In the riveting sequel to The Final Empire, Sanderson doesn’t hold back, continuing on from where he left off: the Lord Ruler is gone, but this was just the first mighty battle in the ongoing war. In The Well of Ascension times are still hard for many, even though the skaa have been freed and Elend is now king of Luthadel and the surrounding territories. The nobles must now learn to live in a democratic society where they cannot have slaves. It is a different world for many.
Before the dust even has time to settle, King Elend faces problems from various fronts: there is dissension in his democratically elected cabinet who wish to return to the old ways; then there are three armies marching toward Luthadel. Before our main characters can decide what to do, they find themselves under siege from two massive fronts. One is controlled by Lord Straff Venture, Elend’s father who wants his son to hand over his kingdom to him, no questions asked. Then there is Lord Cett looking to seize control of Luthadel with his own substantial army. Elend finds himself in a unique position where he can ally with one army and therefore be able to overthrow the other. The question is who to ally with?
As he contemplates this a third army arrives, of koloss. These are tall 9-15 feet creatures that vary in size but are terrifying to humans. Originally created by Lord Ruler for his army, their skin is extremely wrinkled and hangs off them in places like loose clothing while there are great tears in the skin and yet the koloss ignore this. But their red, blood-rimmed eyes strike terror in all who view them. They may seem dumb and slow, but in battle they are fierce and destructive, and it’s unknown whether they may lose control at any second and begin rampaging into the city of Luthadel.
Then there is Sazed, a loyal member of the group who is a Terrisman, a special person with the ability to store thoughts, memories, and knowledge in metal that is worn in the form of rings or armbands. Stored in these armbands are also other abilities such as great strength and speed. But in Sanderson’s world, it’s all about balance, as the energy stored in each armband is finite, and in some cases can take many years to be stored up, but can be used and extinguished in a matter of minutes. Sazed is a scholar and knows much is not right with the world. Somehow the mists that are feared by many for a long time throughout the realm begin killing people and even wiping out whole villages. There is the Deepness, a mythological force that was supposedly stopped when the Lord Ruler came to power, but is not fully understood and may bring terrible things to pass. Sazed must also find the correct location for The Well of Ascension, for it is here that the Hero of Ages – who he believes Vin to be – will release the power and save the world.
Then there is the OreSeur, a kandra, an ancient race who are able to absorb the bones of a dead person or animal and take that form and appear almost identical to them. OreSeur is Lord Straff’s kandra, and is sent to spy on Vin, but it’s also discovered that there’s another kandra somewhere within Luthadel who, with the kandra abilities, could literally be anybody.
Finally there is the supposed Hero of Ages, Vin, who isn’t sure what she is, but knows she is one of the most powerful people in existence, but must use her power wisely and not kill recklessly. She befriends another allomancer, Zane, who seems very familiar, and she becomes close to him, for they have so much in common, and yet he is the allomancer for Lord Straff and therefore an enemy.
Sanderson continues the complexity of the world, with many moral and sociological questions coming into play, as well as adding new plots and subplots. While it may seem a little overbearing, he skillfully keeps everything organized and separate and maintains the reader’s interest throughout. It is a sequel worthy of its name, as The Well of Ascension keeps the pace going from the first book, making the reader hunger for more at the last page. The trilogy is concluded in The Hero of Ages.
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Originally written on November 24th 2008 ©Alex C. Telander.
For an interview with Brandon Sanderson check out BookBanter Episode 2.