Mistborn, #1: The Final Empire (BOOK REVIEW)

Believe it or not, this was my first time through Mistborn: The Final Empire. I’ve tried it a few times prior, but was either preoccupied or not ready to read it. Perhaps I was uninterested, perhaps I was simply waiting for the right time. Maybe I just wanted to read another Stormlight Archive book. Regardless, I finally sat down to go through it. And I really enjoyed it.

Granted, it’s not The Stormlight Archive, in content, length, or quality. But it’s a really good, highly realized fantasy world, a more technologically advanced one than most of its fantasy counterparts. Taking place in what would equivocate to the 1700s, it has a strong sense of itself.

But best yet, Sanderson has the strong presence of mind not to get too bogged down in world building to let the story fall through the cracks. A whole trilogy’s worth of events gets packed into a single volume in the Final Empire. Events you don’t expect to transpire until the end of this trilogy actually happen in blurring motion at the end of this book. Which is awesome. This book doesn’t play around. But it doesn’t always have time to breathe.

When it does allow itself time to breathe, it does so by stuffing you into yet another ballroom. Which isn’t nearly as interesting as the author seems to believe it is. To believe that the entirety of the courtly political drama in this world happens at parties is a bit ridiculous. Our protagonist Vin must attend several per week (when she can), and though this does move the story forward slightly, the real drama is happening in the background of all this with her mentor Kelsier.

He’s insighting a slow rebellion amongst the Skaa, an oppressed race of mankind, much of which is enslaved by those with noble blood. We never get much of an explanation as to what the major differences are between Skaa and those with noble blood. The nobles think they’re slower, shorter, weaker, etc., but it proves very simple to mimic the noble class so this isn’t necessarily true. But I guess, if I were to equate them to peasants, their bearings would have been highly aberrant and glaringly obvious to the rich. This is never really explained.

The magic system is extraordinary. It’s seems so simple at first, but in its simplicity it surprises you by having an incredible amount of versatility. Burning different alloys gives you different abilities, and these abilities are rare. Those who can burn all the alloys are called Mistborn, which are extremely rare. There is a strange correlation to the mists that cover the world at night and the abilities themselves, but we don’t yet know why. I look forward to finding out more. I also look forward to just about anything else Sanderson warps around the concept of Allomancy.

The world itself is set amongst an interesting backdrop. It’s Star Wars in a fantasy setting. The oppressive Empire has lorded over people for a long time. It’s not until the underdogs come in, with abilities they shouldn’t have, to overthrow it. But this takes a far more dystopian approach than Star Wars does, including harsh, demeaning slavery.

One of the many things I enjoyed were the inclusion of the Steel Inquisitors. Such unbelievably creepy, formidable foes. I hope to see much more of them. If this were ever turned into a film, I’d love to see how these were handled.

Actually, I want to see much more of all of this world. I want to learn about the mists. I want to figure out what the eleventh metal does. I want to see new people wield these abilities. What are mistwraiths‽ Can’t wait to start the next book. But I wish the most memorable aspect of this novel wasn’t the magic system. So much of this story felt like an excuse to write about Allomancy. Still, I’m not exactly complaining.

Grab Mistborn: The Final Empire:
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7 thoughts on “Mistborn, #1: The Final Empire (BOOK REVIEW)

  1. I was also unaware that the first book had a subtitle. The cover on my copy just says Mistborn and if the subtitle is mentioned elsewhere, I missed it. 🙂

    That being said, the ‘Grand Ball’ thingy pretty much ends after book one, though there is one more, but I won’t say where in case you haven’t gotten that far yet.

    I believe Mr. Sanderson has mentioned in interviews and elsewhere (see: Sanderson’s Laws of Magic http://coppermind.net/wiki/Sanderson%27s_Laws_of_Magic ) that he’s believes a well developed magic system is essential in a fantasy that involves magic users. He differentiates hard and soft magic in much the same way that sci-fi authors do with hard and soft science.

    I’m sort of rambling here, but I think my point is that his attention to magic system detail won’t distract too much from the story he’s telling here or in any of his others, and I’m confident you’ll enjoy the rest of this first trilogy as much as you did the first. I now I did. 🙂


  2. Huh, didn’t know they added a sub-title to the first book. The time frame in this would be closer to the mid 1700s, think Pride & Prejudice; the follow up series (starting with the Alloy of Law) would be closer to mid to late 1800s (think western & steampunk), although the second series does take place 300 years later. Sanderson has first rate magic systems and first rate endings imo, I have always walked away satisfied with how he concludes his stories.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My wife and I are both big Sanderson fans. My wife actually has two copies of each of his books (one hard cover, one paperback), and all of them signed. He’s been her favorite author since his debut novel. So we’re very familiar with his books.

    I agree with a lot of your comments. Sanderson has always had pacing problems in his novels, but they’re magnified in Final Empire since it was so early in his career. The next two books in the trilogy have some similar issues, though they diminish the farther along you get.

    As for a movie, you can check out the mood trailer that was put together a few years ago. Nothing to get too excited about, but enough to give you an extra taste of what it could be like.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Glad to hear. I love love love his Stormlight Archive series, so this felt like a step back (which makes sense as its earlier in his career). But I enjoyed it thoroughly.


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