I first read Mistborn: Era 1 a little over 7 years ago. While I loved it in its entirety, I remembered thinking in hindsight that The Well of Ascension was significantly weaker than the first and third novels in the trilogy. I was mistaken. While it wasn’t quite as fast-paced as its predecessor, this was still a phenomenal book in its own right. It’s not quite perfect, but it is much stronger than I recalled. And there was so much that I had forgotten! As with all of Sanderson’s work, The Well of Ascension is brimming with fascinatingly scientific magic systems, a compelling plot, mysteries that don’t give themselves away too quickly, and characters with flaws but a ton of heart. Rereading this series is reminding me of why Sanderson is one of my favorite authors of all time. He never lets me down.
“A man was defined not by his flaws, but by how he overcame them.”
Strangely enough, my favorite element of this book wasn’t the world building or the deeper dive into the dual magic systems. All of which I do love, by the way, but neither of these are what kept me so deeply invested in the story. No, I was here for the relationships. And while I did enjoy the romance of the central couple, it was the other interpersonal relationships that mattered most to me. Elend and Tindwyl, Breeze and Clubs, Sazed and Tindwyl, Breeze and Allrianne, were all very fun interactions to watch. But there was one particular relationship that just gave me all the feels as it developed over time, and that was the relationship between Vin and OreSeur. First of all, I’m a sucker for a good animal character. (Yes, I know neither are actually an animal. No, I won’t be clarifying further, because I don’t want to accidentally spoil anything.) Second, I love when characters who dislike each other slowly and realistically come to an understanding and end up not only coming to appreciate each other but developing a fierce loyalty to one another. And that is exactly what I got. It made my heart grow three sizes.
“If you perpetuate the dreams of the past, you stifle your own dreams of the future.”
In terms of individual character development, there was so much of it in this book. Vin has grown tremendously over the course of this book and its predecessor, and she’s a wonderful protagonist. Sanderson writes women incredibly well, and Vin is a prime example. But the character development that impresses me the most was that of Elend. He changed radically over the course of this novel, but it felt entirely natural and fluid based on the experiences he was having. I also both loved and hated the development of Sazed. I loved getting so much time with him, and seeing more of his personality and the core of what makes him who he is. I hated how much some of his later development hurt my heart to witness. As I mentioned in my review of The Final Empire, Sazed is my favorite character in the trilogy. I love him dearly, and I can’t stand to see him struggle. But Sanderson, of course, handled all of this brilliantly. The fact that I’m upset over it just goes to show what a fantastic job he did with Sazed’s development.
“It’s easy to believe in something when you win all the time…The losses are what define a man’s faith.”
Besides the relationships and character development, my other favorite part of this book, and the series in general, has to be the magic systems. I mentioned in my review for The Final Empire that allomancy is quite possibly the most cinematic magic system I’ve ever experienced. I stand by that. But what I really love in this particular book is that Sanderson showed us more of allowance’s sister magic system, Feruchemy. Allomancy is much showier, and doesn’t require nearly as much personal investment and sacrifice. The subtle quietness of Feruchemy really fits Sazed as a character, though, like Sazed himself, Feruchemy can be a force to be reckoned with when circumstances call for it.
“That’s the point, isn’t it? We have to live on, no matter how hard it gets. We’ll win in the end.”
I did find myself feeling a tad fatigued by the siege against Luthadel and all of the political machinations throughout the novel, but even that felt intentional on Sanderson’s part. It was easier to feel the characters’ exhaustion when given small doses of it ourselves over the course of the narrative. That pacing, though undoubtedly intentional, is all that kept The Well of Ascension from being a full 5 star read for me either time that I read it. What amazed me, however, was how much I had forgotten, and how often I found myself surprised or moved or both by a book that I read a mere handful of years ago.
“It was amazing how many books one could fit into a room, assuming one didn’t want to move around very much.”
I remembered almost everything about Mistborn: The Final Empire, and fully expected that to be the case with The Well of Ascension. Nope. I remembered far less than I thought I did, and was genuinely surprised by twists and reveals in the narrative more than once. I was also more invested than I recall being in this particular installment, which I for some reason remembered as having a small case of second-book syndrome. However, while the story could have gotten bogged down in the political machinations, but it doesn’t quite. There’s enough action to balance it. I think it might could’ve been shortened by a hundred pages or so, but that’s the only nitpicky issue I can find with it. Aside from perhaps being a touch too lengthy, The Well of Ascension is a tight, intricately plotted followup to the first Mistborn novel, and the character development here, along with the story itself, makes me incredibly excited to revisit The Hero of Ages.
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