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