Review: “Well of Ascension”

(Note: Spoilers for Mistborn included)

Background: Initially taking up Brandon Sanderson’s novels as a means to gain an insight into the impending finale of Wheel of Time, I found an author with both a fertile imagination and a true appreciation for the craft of storytelling. Having finished The Well of Ascension, his third novel, and the second of the Mistborn trilogy, I can say with confidence that Sanderson is poised to take a place amongst today’s fantasy luminaries.

Setting: The world of Mistborn includes magic powered by the ingestion of specific metals (allomancy), a millennia old tyrant that rose to power in the place of a farm boy destined to be the world’s hero, and a charred blasted planet where ash falls from the sky. At the open of The Well of Ascension, the Lord Ruler has been slain and the leader of the protagonist’s crew of thieves, Keisler, martyred himself to ignite the cities long-oppressed skaa. Now, without either leader, the thieving crew turned rebel leaders are forced with an even more impossible task of picking up the pieces of what they have wrought.

Story: Mistborn was a well-oiled machine that seemed to have every character present for a reason. Well of Ascension requires a bit of back-pedaling as some characters are clearly added to fill roles left vacant by the bloodbath of the finale. These additions avoid the biggest sin of abruptly added characters, but it lacks the tightness of the first novel. Well of Ascension continues to avoid predictability and manages to turn even MORE fantasy mainstays on their head. This story also manages to throw a monkey wrench in the book’s main romance without it seeing contrived and deal very deftly with leadership and camaraderie without feeling like a retread of previous fantasy offerings. Lastly, the finale, while a tad confusing, opens up a plethora of new possibilities and includes an amazing reveal that resonates not only because of its surprise, but because of how well-crafted it was.

Overall: A-. While it lacks the crispness of the first novel (inevitable being the second in a series) I firmly believe it has set up a conclusion with the potential to exceed the offerings of the first part of the series.