven into the world building. A religion may be based on real events (but twisted, of course, as history handed down the story and invariably changed it in the retelling), or swear words based on actual people. Sanderson is a smart man so he doesn’t give a lot away but just enough to get me to bite and break my brain trying to fit everything into its place. I really enjoy that sort of thing.

alloy of law GABut of course, a new era of allomancers means new characters and this was what worried me. Unnecessarily, as it turns out. Wax and Wayne, the cheeky but adorable friend, took my heart by storm. Marasi turned out to be great although she blushed a bit too much for my taste. Although she doesn’t appear for long in this book, I also really liked the gun specialist Ranette. Another female character, Steris, was a completely over the top heartless, practical, stoic woman whom we’re not supposed to like but who showed some real emotion towards the end. I was actually impressed and hope that she gets to develop more in future books.

The plot is fast-paced and fun. Wax, Wayne, and Marasi are investigating the Vanishers, a group of criminals who rob train cars, but so quickly nobody understands how they do it. They also kidnap women and nobody knows why. Being a former lawkeeper, Wax can’t help but stick his nose into the case and he and Wayne banter their way to the truth. Dialogue, especially funny dialogue, is something that Sanderson didn’t have down all that well, at least to my taste. But Wayne – who is definitely the heart of all that’s fun in this book – bantered his way merrily through the entire book. He cleverly cons people using his allomantic powers and it’s just pure fun to watch.

Speaking of allomantic powers – allomancy leveled up! I was surprised at how many things stuck in my brain from the first Mistborn trilogy, like which metal gave you which power and so on. Now there’s a complete new set of rules to learn, but unlike Kelsier’s lessons to Vin, there are no chapters dedicated to explaining allomancy and feruchemy, or how they can be combined. It’s all kind of clear from context, at least the abilities of the protagonists and the villain. I especially love that there is now a power that can manipulate time. This opens so many doors to cool places I can’t wait to continue reading this series.

The writing was Sanderson lite. At less than 400 pages, this is a short book, but it is right just the way it is. The lower page count doesn’t give Sanderson enough time to dive into his new world endlessly but gives us just a big enough taste to keep us wanting more. The plot happens quickly but doesn’t feel rushed, the characters get enough time for development to make them sympathetic but there’s room for more. And there was even enough time for a few surprises about which I can say nothing because spoilers in Sanderson books are really, really huge things.

All things considered, this was a Hollywood movie in book form with guns and action, witty banter, great new superpowers and a well-known setting in new clothing. I am hooked!

MY RATING: 7,5/10 – Very good!

About the Graphic Audio version:

Graphic Audio did a perfect job of keeping the Mistborn universe alive. They use the Mistborn theme to set the tone, the narrator is the same one who told us Vin’s story, but the character actors are (mostly) new. Of course, certain actors from the first trilogy play new characters here, but they changed their voices and accents in such a way that I didn’t find it distracting at all. When allomancy is used, the same tingling sound effect is used that I heard so many times when Vin was learning how to push and pull metals. It’s the perfect combination of old and new.

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Second opinions:

 

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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

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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

Brandon Sanderson – Mistborn

There is only so long you can go on being a fantasy book fan without reading Brandon Sanderson. I got the Mistborn box set for Christmas a few years ago and have been guiltily staring at it since then. When, a few weeks ago, I started watching Brandon’s lectures on writing, I reached the point where I couldn’t wait any longer to read his books. Recommended by masses of people as “that guy with the cool magic systems”, I have always been intrigued. Yet it is hard to live up to a hype this massive. Well, what can I say, the book did live up to it and Mr. Sanderson has one more fan.

mistbornMISTBORN: THE FINAL EMPIRE
by Brandon Sanderson

Published by: Tor, 2006
ISBN: 0765350386
Paperback: 657 pages
Series: Mistborn #1

My rating: 8/10

First sentence: Sometimes, I worry that I’m not the hero everyone thinks I am.

Once, a hero arose to save the world. A young man with a mysterious heritage courageously challenged the darkness that strangled the land.
He failed.
For a thousand years since, the world has been a wasteland of ash and mist ruled by the immortal emperor known as the Lord Ruler. Every revolt has failed miserably. Yet somehow, hope survives. Hope that dares to dream of ending the empire and even the Lord Ruler himself. A new kind of uprising is being planned, one built around the ultimate caper, one that depends on the cunning of a brilliant criminal mastermind and the determination of an unlikely heroine, a street urchin who must learn to master Allomancy, the power of a Mistborn.

dividerWhat a book! Based on the premise that, a thousand years ago, that generic fantasy hero failed to save the world and the bad guy won and is now ruling as an immortal over the entire empire, the book had its hooks in me before I even started. Because that is a cool premise, you have to admit it. In the beginning, I found myself analysing Sanderson’s writing to see how he implemented all his tips and writing advice. But soon there came the point when I could no longer concentrate on his craft and was just so deep in the story that I just needed to get to the next page. There is so much going on and I came to really love the characters and needed to know that they would make it, that they could pull off their heist and overthrow the empire.

But let’s start at the beginning. It took me a while to warm to Vin, the protagonist. She seemed overly passive to me in the beginning, and although that passivity (and silence) is explained and makes sense, my interest rested firmly with Kelsier. I like my heroes a bit cocky and full of themselves. As the story progresses, Vin’s character becomes more dominant and her development more interesting. At a certain point, I didn’t know what my favorite bit was anymore. The characters, the mystery – There is always another secret – or the fantastic action scenes with ninja-like fights in the mist.

Which leads me to an important aspect – we have to talk about the magic system. At first, it seemed merely interesting. Allomancy, metabolizing metals in the human body to manipulate other people’s emotions, that’s a cool idea. But there is a moment early on in the book where Allomancy is used an a way that put a huge smile on my face and made me shout “This is AWESOME!”. It evoked the same kind of excitement in me that I felt when I first watched a Spiderman cartoon on TV as a child. It’s not an easy magic, it has its costs, and it needs to be practiced to be mastered. But when I read about Kelsier basically flying through the city of Luthadel (it is not actual flying), I was giddy with glee. And the magic enhanced any fight scene and turned it into a frenzy of awesome. It goes to show how good a writer Sanderson really is that these scenes played out in my head as a movie would – I hope that movie will be made.

mistborn trilogy

There were things I disliked. I would have loved more description of the world Vin lives in. Not just the politics or the history – I am sure the author held back on those for a reason and I’m fine with that – but just plain description of the surroundings. It takes a long time for the author to establish certain truths about this world that changed my imagination of the setting in retrospect. I don’t like having to do that. We know from the very start that ash falls from the sky, we get some of the architecture but often I had no sense at all of what things looked like. I realise that the book is large enough as it is and descriptions aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. It’s a very minor point and didn’t really diminish my reading pleasure.

The quote you find over and over in the book – There is always another secret – sums up this story pretty well. Everything has another layer that you didn’t expect, the ending offers a few nice surprises and show off Sanderson’s talent for building up suspense even more. I was completely satisfied with the ending, but only because I knew there were more books to come. If this had been a standalone novel, I would have been disappointed. The main story gets wrapped up nicely although it doesn’t end happy for everyone. It also did something that a great first part of a series should do – it made me want to go back immediately and read the next book. Which is why you’ll be seeing a review of The Well of Ascension here very soon.

THE GOOD: Great characters, a brilliant magic system and a world full of mystery and riddles and suspense.
THE BAD: Slowish build-up and too little description of surroundings for my taste.
THE VERDICT: Brandon Sanderson deserves every bit of the hype that surrounds him. He knows how to write a gripping story that will make you go “just one more chapter, then I’ll go sleep” until it’s morning. Impossible to put down.

MY RATING: 8/10 – Excellent

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The Mistborn Series:

  1. Mistborn: The Final Empiremistborn trilogy ppb
  2. The Well of Ascension
  3. The Hero of Ages
  4. The Alloy of Law