Happy Friday, everyone! That’s right—the Book of the Week is getting posted on another Friday. Feel free to shake off your shock at any time. This week, we’re going to talk about what I’m currently (re)reading, why it’s awesome, why the author is awesome, and why I’ll keep coming back—and you should, too.
The Book of the Week is Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson.
The Final Empire has long been a favorite of mine, and it was really the book that got me excited about Sanderson as an emerging author. Elantris, his first published novel, was fairly good but not great: he had some pretty big pacing issues in that one, and only one character resonated with me in any realistic way (Hrathen). In The Final Empire, on the other hand, I think Sanderson took a giant step forward as a writer.
The first thing that hits you is the world. This is a very different kind of place from Earth, and certainly different from Elantris. Sanderson’s worldbuilding is largely celebrated as his strongest suit, and it shines in the Mistborn trilogy. I’m excited that he’s planning on writing two more trilogies on Scadrial, because there’s simply so much potential on this world.
The prologue is bleak, dark, and does an excellent job setting up the tone and environment for the rest of the book. Kelsier’s personality is founded here for us, though of course with plenty of mystery to pull the reader in. And therein lies the next big step that Sanderson took.
The characters in Mistborn are much deeper, more nuanced and complex than in Elantris. Vin, of course, is well-developed and grows in believable ways throughout the book. Elend, despite being a late introduction, is one of my favorite characters. Even the side characters (in this book) like Marsh, Breeze, Ham, and Sazed are given breathing room and grow as the pages turn.
While I won’t go into the Cosmere stuff too much here, I will also say that Sanderson clearly fleshed out his internal mythos much more between writing Elantris and The Final Empire. While there was really only a small, passing tidbit in Elantris, there are several major points with Cosmere significance in The Final Empire—some of which we’ve only just begun to see in his more recent books. I’m looking at you, Trelagism/Trellism/Trell.
Anyway, the final ingredient that went into making Mistborn such a colossal success for Sanderson was the magic. While this does tie into the worldbuilding I mentioned earlier, I think in this case his magic deserves to stand alone as a point. The introduction of Allomancy and Feruchemy (and, eventually, Hemalurgy) into the modern fantasy landscape was game-changing. Never before had I read a magic system so intricate, so brimming with potential, and so compelling. This is truly where Brandon Sanderson shines, and he has only kept up with this reputation as he has released more books and stories. His magic systems are utterly original, totally gripping, and uniquely cinematic. At least once in each Mistborn book is there a scene that struck me so vividly I yearn to see it on the screen. This is not a common occurrence with other fantasy, but Sanderson consistently does it to me.
I know The Final Empire has made it into the mainstream among fantasy readers, largely due to Sanderson’s selection as the finisher of The Wheel of Time, but there are still many people who haven’t read it.
That needs to change. Everyone should read this book. It’s fun. It’s fast-paced, with mysteries and action and interesting characters in a fascinating setting. I give The Final Empire a resounding five stars out of five.