I started Brandon Sanderson's epic fantasy novel, Mistborn: The Final Empire, last week, then had to put the book on hold to zip through some short fiction that I wanted to read and write about before I racked up some library fines. By Friday I was all caught up and spent the entire weekend in the world of Mistborn, where ash falls from the sky, metal has magical properties and a small group of people are plotting to overthrow the god ruler of the world. Then Monday, the moment work was finished for the day, I ran over to the library and got the second book in the series. That's how good it is. I couldn't stand for it to be finished.

The story is told mainly from the perspective of Vin, a teenage girl who is part of a thief crew. Left to fend for herself after her brother abandoned her, she only survives because of a peculiar talent, the ability to use her mind to influence the emotions of others; particularly useful when used to calm the suspicions of those about to be conned. Viewed as a good luck charm by the master of the crew, Vin is just barely getting by, unhappy, frightened and mistrustful of everyone.

She accompanies her crew leader as he negotiates the final part of a years-in-the-making scam and attracts the attention of two very different people; Kelsier, a thief who is now a rebel, and a steel inquisitor, an extremely creepy enforcer and torturer who is second only to the Lord Ruler. The description of these guys gave me the shivers, "a thick metal spike had been pounded tip-first through each of the man’s eyes. With shafts as wide as an eye socket, the nail-like spikes were long enough that their sharp points jutted out about an inch from the back of the man’s clean-shaven skull. The flat spike ends shone like two silvery disks, sticking out of the sockets in the front, where the eyes should have been." If that's not the stuff of nightmares I don't know what is.

Kelsier is already planning to recruit Vin and the knowledge that the steel inquisitor is interested in her gives him added incentive to do it now. He goes to the lair where she lives only to find her crew leader beating her senseless. He interferes and offers her a new life as part of his team. Vin doesn't know what to think but when he offers to teach her about the abilities she barely knows she has, she accepts, while fully expecting him to betray her also.

Soon Vin is learning the art of Allomancy, metal magic, and spying on the nobility in the guise of the Lady Vallette, a country niece of the head of a local unimportant House. Here she meets Elend Venture, heir to House Venture, the strongest House in the land. She's curiously drawn to him, despite his often rude behavior and her own innate mistrust, which makes her spying problematic as she doesn’t want to report anything that could endanger him.

There are larger questions that trouble Vin. The Lord Ruler is credited with saving the world from a nebulous but horrible threat in the distant past, at a terrible price. Ash falls from the sky at all times, mysterious mists cloak the land at night and creatures called mistwraiths walk. The people believe they are just barely safe, so long as the Lord Ruler, who is a sliver of God, watches over them. If he is overthrown what will happen to them? With the vast majority of the population living as slaves called skaas, owned by the Lord Ruler and leased to the nobility, who are allowed, even encouraged to kill them, is a life of servitude, pain and fear the price of safety?

When I was younger I might not have read this book because I would have labeled it as a "political" book. The peasants trying to overthrow the aristocracy. Yuck, I might as well read a history lesson about the French revolution. That would be equally grim and tedious. But while a major goal of the characters Mistborn is revolution, the book is really about characters who are trying to make the best of exceedingly trying times, trying to trust in the face of betrayal and trying to better their lives and the lives of their friends. What could be more timely or *universal?

Mistborn is the kind of compelling book that is nearly as good a vacation, or at least a weekend getaway. It's long and complicated with charming and intriguing characters who live in a world that is just different enough to be fresh, but still familiar enough that I didn't need a glossary to keep up. (I have a bit of a spotty memory and hate it when I can't remember required vocab for a novel.)

You can read here.

*Universal here doesn't really mean universal as I have no idea what kind of hijinks they get up on say, Alpha Centauri.

One-Paragraph Review
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