Mistborn – The Hero of Ages
Publication Date: February 2010
Page count: 748
Goodreads: See here
Plot at a Glance:
Tricked into releasing the evil spirit Ruin while attempting to close the Well of Ascension, new emperor Elend Venture and his wife, the assassin Vin, are now hard-pressed to save the world.
I’ve been avoiding writing this review for a week or so now, both because I know it’s going to be difficult to write, and difficult to share what I recognize is an unpopular opinion.
We all can agree that Brandon Sanderson is magic. I can’t even bring myself to finish one work in progress, yet he’s constantly in the middle of multiple projects at the same time and is slowly building a greater shared universe for his novels that will probably one day equal the book equivalent of Marvel and DC’s own universes of heroes. I also recognize that he has slowly and deservedly amassed a very vocal fanbase who absolutely adore the way he writes and the stories he tells.
Also, I can’t argue against his creativity. I’ve read 4 books by Sanderson at this point (this series, and The Way of Kings) and each has managed to surprise me and astound me in the way Sanderson showcases his ability to craft worlds that feel real, alive and full of history. His magic systems are wildly creative and well thought out and are exactly what the best of fantasy should be.
So why didn’t I love this book?
Maybe this was a case of too much of a good thing? Yes, the worldbuilding and magic is creative, but the amount of information Sanderson packs into this trilogy was more than a little bit exhausting, especially when reading all three books pretty much in a row. I think if I had put a year between reading each book, I might have enjoyed it a little bit more because if I’m being totally honest, Brandon Sanderson has a habit of over-delivering information that drives me crazy.
Sanderson has a habit of opening each chapter in all 3 books with italicized passages that are essentially his worldbuilding notes. In books 1 and 2 I didn’t so much mind them as they directly connect to research Sazed and Vin were conducting over the course of the story. In this book, they’re straight up infodumps, pertaining to a new magic system that he clearly couldn’t find another way to work into the story.
I was left wondering what the point of all this information was, and like an english major taking a math course, wondering why I needed to know it.
Each chapter starts with a character performing a simple action. Vin Pushing and Pulling herself through the mists. Sazed arriving at a town. Spook or another ancillary character entering a building. This sets the scene for action the characters will get to… eventually…
The characters endlessly ruminate over past events in what I became certain was an attempt to pad the page count to ensure each of these books reached epic proportions. If you take out all of the pointless trips down memory lane, this 700+ page book could have achieved the same ends in probably 300 pages. Vin’s inner monologue was still revisiting when she first met Kelsier, or when she dressed as Valette in numerous chapters – and those events happened over 5 years ago in book time!
Elend’s inner monologue reminds us constantly that he used to be a scholar, and is now a king. Oh, and in case you’ve forgotten what metal does what, it’s repeated basically in every chapter too. You seriously could play a drinking game based on the repeated information alone – though I hope you have a hearty liver and an ability to hold your alcohol if you try.
The story finally creeps forward in slowly increasing steps until the final 20% of the book or so, when Sanderson abandons the earlier slow pace in favor of a frenetic end. If I was rating this book on the last chunk of the story, it would get all the stars. The ending was spectacular and appropriately epic for fantasy. However, a novel is a sum of its parts and there’s about 500 pages in this book that I had hoped to enjoy a lot more than I did.
Also, I’m just going to say it:
Elend and Vin are boring. They’re boring characters. They’re an even more boring couple. They’re too powerful when they’re together, and Sanderson doesn’t so much show them in love and romantically connected as he does tell the audience repeatedly that they’re husband and wife, and in love.
Their connection to each other seemed another casualty of Sanderson’s compulsive need to sanitize this story of any sort of adult element that might arise. There is even a scene where Sanderson goes out of his way to explain that Kandra remove their visible genitals, so when a few of them are walking around naked they’re walking like barbie dolls or crewmembers of the USS Callister.
It doesn’t make sense. They’re not even human – though they use human form. So why would they worry about removing their genitals? It’s stuff like this that pulled me out of the story and honestly, makes me cringe a little.
Furthermore, 3 books in and the only decent female character Sanderson bothered to put in this trilogy was Vin.There are more than a half dozen supporting male characters in this series, and the majority of them all survive to the end of the story. Surely one or two other awesome female characters could have found something important to do in this book?
Don’t even get me started on Beldre, who I think was a terrible character with unrealistic motivations from start to finish. She only exists to ensure that every character gets neatly paired off with a romantic (and heterosexual) interest of their own at the end of the book.
Before I started this series, I had plans on prioritizing Words of Radiance and Oathbringer this year, but after this experience I’ve moved them to the bottom of my to-be-read list. I enjoyed The Way of Kings when I read it, but I’ve also read 100+ great books since then and I think my standards might be a bit higher than they used to be, and I’m no longer sure I’d enjoy the sequels.
🌟🌟🌟 = 3/5 stars – This will be the last Sanderson novel for me for awhile I’m afraid!
What other great fantasy series do you love, or are looking forward to? Let me know below!