The Final Empire (Mistborn #1)
- Brandon Sanderson
A thousand years ago evil came to the land and has ruled with an iron hand ever since. The sun shines fitfully under clouds of ash that float down endlessly from the constant eruption of volcanoes. A dark lord rules through the aristocratic families and ordinary folk are condemned to lives in servitude, sold as goods, labouring in the ash fields. But now a troublemaker has arrived and there is rumour of revolt. A revolt that depends on criminal that no-one can trust and a young girl who must master Allomancy - the magic that lies in all metals.
Ha ha ha, my turn to read a book that Mel hasn’t even heard of, and I’m hoping it is one that she will someday pick up (although, with the size of her TBR pile, it could be a long time coming…). The Final Empire kicks start the Mistborn trilogy with aplomb, providing a refreshing look at the swords ‘n’ sorcery genre by asking the question ‘what would happen if the Dark Lord won?’
In Mistborn, magic can only be wielded by the nobility, and only by those who have the ability to ‘burn’ specific metals. Yes, instead of metal ingestion being fatal, if you have the innate gift, you can change the metal into a powerful tool. The majority of those able to practice allomancy can only utilize one metal, but to a privileged few, all metals can be used to their advantage. This novel’s Dark Lord is one such person, and his powers are so great that he is able to manipulate the emotions of virtually every underdog in the city at once, keeping them obedient, compliant, and peaceful. That is, until the (almost unbelievably) charismatic Kelsier, and his thieving crew decide to do something about it.
As Kelsier’s plans progress he is introduced to the heroine of our tale, the untrusting, emotionally broken, but ultimately strongly gifted, Vin, a young, scrawny, teenage girl. As a reader I really appreciated Vin’s ingrained wariness, and how she doesn't instantly capitulate to Kelsier’s charm. Too many novels contain characters that change their behavior with little effort from others – in reality, if you have been damaged, you do not heal quickly. Even in the final chapters, Vin’s past is still affecting the way she interacts with others.
Sanderson as an author has a real way with action sequences, leaving you breathless in the way that very few authors can. Yes, he is not James Barclay (my Holy Grail of action writer), but Sanderson is definitely in that vicinity in my book. I have heard that later installments in this series are a little disappointing after this great introduction, but I will be making my own mind up about them in the not too distant future I am sure!
One for fans of Trudi Canavan and Glenda Larke, 8 out of 10.