Monday, February 21, 2011

Mistborn: The Final Empire–Brandon Sanderson

mistborntfeI will say this right now, up front. The Final Empire is hands down the best fantasy novel I have ever read.

Ok so I have that out of the way, what more is their to say right? Well, I guess I should tell you why I loved it.

First off, amazing, fantastic, deep rich character development. Kelsier, Vin, Dockson and the rest of the gang stood out to me as individuals, I worried about each of them and pulled for them through the entire story. I could say more about it, but suffice it to say this was really well done, but not the best thing in The Final Empire, not by far.

Sanderson is a smart man. He is nearly fanatical with the care and level of detail he puts into the systems in his book. Not just that magical systems for which he is highly acclaimed but the political systems and the bureaucratic systems as well. At its heart Mistborn reads like a political novel. It repeatedly brought the tales of Charles Dickens to mind as Sanderson described the bleakness of the world, the harsh social realities of the ska and the drudgery of everyday life in the Final Empire. Smokey, grimy Luthadel often reads like the London of a Dickens novel. It is a familiarity that brings Luthadel to life in the mind of the reader. I admire the painstaking way in which Sanderson details such a hopeless society, there is no wiggle room left for the underclass, they are trapped and they know it.

The first time I met Brandon I asked him about The Final Empire, I wanted to know if he considered it a dystopia, and his reply was an emphatic yes. Fantasy readers have encountered many bleak, terrible places in their journey through various novels, but Sanderson is the first person that I have read who has really treated his work like a dystopia. The political elements are strong and well thought out. There are distinct class elements in The Final Empire and they intertwine so well with the fantasy story that is happening among them.

Along with politics, I was enthralled by the economic system in the novel and how it hinged on a single precious commodity that was basically the lynchpin of the entire system. I was fascinated with the idea of the way the Lord Ruler controlled the substance and the consequences for the nobility if that supply were lost. Sanderson does something that so few do: he gives us reasons. He tells us why everything matters, he makes everything important. Mistborn is the story of a seemingly impervious empire built on the backs of an oppressed underclass and funded by a single precious element.

It is all held together by the awesome power of the Lord Ruler. Never in my life have I read a more interesting, and downright scary bad guy. Another way in which Sanderson excels, the Lord Ruler is a mystery, a figment, a secret font of dark power, never flaunted, but always felt, like a beating heart at the core of the Empire, the only thing giving it life. He is the shark in Jaws, scarier because we never see him, and when we finally do it is concludes one of the strongest scenes of action I have ever read in any novel.

Sanderson is a master of nuance, The Final Empire reads like the masterwork of an author who has perfected his craft. Ok was this review glowing enough? Shall we wrap it all up by saying I loved this book? Ok? Good.


Kailana said...

Oh, this looks good, too.

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