Book Review: The Final Empire (Mistborn, #1) by Brandon Sanderson

Book Review: The Final Empire (Mistborn, #1) by Brandon Sanderson

The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Ash fell from the sky.”

So opens The Final Empire, and I was hooked from that very first sentence. When I first read it, I considered Mistborn one of the best fantasy trilogies I had ever read. Upon rereading The Final Empire seven years later, I can tell that my opinion there isn’t going to change. I can’t choose favorites among Sanderson’s Cosmere; I love every world he’s introduced, and have loved every book in he’s written in the Cosmere so far. However, I do think there’s something truly special about the world of Scadrial and the magic systems it introduces. And that’s not even getting into the wonderful cast of characters, the heist planning, the philosophy, and the fight for freedom. There’s so much to love about this book.

“Our belief is often strongest when it should be weakest. That is the nature of hope.”

I forgot how much I love allomancy as a magic system. It’s hard magic, incredibly scientific in its usage with definite, unalterable rules. And it’s one of the most cinematic magic systems I’ve ever experienced. I find it so easy to visualize the action sequences here, due entirely to a combination of Sanderson’s storytelling prowess and the detailed magic system. I tend to get lost in action scenes, sometimes even skimming quickly through them so I can get back to the narrative, but that is never the case when it comes to a Sanderson novel. I’m always on the edge of my seat and completely invested in his action sequences.

“Men rarely see their own actions as unjustified.”

Sanderson also ties religion into his narratives in such a thoughtful, organic way. I love the additions of different forgotten religions into conversation by Sazed, the Terrisman attached to Kelsier’s crew. I also love the way the death of a religion and the birth of a new one are such integral parts of the narrative here. I find the belief systems Sanderson creates and weaves into any and all of his work fascinating. In my opinion, his worldview is always on display in his work, but in a way that never feels as if he’s trying to draw others into the same worldview. It’s just a part of who he is as an author and a person, and thus it finds its way organically into his craft.

“Belief isn’t simply a thing for fair times and bright days…What is belief – what is faith – if you don’t continue in it after failure?…Anyone can believe in someone, or something that always succeeds…But failure…ah, now, that is hard to believe in, certainly and truly. Difficult enough to have value. Sometimes we just have to wait long enough…then we find out why exactly it was that we kept believing…”

The cast of characters in this novel is an incredibly varied and compelling one. First, there are the two Mistborn for whom the series is named. Kelsier is the obvious star of the show. Kelsier is not a hero, but I do think he’s mostly a good man. And he’s one of the most charming, charismatic men in fiction. Vin is such an interesting protagonist, and one of my favorite women written by a man. Her development and internal thoughts are wholly believable and, while she is insanely powerful, I never felt as though she came across as a Mary Sue. She earned her power. It might come more naturally to her than most, but that doesn’t mean it was an easy road. Sazed, the Terrisman I mentioned earlier, is one of my favorite characters in any book I’ve ever read. He’s got a sincerity to him that I just adore. I find him wonderfully nuanced and I look forward to any scene involving him. Then there’s the rest of Kelsier’s crew: Breeze, the pretentious Soother; Ham, the philosophical Thug; Clubs, the cantankerous Smoker; Spook, the Tin-Eye teen who speaks almost exclusively in slang; Dockson, Kelsier’s second-in-command with no allomantic powers but a strong, solid presence; and Marsh, Kelsier’s brother and inside man. Finally, there’s the nobleman Vin develops a soft spot for: Elend Venture, future lord of the greatest of the noble houses and humanitarian who, unlike most of the nobility, actually sees the ska as people. I fell in love with all of these characters when I read the series the first time, and that love has only grown through the years.

”I represent that one thing you’ve never been able to kill, no matter how hard you try. I am hope.”

This is a story with layers. There’s the heist, the discussions of religion and class systems and politics, the world-building and the magic and the action. There’s even a touch of romance. But, at its heart, this is a story about freedom from oppression, about the fact that all sentient beings are worthy of respect and being treated with dignity. The egalitarian in me loves this wholeheartedly and can’t think of any nobler cause to fight for. The divisions between noble and skaa and Terris, Lord Ruler and Steel Inquisitor and obligator, were fascinating and disgusting in equal measure. Side note: the Steel Inquisitors remain some of the most disturbing villains I’ve ever come across.

”There’s always another secret.”

The Final Empire is a truly brilliant novel on its own, and an even better series opener. Sanderson’s style and craftsmanship made this a pleasure to read for the first time and to reread years later. Something about his writing makes it incredibly easy to disappear into the story and visualize everything he’s describing. No one builds a world or creates a magic system quite like Sanderson, but he doesn’t stop there; he also crafts characters with so much heart that they stay with you long after their stories end. This was just as captivating as I remembered, and I’m so excited to revisit the rest of the series.

You can purchase this book from: Blackwell’s | (Support independent bookstores!)Amazon US | Amazon UK | Audible | (Another way to support independent bookstores!) | Book Depository (Free shipping worldwide!)

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