The Mistborn Trilogy

Review: The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson

Book review of Brandon Sanderson’s Well of Ascension

The Well of Ascension by Brandon SandersonThe 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.

Fantasy Book News Ratings

  • Overall: 9 out of 10
  • Plot Originality
  • Setting Development
  • Characterization
  • Dialog
  • Pace

Fan Ratings

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Review: Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson

Book review of Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn

mistborn

Mistborn has been getting quite a bit of publicity recently, and came highly recommended to me by a close friend who has recommended other gems in the past such as Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay. With Brandon Sanderson co-authoring the final novels in the Wheel of Time series due to the passing of Robert Jordan, its no wonder his earlier works would fall under scrutiny. While not his first fantasy novel, Mistborn: The Last Empire, commonly referred to as just Mistborn, is the first novel in a trilogy of novels titled the Mistborn Trilogy. The subsequent books are The Well of Ascension, and The Hero of Ages. I feel this needs a little clarification, as from reading the book jacket and inside covers, it can be rather confusing as to the order of the novels. For instance, the inside cover of my paperback edition lists three books: Elantris, Mistborn and The Well of Ascension, making it look like Mistborn is the middle book in a trilogy. Also, the preview chapter at the end of the book is from The Hero of Ages, book three in the series, leading to more confusion. Maybe Tor should reevaluate for subsequent editions.

The novel takes place mainly in the city of Luthtadel and the lands surrounding it. Luthtadel is a city harshly divided into an upper and lower class; a government rules with an iron fist over the nobility and the lower class “skaa”. Sanderson deals masterfully with the theme of ruling governmental bodies, the politics both within that ruling body and their relationships with external parties. Mirroring this are the novel’s main themes of belief, trust, and hope that live in the spirit of the lower class. We find these themes recurring frequently throughout the novel.  Here are a few samples:

“Belief isn’t simply a thing for fair times and bright days, I think. What is belief – what is faith – if you don’t continue in it after failure?”

“Once, maybe I would have thought you a fool, but…well, that’s kind of what trust is, isn’t it?  A willful self-delusion?  You have to shut out that voice that whispers about betrayal, and just hope that your friends aren’t going to hurt you.”

A good portion of the action in the novel takes place in the houses of the nobility, throwing balls which are attended by the nobility and overseen by the royal “obligators”.  Other scenes include the palace of the Lord Ruler, the hideouts of the rebel skaa located throughout the city, and at night, when the entire city stays indoors and mist blankets the city.

The characters that make up Mistborn’s band of rebel skaa are unforgettable.  Vin and Kelsier take center stage, with Marsh, Kelsier’s brother, and Kelsier’s assembled crew fleshing out the rest of the group.  When the rest of Kelsier’s group is first introduced, I felt like I was reading a fantasy novel spiced with great characters from the world of comic books, each having their own special power.  The difference with Sanderson’s Mistborn characters, and many of the characters I read about in my childhood in comics, are that Sanderson’s are believable.  The system of magic created in Mistborn is unsurpassed in its impressive originality and astounding authenticity.  It makes you feel like the 40-foot-high jumps and acrobatic maneuvers from games like Assassin’s Creed are real; they have real consequenses if the user of the magic does not know enough about it, or miscalculates to a small degree.  It also has limits.  If the user of the magic “burns” up his or her resource, they have no more.  I won’t get into too much more detail, of which there is plenty, but suffice to say the magic system in Mistborn is a true gem.

Sanderson moves the plot of Mistborn along at a pace perfect for the unfolding story.  While there are a lot of scenes that recur in a similar setting (the balls), there is always enough new story, whether its the character Vin learning about the politics taking place, or just plain action, the time spent in these pages is well worth it.  The plot idea of a band of underground thieves working against the nobility brings Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora to mind, and the overarching theme of overthrowing an all-powerful being has definitely been done before.

Mistborn is an extremely satisfying stand-alone novel, even though its only the first in a trilogy.  If you haven’t read any of Sanderson’s work, I would highly recommend you go out and pick up Mistborn.  Action-packed, with great underlying themes and a rowdy bunch of characters with truly original powers, this is certainly not one to miss.

You can pick up Mistborn over at Amazon.com.

Fantasy Book News Ratings

  • Overall: 8 out of 10
  • Plot Originality
  • Setting Development
  • Characterization
  • Dialog
  • Pace

Fan Ratings

Categories: Brandon Sanderson, Reviews, The Mistborn Trilogy | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments