Mistborn – a book review

The Mistborn is a high-fantasy trilogy by Brandon Sanderson

Epic fantasies like Lord of the Rings or say Game of thrones, involve a great deal of world building. But the primary objective, like most storytelling is to explore the human world and its abstractions such as morality, faith, fidelity, greed, ambition et cetra. In interest of such an inquiry, the author creates a socio-political dynamic to aid in the storytelling, that is, to conveying  an idea. However, too often do epic fantasies go off the rail and become all about the world building and fetishisticly mine for more information about events in the imaginary world, rather than dig deeper on the idea or metaphor (like a few of Star Wars literature i dislike). The Mistborn series is NOT one of these novels. The author is very sure at his skill in tying the threads together, and the overall universe is not daunting, but rather a very consistent closed ontology that does its job for the plot and ideas conveyed. The friction between world building and plot was fluid, thematic explorations tightly knit with the pace of the story line which is gracefully garnished with well placed “aha!” moments, head-swirling twists, adrenaline pumping action sequences and contemplative aphorisms, a wholesome potpourri that at no point left me feeling underwhelmed.

Now all that being said, what is the Mistborn series about. To me it seems to be a multitude of stories tied together. At first it is the tale of a ‘heroic’ revolution led by a bunch of low-key conspirators, then it is the tale about the aftermath of a revolution, something not frequently dealt with, as heroism is easy when all you have to do is destroy an existing order and much harder when you want to create something fresh with ideals, and yet later in the series – it turns into something else entirely – an epic, a metaphor, an unresolved conflict between fundamental forces in the fantastically crafted universe.

The major characters in the story have their share of internal and external conflicts and their choices further throwing them into precipitous consequences. Vin, a young girl who starts out as as a street urchin hiding and surviving from danger among scum in the alleyways, learns to trust and accept a place in a team then a nation and even lead in her measure. To me she represented a different aspect of the trio Maiden/Mother/Crone often found in Gaiman’s mythos in each of the books struggling and  growing up with each circumstance, to reach a higher “level”. *fanboying for the Vin. On the downside the author really threads the line between Mary Sue and a realistic character which I cheerfully disregard by reclassifying the series as a YA.

Another one of the leading protagonists learns what it means to rule . He contemplates on the conflict between offering his countrymen a fair choice and asserting his authority to lead them to the future. I particularly loved how the series juxtaposes the charismatic yet rash and seemingly miraculous leadership against more realistic ones, where one is forced to address the sheer messiness as different people operate under different motives.

Yet another character enquires on faith as opposed to reasoning. He sort of functions as a window into an existential crisis in a world facing changing circumstances. For all these characters, the plotline was particularly effective at initially posing questions as if they were black and white and then shaking the jar, to reveal the shades of grey that haunts their choices. The story also has its fair share of light-hearted jokes, friendly romance and action – but to me these were just icing on the cake, for most importantly it built memorable characters. ;-;

Overall I enjoyed the book very much. I wouldn’t call it flawless or a masterpiece, in fact, it has its share of asspulls and overly dramatic moments, but it sure has done a great job of a high fantasy with a bit of YA tendencies. :p

– Ramakrishna

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