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Readin’ Time: The Mistborn Trilogy

Last night I finally finished up the last of the Mistborn series on the Kindle iPhone app (for the record, I’ve read 8 full-length novels on this thing, and feel pretty comfortable with it as a reading device).  It was a bittersweet ending, the kind where you don’t want the book to end but you do want to see how it turns out.

I’ll be honest: the series does start slow.  I wasn’t really “into” it until a hundred or so pages into Mistborn, the first book of the trilogy.  In retrospect, I can see what Sanderson was trying to do in slowly building up an epic tale, but it almost started off too bland and too unexciting to latch onto.

Fortunately, the books head on an ever-increasing slope of quality, and I found myself really engrossed with what ended up being a very a-typical fantasy tale.  I mean, sure, you have magic (of a sorts) and a medieval setting, but the further in the series got, the more it stood out from the norm.  For one thing, the world is really borked, in ways that are gradually revealed and explained.  Suffice to say, the sky is red, ash falls constantly, and the only plants that grow are just brown — but that’s how the inhabitants have always known it to be.

I read a review somewhere that stated that these books are really a superhero story told in a slightly different setting, and I can see that.  The main protagonist, Vin, is a little nothing of a girl, a thief, who one day discovers that she’s had superpowers all along.  Several people in the world do, and here Sanderson unwraps a truly unique magic system that has characters swallowing and “burning” metals to accomplish different things, from playing on people’s emotions to shooting metal across the room to seeing the immediate future.

Vin’s enlisted with a group of scoundrels who aren’t exactly who they seem to be, either, and given an impossible task: to overthrow the god-ruler of the world and free the peasant class who have been slaves for over a thousand years.  From here the tale gets more and more complicated, and I wouldn’t dream of spoiling it.

What impresses me most about this series is just how much it plays against your expectations, and how much Sanderson wrote this as a cohesive *whole*, not just three books that continue a story.  Plot elements are set up in the first novel that aren’t paid off until late in the third, and both small and great mysteries are unwrapped with satisfying payoffs.  He also explores complex themes such as trust, faith and leadership in approachable ways.

What threw me at first is that his characters aren’t always as cut and dry as you’d want them to be.  Good guys sometimes have a very dark streak to them, while villains turn out to be more noble than our heroes.  That kept me from getting a solid “feel” for the characters until some point late in the first book and well into the second, and while I never really fell in love with any of the characters, I surely liked them a lot.

I highly recommend these books, and I’d love to hear your thoughts if you read through them all.

13 thoughts on “Readin’ Time: The Mistborn Trilogy

  1. I loved that series. I liked the way magic was used, it was different than anything I had read before. It was a very thought out system with rules that he stuck to for the entire series.

  2. i just finished Sanderson’s first book, Elantris a few weeks ago… was a superb title.. i’d highly recommend it if you haven’t already read it… i still don’t know how he packed so many complex ideas in a single book… really looking forward to picking up the Mistborn trilogy.

    Sanderson reminds me of George RR Martin in that his characters are very deep and complex, not cut and dried like a lot of other fantasy titles i’ve read.

  3. So… Warbreaker next? 😉

    I quite enjoyed the series, and completely agree with you on all points. I never “loved” Vin, but I was definitely impressed by her. And the big bad guy really was the savior of the world, if not exactly in the best way. And yeah, I totally didn’t see the end coming either.

  4. I just bought Lies of Locke Lamora for my Kindle, and I tempted to get these, too, and just see which tickles my fancy more as I start it.

    Also, I just finished my first full-length novel on my iPhone Kindle (Arthas), and I figure I’ll do a full write up of my feelings toward it. It’s a dandy little reading device, but in the end, I prefer the full Kindle or a book. I will probably keep a “while I’m out and about” novel on my iPhone Kindle, though. I just don’t think it’ll ever be my main ebook reader.

  5. Sounds right up my alley… added it to my Amazon wish list. I actually like the sound that the characters have dark streaks to them. I’m not a huge fan of the Sir Sparhawk aka Mr Perfect guys.

  6. Ooh, Sanderson!

    I’m a big fan of Sanderson’s work. I think you’re spot on about the Mistborn trilogy. Very inventive with great characters, intereseting world-building, and as you point out, Syp, a very cohesive trilogy.

    Elantris is also quite good. Very sharp book.

    I just finished the latest installment of the endless Robert Jordan Wheel of Time series which Sanderson is doing given Jordan’s unfortunate death. Very impressive piece of writing, imo, given that I didn’t feel a jarring shift in the style. In fact, I’m tending to believe that Sanderson improved upon the Jordan. Definitely someone to keep your eyes on.

    If you like Sanderson, you should also read Ken Scholes “Lamentation” and “Canticle.” Thes are excellent reads and are, I believe, availabe on the Kindle.

  7. I loved them. I devoured them. I was really impressed by his ability to make tiny details extremely relevant. Sanderson could have used some better pacing, but the magic system is quite possibly one of my favorite ones, ever. If I ever get in another Mutants & Masterminds game, I’m totally recreating a Mistborn.

    I wasn’t a fan of the casting changes, but that’s because I get rather attached to the characters. I understand why they happened though.

  8. I love the way you can visualise the way they use the allomantics. I think it could make a good game or film tbh.

    Ive only read the first 2. The 3rd arrived this week but the wife has it first 😛

  9. I can second Logan and recommend Elantris as well. Brandon Sanderson also did an amazing job on writing the latest Wheel of Time novel. He surpassed the late Robert Jordan easily while staying in character of the series.

    He is simply an amazing writer with a gift for characterization and storytelling. I think G.R.R. Martin and Jordan created even more complex worlds, and feared Sanderson would get lost in the Wheel of Time series.

    I have not read Warbreaker or the Alcatraz series yet (Alcatraz is apparently aimed at a younger audience, but I could be wrong). I am really looking forward to the “The Way of Kings”. This man is incredibly busy, he is also writing on the Wheel of Time besides that!

    My only beef with the Mistborn series is that I never managed to like Vin as much as Princess Sarene in Elantris.

    I will leave it to Professor Beej to write a proper Mistborn review. I really think I would do the series injustice with a few lines only. And you already summed it up nicely, too. Nothing more to add. 🙂

  10. I’ve been ramping up my use of the Kindle iphone app as well. I’m really falling in love with it. I love paperbacks, but it is so much more convenient to carry around my ipod touch with all my books on it. I wish that I could buy my books in paperback and get a digital copy for free.

    Anyway, if you are looking for good books on the kindle app you should check out the Night Angel trilogy. It costs much less digitally than it does in physical form.

  11. Give me a little time, Long, and I’m certain I’ll do what I can. It will likely be over the summer, though, as it appears that’s when I’ll have time to be free enough to read at length again.

  12. I hadn’t heard of these…but am now about one-third of the way through the first book and am very glad to have seen your article on them.

    Thank you!

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