What if the Dark Lord won?
The Mistborn is a trilogy written by Brandon Sanderson, the first in a trilogy of trilogies set in the same world. The books in the series are: The Final Empire, The Well of Ascension and The Hero of Ages. It explores what would happen if the good guys lost and the world was forced to live under the rule of a Dark Lord. In Sanderson’s own words:
I wanted to take the standard fantasy story I’d read a dozen times—that of a young peasant hero who went on a quest to defeat a Dark Lord—and turn it on its head. What if the Dark Lord won? What if, in the final climactic moments, he killed the hero and took over the world?
The Mistborn is set in the Final Empire, a region of the world Scadrial ruled by an immortal being known as the Lord Ruler. This world is populated by two peoples: the nobles, who own lands and live in castles, and the skaa, who are their slaves. The nobles possess a hereditary magic called Allomancy which allows the practitioner to access certain powers by ingesting and ‘burning’ the corresponding metals. It is common for the nobles to be limited to the use of one power, however there are rare individuals called the Mistborn who possess the power to manipulate all ten metals.
The story follows half-skaa Vin, a 16-year-old thief living a dangerous life in the streets of Luthadel, the capital city of the Final Empire. She meets Kelsier, a mysterious and charismatic half-skaa man who is the leader of a gang of thieves. He recognises that Vin is Mistborn, and being one of the most powerful Mistborn around, agrees to train her if she joins his motley band of thieves. Kelsier and his gang plan a daring raid, into the centre of the palace of the Lord Ruler to discover the secret of his immortality and power.
This is one the best examples of high fantasy that I have read in a long time. It is set in a beautifully realised world with characters it is impossible not to fall in love with. Vin, especially, is a wonderful voice for the story and her development over the course of the trilogy is marvellous and realistic. The mentoring relationship Kelsier has with Vin really pushes the development of all the characters in the trilogy. And of course there is Kelsier himself: part Danny Ocean, part ninja and always enigmatic.
One of my favourite aspects of this trilogy are the systems of magic used in it. They are exceedingly clever – complex and yet beautifully delivered, without the contradictions and internal inconsistencies which plague many other systems of magic in this genre.
The trilogy is an action-packed, exciting read which I found hard to put down, with characters that linger long after the books are back on your shelves. It also makes you ponder the nature of prophesy and the qualities of leadership and heroism. I would highly recommend this trilogy to any lover of fantasy, and to people who are perhaps unsure of where to begin if they are interested in the genre.
I hope that, like me, you finish the trilogy and say ‘wow’, and immediately hunger for more.