Mistborn: The Well of Ascension

I’m quite a fan of Brandon Sanderson’s work.  He’s a rarity in the world of fantasy writers: someone willing to write fantasy and not feel compelled to give characters pointed ears and have them reenact famous battles.  Brandon Sanderson actually writes fantasy where warfare might happen, but it’s only a small part of the intricate worlds he creates.

Though it was his second major fantasy work, Sanderson’s Mistborn novels are the only gap in my reading.  I read The Final Empire last year on a trip to Texas and, with the release of The Alloy of Law looming closer, I decided to finish reading this initial trilogy, picking up with The Well of Ascension.

A year has passed and Luthadel, capitol of the Final Empire, still remains in the hands of our heroes, led by the Mistborn Vin (a Mistborn is basically someone who has metal-based kung fu magic) and her love, Elend Venture, who is now king.  It doesn’t take long for assassins to strike, especially in the form of a new rival Mistborn, Zane, and several Mistings (like Mistborn, but only have one power).  This is all a prelude to invasion, as jealous nobles have finally organized and are seeking political power and the Final Empires riches.

Outside the city, Vin’s former servant, Sazed is trying to teach basic skills to communities of former slaves.  He’s abruptly drawn away from his duties and soon finds an engraving, discussing the fabled Hero of Ages.  Soon after, he encounters an army of giant monsters ready to march on Luthadel as well, bringing the invading forces up to three.

The Well of Ascension is filled with action and amazing things–monsters so big their skins can’t hold them, shapeshifters who eat the people (or dogs) they mean to emulate.  It’s a book filled with honest romantic complications, political power stuggles and a sense of the epic.

That’s one of the key differences between The Well of Ascension and its predecessor.  The Final Empire managed to have great scope, even though it rarely left Luthadel.  The Well of Ascension leaves Luthadel frequently, has much more tangible enemies, yet feels so much smaller.  That’s not entirely a bad thing, since so many second books try to be bigger and badder than the original, only to fall flat on their faces.

For me, there’s actually only one point where the story doesn’t work.  In locating the Well of Ascension itself, Vin abruptly declares that they’re looking in the wrong place and tells the others where they need to go.  She’s given no clues on this and doesn’t state a reason for her decision until the very end of the book.  All the same, the moment feels forced and it’s a key movement in the plot.  Otherwise, great book, one you should check out if you’re a fan of Brandon Sanderson’s works.


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