Background: When Robert Jordan died I was surprised to hear the decision regarding finishing up his final novel, Memories of Light, was made so quickly. It fell to Brandon Sanderson, a young writer I had never heard of. Fast-forward a year or so later, and after stumbling upon his insightful blog, I took up reading his books. His first novel, Elantris, was a nice little piece of one and done fantasy, but not groundbreaking. His follow up, Mistborn is the first of a trilogy that thunders onto the fantasy landscape with such refreshing force that its echoes are likely being felt by readers and authors everywhere.
Setting: The overarching premise of Mistborn is that the great hero of legend, the very same character that inevitably ends up being central to novels, fantasy cinema, and Dungeons and Dragons game simply fails. Instead of a peaceful free world, the immortal tyranny of god-king Lord Ruler presides over a blasted land where ashfalls are as common as rainfall. The nobility clamps down on the peasant-class skaa while magic is derived through the ingestion of certain metals. There are eight common metals, each of which grants a fantastic ability, but very few can use even one metal. The rare few that can master all eight are called Mistborn and highly sought after commodities amongst the powerful. To say it lightly, the entire premise of the book is masterfully conceived. From the inversion of normal fantasy to the detailed, but uncomplicated, system of magic, this is truly a breath of fresh air.
Story: The dismal failure of prior revolts against Lord Ruler causes a unique spin on the traditional fight against tyranny that so commonly populates fantasy literature. Lacking any idealist hopefuls, it falls to an incredibly talented group of thieves to plan the ultimate caper to topple the system. To say that their motivation is unusual (money, revenge and boredom) or that their odds seem particularly hopeless (only one of their number is even remotely powerful enough to stand up to the Lord Ruler’s main henchmen) is an understatement. Without giving away too much, I can say that for a planned trilogy this book has an immensely satisfying conclusion and a great plot that manages to combine some of the best elements of fantasy, caper based movies (Ocean’s 11, The Sting), and Matrix/Anime infused kung fu sensibilities. It sounds like a strange brew, and perhaps it is, but it really works.
Overall: A. (CRITICAL HIT!) If you’re a fan of the genre, chances are you have read Wheel of Time anyway, so you may as well pick up this excellent novel to get a preview of the style to expect. As if that wasn’t good enough, Mistborn has been priced down to priced down to $4.99… all of which will be rebated if you end up buying the trilogy’s hardcover when it comes out in October. Highly Recommended!