Monday, August 25, 2008

Book Review: MISTBORN by Brandon Sanderson

What would happen if the fabled hero didn't save the world? That is the question that Mistborn poses. Mistborn is the second offering from author Brandon Sanderson. His first novel, Elantris, won much critical acclaim, although in my fucking opinion (see that there? yeah, I said it.) felt very amateur on many levels, most of all character dialog.

The Gist
Mistborn improves upon many shortcoming of his first novel. It takes place in a world called the Final Empire where a godlike king called The Lord Ruler (I know, I know sounds kind of lame) has enslaved a race of people known as the skaa. The protagonist comes from this lot, a young thief girl named Vin. She uses what she refers to as Luck to help her survive day to day. Her thieving career soon comes to a brutal end, but is rescued from a life on the street by her future mentor, a man named Kelsier. She soon learns that her Luck is far more powerful and diverse than she once thought. She finds out she is a Mistborn; someone who uses what is called Allomancy which relies on the ingestion of metal alloys to fuel powers that range from manipulating someone's emotions to increased strength.

The Good
Enough of an intro. So what is so good about this book? One thing I'll give the author is he has created a very unique magic system, one that is clearly mapped out and balanced. You won't find any invulnerable heroes here. Also the world-building is pretty good, from it's deep history to it's dark setting where ash falls from gray skies. It did remind me of Planescape (a D&D setting from Wizards of the Coast. Yes I'm a neeeeuurd.) with it's gray palettes and angular architecture. Also, if you're a fan of action, this won't disappoint. Due to the unique magic system, the batttles aren't your typical sword fights.

The Not so Good
Sanderson's character dialog is much improved, although, just like Elantris, it feels a little anachronistic at times. Now I'm not bitching about there being no "thees" and "thous" but at times it seems too modern. It also feels too "edited." What do I mean by that? Well at times it doesn't flow like a regular conversation would, but feels like he painstakingly chose each word, edited, and edited again. Also, while the magic system is unique, it does feel a little too planned which left me feeling like I was reading about a D&D game session rather than a novel. I'm probably a little too harsh by saying that, but I prefer fantasy novels where the art of magic is a little unknown and scarce in the world; has a little more mystery. The reader is also pummeled with the thoughts of the main character, Vin, which are worded a little unrealistically.

The Verdict
Okay, okay, I know I've shown a little more hate than love in this review, but I feel I need to point out the negatives so you'll have a little more idea as what to expect so as to not dismiss the novel entirely for a few shortcomings. This book is GOOD, I swear, despite all the time I spent telling you its faults. It has a solid story, a great setting, and a unique magic system. You're never trudging through too much wordy political rambling like many modern high fantasy series or never deprived of any good sword and sorcery.

And hell, the publisher recently released a $4.99 version, so there isn't much to lose. If you prefer the "sit on your ass" shopping method, here is the Amazon link:

Buy this shit

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