Monday, 5 January 2015

'The Final Empire' by Brandon Sanderson (Mistborn Book One)

First book of the New Year was 'The Final Empire', the first book in the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson. As with many people I suspect, I first heard about Brandon Sanderson when it was announced he had been chosen by Robert Jordan to finish off his Wheel of Time series, and have what I've heard he's done a good job of it. I haven't read those books yet, I gave up on The Wheel of Time many years ago. I promised myself that one day when it was complete I'd go back to it, but not got around to it yet.

Anyway, I picked up 'The Final Empire' and decided to have a go, despite the fact that I've read and enjoyed relatively few fantasy books in recent years, I've tended to go more for science fiction and other genres. I was pleasantly very surprised. I'll come on to why in a minute, but first a bit of a synopsis.

The book follows Vin, a street urchin in the Empire capital of Luthadel (I know, I know it's always either a street urchin or a farm/kitchen boy but it just works so well...). It's a rather grim sort of place, ruled over by the evil Lord Ruler, who is basically a god. He encourages the nobles to oppress and kill the poor (the "skaa") at every opportunity. She falls in with a rebel crew looking to overthrow the Lord Ruler. No one has even come close in over a thousand years, after all you can't kill a god, but then there's never been anyone like Kelsier before. A mistborn, the only person to ever survive the Pits of Hathsin, he believes he has found the key to defeating the Lord Ruler, and Vin has an important part to play in that.

For me, there are two things that really make this book stand out as different from other fantasy books that I've read. The first is that in this book, there isn't a looming threat of an evil overlord - he's already won and been in power for over a thousand years. The second is that the author has come up with a really interesting, unusual type of magic. Rather than wave a wand, cast an incantation or gather your will, focus etc, in this book all magic stems from metals. There are ten metals which you swallow and then 'burn' in your stomach to give yourself power. Each metal does something different. Really unusual, found this aspect fascinating.

The book isn't incredibly dense and is an easy read, but at the same time it isn't 'fantasy-lite' as some books I've read have been. There's meat on the bones, and a deep back-story that only starts being revealed in this first book.

A really good read and an excellent introduction to this talented fantasy author. I'll be reading more from this author in 2015, starting with the rest of this trilogy and moving on from there. 9/10.