“The Final Empire: Mistborn Book 1” by Brandon Sanderson (Tor, 2006)

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The first novel in New York Times bestselling author Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy is an introduction to a fantasy world of class and standing where the poor suffer under the iron fist of the nobility who ignore them and pretend they don’t exist.  Mistborn: The Final Empire reveals a unique realm where the mistborn possess powers of magic never before seen in any other fantasy novel.

Vin is a sixteen year-old skaa, a peasant girl who has never really known her parents, abandoned by an abusive brother, and spends her days working in a field with no hope of change.  That is until a tall and imposing stranger by the name of Kelsier shows up, dismisses her abusive boss like he is garbage and pays attention to her for the first time.  He tells her she possesses powers she is unaware of and then takes her away from her life of slavery, for she is mistborn.

The mistborn are very few in number, but the powers they possess are to be feared by many throughout the realm.  By ingesting small amounts of metals, a mistborn is able to “burn” a particular metal and exert a certain kind of power with it, also known as an allomancer.  Different metals that are burned result in different powers.  Steel allows one to push on metal objects such as railings, doors, coins, belt buckles, wherever there is metal nearby to be used, allowing one to push themselves into the air to great heights.  Iron allows one to pull on metals in one’s surroundings, pulling them up walls and across open spaces.  Zinc allows the mistborn to inflame emotions in others, to make them angrier or sadder, or more fearful.  Brass is a soothing metal, allowing the user to calm and dampen other’s emotions.  Bronze allows the mistborn to detect whether allomancy is being used by others nearby.  Copper allows mistborn to hide their use of allomancy.  Pewter, one of the most useful of the metals for an allomancer, allows them to greatly enhance their physical abilities, so they can be stronger, have faster reflexes, and move exceedingly fast.  Pewter also allows them to sustain injuries and barely notice the pain and not be hindered when under attack.  Tin enhances one’s senses, allowing them to detect sounds, sights, and smells better than any human.  These are the basic metals that all mistborn can use.  But when the small supply of ingested metal is extinguished, the allomancer must find more, or find themselves with simple, ordinary human abilities.

Then there is the metal atium.  A very rare metal that can only be found in small amounts within the crystalline caves of the Pits of Hathsin.  It is here that prisoners are put to work to search for the metal and suffer constant wounds from crawling through the narrow tunnels.  If the prisoner does not find a piece of atium, he or she is executed.  Atium serves as the most expensive metal in the realm, which everyone hungers for.  The Lord Ruler gives out small amounts to his nobles and keeps the rest for himself.  But when a mistborn swallows and uses atium, they have the ability to see future actions, choices made by an opponent during a fight, making it the most important and useful metal for an allomancer.

As Vin begins training with Kelsier, who is also a mistborn, she discovers she is to be part of a group plotting to overthrow the Lord Ruler, who has controlled the world for over a millennium, subjugating all to his tyrannical and merciless power.  With the help of the religious group, the Steel Ministry, which is controlled by the Inquisitors: a trained and bred group of people with giant spikes hammered into their eyes; they are feared by all for their terrifying appearance, as well as for their allomantic abilities.

But there are those – Pewterarms, Seekers, Soothers, Rioters, Lurchers, and Coinshots – who are able to use only one of the metals, and Kelsier has chosen the gang carefully, selecting specific people with specific talents and powers, and fully believes he can kill the Lord Ruler and make the world better.

Sanderson’s first book in his planned trilogy opens up a world with unique magical powers and astounds the reader, as well as keeping him or her reading nonstop to find out what happens next to the well developed and fascinating characters.  Mistborn: The Final Empire will make the reader go out and buy the next two books – Well of Ascension and Hero of Ages – in the series, just to find out how it all ends, and who remains alive on the last page.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on November 8th 2008 ©Alex C. Telander.

For an interview with Brandon Sanderson check out BookBanter Episode 2.

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