High Fantasy

Review: The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson

Cover of "The Well of Ascension," featuring a short-haired girl in a gray skirt attacking what appears to be white, fleshy monsters
Image from Brandon Sanderson

Title: The Well of Ascension (Mistborn #2)

Author: Brandon Sanderson

Genre: High Fantasy

Warning: This book is second in a series, so this review probably has spoilers of book one. If you haven’t read Mistborn, proceed with caution.

Back cover:

Evil has been defeated. The war has just begun.

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 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.

Review:

After how awesome Mistborn was, even as a reread, I jumped at this book (minus a small break to read Waistcoats and Weaponry). I barely bothered to read the back cover, I was so excited to get started.

I will confess, though, it took me a little bit to get into it. Mistborn wrapped up so well that there really were no open ends to explore in a beginning, and it almost felt like starting a brand-new book, plot-wise – it was 95% set-up. But it wasn’t long until I got absorbed again.

Almost all of the characters in The Well of Ascension were the same as Mistborn, but had different roles. Kelsier’s team has much smaller roles; Elend was a main character (and got a freaking lot of development, which I loved). Zane, Straff Venture’s Mistborn, was an insane (literally) but interesting addition to the cast. And kandra OreSeur had a much more prominent role, which made things interesting.

This book was a lot more character-centric than I expected. Half of the plot was the characters’ emotional response to problems. And because the characters felt real and human and full of confusing and contradicting feelings, it was awesome. It would probably be less awesome if you don’t like the characters, but I loved them, so no issue there.

All these characters were freaking smart. That’s most of what made the plot so gripping. The obvious answer is never the answer because the characters are too smart for that. Everything was hidden under two or more layers of deception. They were smarter than me, actually – I could never guess the right answer.

There is a lot of politics in this book. Elend and company are trying to create a whole new government – a semblance of a constitutional monarchy after a thousand years of dictatorship. Normally I don’t like politics, but I was actually kind of interested in these. Part of that was there was so much other stuff intertwined with it that it didn’t feel much like politics, and part of that was I loved the characters.

The two main parts of this plot are politics and emotions. It was fascinating watching idealistic Elend try to put together his dream government with former slaves and position-less nobles, and deal with it when it didn’t work the way he hoped. And then there was Vin. She had a lot of stuff to deal with, from her and the man she loves being (she thinks irreconcilably) different to her main skill being killing things. It had the potential to get boring and overdone, but since there were so many things, it didn’t for me.

I don’t want to say too much because 1, I don’t want to spoil it, and 2, there’s no possible way I could cover all the brilliant little details. So I guess I’ll just say the plot (once it got started) was the kind of plot that makes you want to devour a 600+ page book in a day.

Again, the Mistborn world is AMAZING. And in this book, we get to learn a lot more about this world. And not just the “so this is how that works” stuff – it was mostly mind-blown, “holy crap I did not see that coming” stuff. Even the characters got surprised by a lot of the stuff. Brandon Sanderson is great at writing a lot of things, but world-building has to be his best.

It’s really hard to discuss the individual elements of this book because everything is intertwined. Characters influence plot, world influences politics, and everything has an effect on everything else. But even though that makes it hard for me to review, I love it – because those kinds of books are the best ones, the ones that feel real.

My final verdict in three words: NEED BOOK THREE! Not only was The Well of Ascension fabulous (I might even go as far as to say better than Mistborn), it ended on a cliffhanger. So I definitely need to get my hands on The Hero of Ages ASAP.

The Mistborn series:

  1. Mistborn (sometimes subtitled “The Final Empire”)
  2. The Well of Ascension
  3. The Hero of Ages

The Wax and Wayne Mistborn series:
(a companion series with Mistborn magic in the early 1900s)

  1. The Alloy of Law
  2. Shadows of Self (October 6, 2015)
  3. The Bands of Mourning (January 2016)
  4. The Lost Metal (tentative title)

High Fantasy

Review: Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson

MISTBORN by Brandon Sanderson, reviewed at JalynEly.com
Image from Delicious Reads

Title: Mistborn (Mistborn #1)

Author: Brandon Sanderson

Genre: High Fantasy

Back cover:

For a thousand years, the world has been a wasteland of ash and mist ruled by the immortal Lord Ruler.  Every revolt against his cruel reign has failed.  But hope survives – and he bears the scars of the inescapable Pits.  A new kind of uprising being planned, this one built abound the ultimate caper, one that depends on the cunning of a brilliant criminal mastermind…and the determination of a street urchin who must learn to harness the power of a Mistborn.

Review:

I read Mistborn three years ago, and my final verdict was “it’s a really good book, but I’m not interested in sequels.” But Brandon Sanderson is my boyfriend’s favorite author and Mistborn is his favorite series, so he’s been “encouraging” me to finish the series for as long as we’ve been dating. And since I found myself with a lot of spare time to read during a family road trip, I figured I might as well reread the whole series.

Vin is skaa (basically peasant/slave), using her supernatural Luck to survive as part of a thief band in the brutal slums of Luthadel. She grew up with the promise that everyone would abandon her eventually, and spent her life perfecting the art of being unnoticeable. So when the story starts, she’s independent, smart, courageous, and very distrustful. Her character development is great, though, and as she slowly makes friends, she slowly becomes a better and better character to read about.

Kelsier, survivor of the Pits and orchestrater of rebellions, was awesome. Mainly because he was nuts. Sometimes he made me laugh from the sheer insanity of his audacious stunts. But his devil-may-care attitude contrasted with his intense devotion to the people he cared about, and his careless audacity hides a sad past. He is quite possibly my favorite fantasy character ever.

This review is going to be really long anyway, so I’m not going to mention any other characters. But all of them were great. Even the ones that seemed minor turned out to be important in some way. And they all have unique and different personalities.

As far as plot goes, it actually had a classic “hero’s journey” plot. To shamelessly paraphrase a fabulous Goodreads review:

[Kid with weird name] is only a [unimportant social standing], but suddenly discovers they [have weird and/or cool power or calling]. They are the only one who can [epic world-changing quest]. Luckily, even though they are totally new at this, they quickly become better than anyone else at [weird power or skill].

That’s not to say the plot wasn’t good, though. There’s a reason that plot is a classic – it works! Especially with Sanderson writing it. Watching Vin go from skaa thief to Mistborn and join Kelsier’s quest to overthrow the Lord Ruler was quite enjoyable (especially with Kelsier’s crazy antics), and I enjoyed watching Vin learn and grow. But quite honestly, the main reason this (I hate to say it, but somewhat uncreative) plot works is because of three things: Kelsier’s practically insane plans, the world, and the magic.

(Side note: The first time I read Mistborn, I complained that Vin spent too much time going to balls. I had no such complaints this time around – I thought it was a good balance. Although that could be because the balls were where the faint hint of romance happened, and I’ve become much more accepting of romance subplots as I’ve gotten older.)

The magic and world were FANTASTIC. Admittedly, I’ve only read five of Sanderson’s many works, but he is awesome at creating magic systems and building worlds. The whole world in this story, from the glittering balls of the nobility to the filthy slums to a landscape so bleak the idea of green plants seems strange, is brilliantly imagined and vividly described without including a lot of description. And the magic of Allomancy – metals-based and full of limitations, with powers ranging from amazing to almost useless-seeming – is amazingly original. If it sounds like I’m being vague, I am, because watching all the pieces fall into place for the first time is so much fun.

I actually liked this book more the second time around. The awesome magic and world were incredibly detailed, which I loved, but with something as unique as Mistborn, it’s easy to get lost. Even by the time I finished it the first time, I had a hard time keeping things straight. Rereading it three years later actually made it better, because I had forgotten enough that it was fun to discover again, but I remembered enough that I wasn’t totally lost and I could pick up on the nuances I missed the first time.

One thing I feel is important to mention – this is an adult book, but it’s not an adult book. It’s remarkably clean for adult high fantasy and even the word choices read more like young adult. (Plus Vin is only 16, so that certainly gives it a more YA feel.)

Mistborn was good the first time, but it was even better as a reread, mostly because I understood all the wonderful complexities better. This time, I actually am interested in reading the rest of the series – and not just because my boyfriend says I should. I would love to spend another book with these characters (but mostly that world…).

The Mistborn series:

  1. Mistborn (sometimes subtitled “The Final Empire”)
  2. The Well of Ascension
  3. The Hero of Ages

The Wax and Wayne Mistborn series:
(a companion series with Mistborn magic in the early 1900s)

  1. The Alloy of Law
  2. Shadows of Self (October 6, 2015)
  3. The Bands of Mourning (January 2016)
  4. The Lost Metal (tentative title)
Adult, Fantasy, Fiction

Mistborn

Mistborn book cover
Image from Steve Betz

Title:  Mistborn (Mistborn #1)

Author:  Brandon Sanderson

Genre:  Fantasy

For a thousand years, the world has been a wasteland of ash and mist ruled by the immortal Lord Ruler.  Every revolt against his cruel reign has failed.  But hope survives – and he bears the scars of the inescapable Pits.  A new kind of uprising being planned, this one built abound the ultimate caper, one that depends on the cunning of a brilliant criminal mastermind…and the determination of a street urchin who must learn to harness the power of a Mistborn.

This is an adult book, and I don’t really like adult books.  This is a high fantasy book, and I’m not a big fan of high fantasy.  Really, the only reason I picked this up was because of the author’s name.  I’d read Brandon Sanderson’s Alcatraz books (a YA series that I absolutely loved), so I decided I’d give one of his adult books a chance.

And I’m completely glad I did.

Vin I immediately liked.  She had trust issues, but I could see why.  And I was immensely happy that she decided to join with Kelsier.  It was fun watching the gifted thief girl attempt to play noblewoman.  She was smart, strong, brave, distrustful, and later, very dangerous.  She was also headstrong and stubborn.  I feel like I’ll give too much away if I say everything I liked about her, so I’ll just say she was exactly the type of heroine I like to read about.

Quick side note – Allomancy (the system of magic) is explained in the book by teaching Vin about it, so it felt like learning along side her.

Kelsier ties with Vin for my favorite character.  He had a dark (and, at the risk of sounding trite, tragic) past, but he was still optimistic.  He was also headstrong and impulsive, which is probably why he and Vin kept butting heads.  I haven’t yet come to a conclusion about rather he really was insane or not – but if he wasn’t, he was walking the edge quite a bit.  That wasn’t a bad thing, though; it added an element of unpredictable danger and excitement to the plot.  (And, I have to admit, what he did at the end is one of the reasons I’m not real interested in reading the rest of the books in the series.)

This book was really long (at least compared to most YA books), but it needed to be long to hold all the plot.  Armies, assassination plots, rebellions, oppressed people, bad magical guys keeping everyone in fear…The “original plan” at the beginning of the book changed so much that I don’t even remember what it was.  The twisting plot certainly kept me on my toes.

One thing I did wish, though, about the plot is that Vin had spent more time doing dangerous stuff and less time going to balls.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed most of the ball scenes, and they were relevant to the plot, but I wish there had either been less of them or more of other stuff.

One last thing I have to praise before I wrap this up is the system of magic.  It was brilliantly complicated – enough so that at first, I had no idea what was going on, and even at the end, I had a hard time keeping some things straight.  One main thing I liked best about this system of magic was that it had certain clear-cut limitations – large limitations, in some cases.  And the magic actually made some sort of scientific sense.  It followed logic and rules, and it could be defeated.

There are three more books in the series – The Well of Ascension, The Hero of Ages, and The Alloy of Law.  But honestly, I think Mistborn wrapped things up perfectly. I was fine with where Mistborn ended, and I’m worried that future books will try to drag out a good thing too far.