The Final Empire: review

Title: The Final Empire (Mistborn #1)
Author: Brandon Sanderson

The Book
The Final Empire is about a young woman named Vin, she’s a street urchin who grew up in Luthadel in the Final Empire. She has been part of a thieving crew for a while, and is currently very valuable to them because they think she’s a lucky charm. In fact Vin is affecting people with something she calls luck. She can make people less suspicious and more likely to do what they want. She does this to the wrong person and is discovered by a man named Kelsier, who is planning on overthrowing the Lord Ruler, a cruel despot. It turns out Vin is a Mistborn, like Kelsier, which means she can ingest metals and then use them. This is called Allomancy, and makes Vin able to use metals, and some sort of energy conversion, to move, enhance her senses, make her stronger, and so on. Kelsier gets together a crew of friends, con artists and thieves, to fuck over the Lord Ruler, and Vin joins his crew.

What I thought
I really liked it. I really, really liked it. I was a bit worried about it, because I read Elantris, by Sanderson, and I didn’t really like it. But I decided to give him another chance, and I am so glad I did. Because I really loved it.

The world building is fantastic. There are unanswered questions, and I assume they’ll be answered in the next book, or the third one, but it’s perfect. Essentially, about 1000 years ago something terrible happened, and the Empire sort of fell apart. A dark lord took control, and he has been ruling ever since. He is assumed to be immortal, people keep trying to kill him, but nothing seems to be able to kill him. The world is covered in ash and mist, which is a result of this terrible thing that happened.

Apart from the Lord Ruler there are essentially two classes; the nobility and the skaa. The nobility are a minority, but they are insanely wealthy. They live in a sort of volatile existence with a House War always looming. The other class is the skaa and they are treated as slaves and chattel. They are not paid, barely fed and kept in a constant state of terror and depression. There are no rebellions because they’re pushed so far down.

There is also a sort of other class, which is the Mistborns and the Mistings. Mistborns are usually nobly born, but some of them are skaa, through rape of skaa, or prostitution. The Mistborns can ingest metals, like iron and the alloy of iron steel, and then they can “burn” it and use them to move around. There are eight main metals, and there are Mistings, who can only burn one metal, and they are experts in that metal. Mistings are more common than Mistborns. I liked that there was a limitation to their powers, if they don’t have enough metal with them they can burn up the metal they have ingested and be stuck or without powers. They are also limits to how they can move. If there is no metal around they can’t use alomancy to move. Also Kelsier and Vin are Mistborn and seem to think they’re better in general, but the Mistings are more focused on one metal and so they know how to use them better. I loved the world building, it was fantastic.

The characters are great. Kelsier is a skaa, and he is a survivor from a horrible working camp. He is covered in scars, and he’s been working as a thief for a long time, with a crew of Mistings. He is a bit insane because he’s been used as a slave, and he lost his wife. He is still a good, loyal friend and he is hopeful and funny and sweet. He wants to help Vin and he wants to overthrow the ruler, which was originally his brother’s plan. He seems to basically have thought of it on a whim.

Vin is this young girl Kelsier finds and he takes her in. Vin has spent most of her life on the streets with her abusive brother Reen, and then her abusive boss, Camon. She trusts no one, and she has no idea how to be friends with people. She spends the first part of the book extremely suspicious of the rest of the crew. She sincerely doubts that a crew can work like this, basically working on trust, not fear and complete focus on self-preservation like she is used to. It was interesting to see Vin learn how to embrace these men as her friends, and see her grow. She’s a very engaging character, and she’s brash and basically always does whatever she thinks she needs to do, no matter if she has been told repeatedly to stay away.

Final thoughts

I really loved it. Whenever I read a fantasy book like this it makes me want to stop reading everything else, and just continue reading fantasy. I want the rest of the trilogy right now. And I want to find other Sanderson books and hope that the trend continues. My biggest issue with Elantris was that he seemed to try too hard to write epically. He was trying for high fantasy, but he didn’t really have the capacity. In the Final Empire he seems more comfortable as a writer, and he seems more comfortable with his own writing style, which makes it flow better, and I like that. It’s really good.