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TGRF's Reviews - Mistborn (The Final Empire)

Posted May 23rd, 2021 at 07:29 PM by TGRF
Updated May 25th, 2021 at 05:27 PM by TGRF
I've decided to start another series of blogs, for the purpose of reviewing/critiquing stories (and possibly movies) I've read. I don't read as much as I should these days, but when I do finish up a good fiction book, I often feel like sharing my thoughts on it. So that's what this is for. There are no spoilers below, aside from some very general hints on the story structure used.

5: Amazing, above flawless.
4: Flawless, but doesn't really stand out.
3: Might have some issues, but works fine.
2: Has some issues which might detract from the story.
1: Flawed, bring the story down noticeably.

Title: Mistborn (The Final Empire)
Author: Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 3.9/5 - a solid read.

I hadn't heard about Brandon Sanderson until recently, and upon hearing that he was known for writing 'clean' stories, I knew I had to check him out. I really don't want to read a ton of language or... less desirable things, in my fantasy stories. After some research, I decided the best place to start was with the Mistborn series, so I got the first book out of the library and started to read. Let's get into the analysis.

Without spoiling anything, I can say that Mistborn feels more or less like a standard fantasy hero's journey. There are a few major differences though. The prophesied hero tried to save the world a thousand years ago and failed. Now a group of thieves are going to rob him. Sanderson describes is as a combination of a heist novel and My Fair Lady.

Yes, the main thread of the story follows the heroine as she discovers the magic she can wield, but there are other plots going on at the same time which serve to keep things fresh, and keep the reader guessing. The story takes its time in explaining all of the mysteries - some aren't explained at all, presumably left for later books - and PoV shifts are very frequent and a large part of the book. I will also note that the twists towards the end are definitely great.

Setting: The setting is fantasy, but some tech is present, in the form of things like pocket-watches. The world is inhabited only by humans (that I know of), plus a few original creatures. No elves, dwarves, or dragons. As the hero has failed, the setting reflects that. The land is basically barren and dead, and ash constantly falls from the sky. The story takes place within the giant capital city, full of nobles' keeps and skaa (peasants) slums.

Onto the analysis.

Characters - Realism: 4
Overall, the characters in Mistborn felt perfectly organic. There weren't any lifeless pieces of wood to be found (even in the background characters), and considering that several characters were actively hiding their emotions, Sanderson did a great job with conveying what they were thinking/feeling anyway.

Characters - Dialogue: 3.5
I'm certainly not the best when it comes to writing dialogue, and on the whole, Sanderson's dialogue was top-notch. However, there were a few scenes where the words seemed a bit forced. It wasn't overly obvious, and the great characters served to gloss over it quite well, but it was still there at times.

Characters - Likability: 4.5
Sanderson nailed getting the reader on the side of his characters right out of the gate, and his methods were honestly impressive. Given that one character is introduced hiding in a cupboard, and another is introduced as he kills quite a few people, Sanderson did an amazing job giving the reader no reason to dislike his characters.

Plot - Interest: 4
Mistborn was certainly one of those books you couldn't put down. I will admit that it didn't start that way - I only had to really hold myself back from finishing the thing outright around the middle - but at no point did I get bored with the plot or have the slightest inclination to put it down.

Plot - Twists: 4.5
Sanderson showed himself to be an author who can craft a twist properly, and also deliver on it properly. Without revealing the twists, I'll say only that I got an idea of what might happen - only to dismiss it - only to have it happen a few pages later. That's the mark of an author who has laid a combination of just enough hints and doubts to let the reader guess the twist, but not actually think it will happen. The only reason this didn't get a 5 is because I read the Sylo books by D.J.MacHale, and doubt anyone can top that level of mastery.

Originality of story: 3
If there's one issue I had to point to with Mistborn, it would be this. The book came to me billed as a world where the prophesied hero rose to save the world, and failed. It was an interesting concept, but the book didn't actually play on it very much, instead turning into a standard hero's journey. I attribute this to Brandon's (in my opinion) overuse of story archetypes. While archetypes are useful, using them to craft the story just seems to limit the stories you can tell. This was easily felt in the story. Still, the lack of originality didn't really detract much from the overall thing, hence the 3.

Worldbuilding: 4
I had heard (perhaps incorrectly) of Brandon Sanderson's legendary worldbuilding skills, so I was a bit nonplussed when I saw the map of the world, which is quite small and doesn't have a ton of detail. The map of the city on the next page was far better, however. The magic system of Mistborn is definitely one of the most original I've seen, and the rules are well established and followed throughout. Sanderson also uses setting quite well, crafting a story around his world with seeming ease. While the worldbuilding was great, it didn't really draw me in or wow me, but then, not every story lends itself to doing that.

Emotional Impact: 4
Even though I absolutely knew what was going to happen in the end (due to the use of archetypes), I didn't know how. Sanderson did an expert job making the goal seem completely hopeless, and utilized his characters and twists to take a good shot at getting the reader in the gut. Every reader is different - for me personally I definitely felt the story, but not as keenly as some might.

That about sums up my thoughts on Mistborn. I'd love to hear what you think, both of my analysis and of the book. I have not read the next two books yet, so please no spoilers for those.

Posted in TGRF's Reviews
Comments 4
Total Comments 4


TheAverageFan's Avatar
I've heard a lot about Brandon Sanderson but never got around to picking up anything of his to read (much like the Dresden Files which I keep meaning to read but never do). Heck, I still haven't finished Dune.

If I may offer one suggestion to reviewing things, having a brief synopsis of the plot or premise of the subject you're reviewing is helpful for any readers who aren't familiar with the work. Otherwise I've got no context to your critiques.

Posted May 25th, 2021 at 01:03 PM by TheAverageFan TheAverageFan is offline
TGRF's Avatar
@TheAverageFan Wouldn't that spoil the story for anyone who might read it?

Posted May 25th, 2021 at 02:57 PM by TGRF TGRF is offline
TheAverageFan's Avatar
Only if you go into spoilers. Y'know how the back of a book gives a basic pitch of the premise? That sorta thing. I don't know anything about Mistborn, so knowing the setting, main character, and at least the most-surface level conflict could be enlightening. Might make me wanna pick it up if it sounds good.

Obviously I've got Google for this one, but maybe something to consider for future reviews.

Posted May 25th, 2021 at 03:12 PM by TheAverageFan TheAverageFan is offline
TGRF's Avatar
@TheAverageFan I've added in a summary of sorts. I'm paranoid about spoilers, but I think I managed to walk the line.

Posted May 25th, 2021 at 05:28 PM by TGRF TGRF is offline
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