Vin lives in a repressive empire where the nobles have everything and the slaves, also known as the skaa, live in slums and are constantly afraid of the oppressive mists and what may happen to them. Sixteen years-old and part of a thieving crew of skaa, Vin gets a break in her depressing life when the legendary Kelsier comes to tell her she is a mistborn, an allomancer who can burn ingested metals for incredible powers. He also has a job for her and other mistings in the city – overthrow the Lord Ruler who for one thousand years has led the people into oppression. Vin agrees, and she and the other allomancers put into motion a set of events that changes the face of the Final Empire.
I had actually never read Sanderson before (I know, I know, throw rocks at me) and decided to test the waters a bit with The Final Empire. Dozens of hours listening to the three audiobooks later and I am a converted fan. Sanderson somehow manages to craft a world so real that you are left wondering if we could swallow metals and burn them ourselves. His explanation of allomancy, the ability to burn metals, and feruchemy, the ability to store abilities in metals, are so detailed that you understand the concept completely. It seems perfectly logical and scientific that if you give Vin the right blend of pewter she can burn the metal to become incredibly strong. Sanderson does a great job of making his world grounded in some kind of science, keeping it real and never too “out there”, which can often make fantasy feel a bit too, well, fantastical.
Vin as our heroine is standoffish, untrusting, and the last person in the Final Empire who would want to wear a dress. At sixteen, she has already witnessed her mother kill her baby sister, her mother die, her brother beat her and then disappear, and suffered beatings by several thieving crew leaders over the years. But she has born them, is hard because of her trials, and suffers no fools. And I love her.
In a world of fiction – both filmed and written – where women are so often shallow or two-dimensional, it was refreshing to have such a strong character be the hero of the story. Vin progresses fast with allomancy, becoming a great warrior who causes fear in the hearts of those who come against her path. But it is not her violent abilities that really appealed to me, but rather that she was not just the assassin or body guard. As part of their plan, Vin must imitate a noblewoman, wearing intricate gowns and attending parties where dancing and idle gossip gets you in the door. She might hate the idle gossip, but Vin proves to be a fine dancer, skilled conversationalist, and even begins to love the gowns she wears. Secretly. She maintains a tough exterior, but the reader gets to witness Vin transform into Lady Valette and her love for the other side of her new life. Vin never really softens, but over the course of the trilogy, she begins to accept and understand that she can be more than the assassin; she can like beautiful gowns and still relish a good fight. Definitely not something you see every day.
It’s hard to talk about The Well of Ascension or The Hero of Ages without giving away plot details from The Final Empire, but they were so in keeping with the first novel that they all felt like a separate volume in one giant story. The books are undoubtedly long, but if you want a great, sweeping fantasy epic, Sanderson is definitely the way to go.
Audiobook Rating: 7/10
Read The Mistborn Trilogy