Book review of Brandon Sanderson’s Well of Ascension
The Well of Ascension is the second book in the Mistborn trilogy, and had quite big shoes to fill as the sophomore offering following one of the best opening fantasy novels in a trilogy I’ve ever read. I’ve read some other reviews of The Well of Ascension which generally state that its a good follow-up to Mistborn, but not quite as good. My expectations were high, and thankfully Sanderson delivers another gem in The Well of Ascension.
Some of the best characters are back in The Well of Ascension, like Vin, Elend, and Sazed, and Sanderson adds a few new great characters to the mix, in the form of a Terris-woman named Tindwyl, the mistborn son of Straff Venture, Zane, and a shape-shifting kandra named OreSeur. Sanderson also brings back Kelsier’s crew from Mistborn. The cast of characters in The Well of Ascension is colorful, varied, and robust. The supporting characters are as believable as the central ones, and the way Sanderson weaves their stories together is nothing short of masterful.
The story in The Well of Ascension follows Elend, Vin and crew as they attempt to organize and maintain some form of organization and control on the capital dominance city of Luthadel. While Elend is busy preaching his politics, Vin is busy soaring the night skies. While this is going on, the city is threatened by not one, not two, but three separate external threats. The plot follows the movements and inner workings of these three armies, so we get to see military intrigue in The Well of Ascension. All the while there is this sense of impending doom manifested in the form of something Sanderson terms The Deepness. In short, the plot in The Well of Ascension moves, is deeply intertwined, and not for one single moment will you feel un-entertained.
In addition to fantastic characters, a complex plot that has some spunk, and the fantastic magic system we’ve come to love in Mistborn, The Well of Ascension ups the ante by taking on themes of leadership. Leadership is a recurring theme in The Well of Ascension, as we see Elend Venture develop from a young man into a man fit to lead an empire. Tindwyl is his guide, and a wonderful one at that:
“Arrogance, Your Majesty,” Tindwyl said. “Successful leaders all share one common trait-they believe that they can do a better job than the alternatives. Humility is fine when considering your responsibility and duty, but when it comes time to make a decision, you must not question yourself.”
We see Elend comment on Tindwyl’s teachings later in the novel:
“Clothing doesn’t really change a man,” Elend said. “But it changes how others react to him. Tindwyl’s words. I think…I think the trick is convincing yourself you deserve the reactions you get.”
And my favorite, which really drives home the principle of how leadership truly functions:
“It was his ability to trust,” she said. “It was the way that he made good people into better people, the way that he inspired them. His crew worked because he had confidence in them-because he respected them. And, in return, they respected each other. Men like Breeze and Clubs became heroes because Kelsier had faith in them”.
And of course, with any Sanderson novel, we get a healthy dose of introspection and contemplative character thought:
“At first glance, the key and the lock it fits may seem very different,” Sazed said. ” Different in shape, different in function, different in design. The man who looks at them without knowledge of their true nature might think them opposites, for one is meant to open, and the other to keep closed. Yet, upon closer examination, he might see that without one, the other becomes useless. The wise man then sees that both the lock and the key were created for the same purpose.”
For these reasons and more, I think I actually enjoyed The Well of Ascension more (if that’s possible) than the original Mistborn. They’re both fantastic reads, and I can’t wait to close out the trilogy, and also am thrilled to see Sanderson is continuing to write in this world with his latest release, The Alloy of Law.
You can purchase The Well of Ascension over at Amazon.com.