Mistborn: The Final Empire
Have you ever read a book like Harry Potter or The Lord of the Rings and asked yourself, “What if the bad guy won?” Do you like complex systems of magic weaved and integrated flawlessly into your high fantasy? Would you prefer a strong female protagonists instead of some oafy farm boy? Do you like tales of daring, adventure, love and loss?
If those questions are enough to catch your attention, then Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn: The Final Empire is for you!
1000 years prior to the story of The Final Empire, a great calamity known only as The Deepness rose, and there was only one man who could stand against it: the Hero of Ages. Unfortunately, the Hero of Ages failed in his mission, and for the past millennium, the people of the Final Empire have lived under an immortal tyrant. An emperor who calls himself the Lord Ruler. The Lord Ruler is the Sliver of Infinity, a piece of God, and his word is law.
In the Final Empire, skaa (commoners) are slaves who have toiled for the past 1000 years under a red sun and a sky filled with ash, and often beaten to death by their masters. In this world of death and ruin, one man has survived the harshest prison that the Lord Ruler has to offer. A former thief turned mistborn, this man now has his eyes set on the Lord Ruler himself. Of course, he can’t undertake this task alone, and recruits a handful of old friends, all of whom are mistings.
This thief, Kelsier, discovers another skaa mistborn in Vin, a street urchin and member of another thief's crew who has been abused her entire life. He takes her under his wing, not only as his apprentice in allomancy, but also as an adopted daughter. Together, Kelsier and Vin, with the help of Ham (a thug), Breeze (a soother), Clubs (a smoker), Spook (a tineye), Marsh (a seeker, and Kelsier’s elder brother), and Dockson (a common skaa) concoct an Oceans 11-style heist to overthrow the Final Empire, and steal the source of the Lord Ruler’s wealth. Because, as all thieves know: wealth is political power.
You might be asking yourself now, “What is a mistborn or misting? Are they different? What does it mean to be one or the other? Why is everything about the mist?”
I’m glad you’ve asked yourself those questions because I’ll answer them for you. A mistborn is someone with allomantic powers who can burn any metal to provide themselves with the allomantic power that that metal consists of. A misting, however, can only burn one specific allomantic metal. For example, a misting that burns pewter is called either a pewterarm or a thug (this is due to pewter’s pushing of one’s physical body, making them stronger and increasing the stamina of the one burning pewter). All of these powers, though allomancy is only one of the three metal-based magic systems in Mistborn (each review of an era 1 book will delve into another of the three systems) are named after mist (mistborn, misting), because of the fact that most mistborn and mistings are nobles and will only operate during the night, when everything is blanketed in a veil of mist.
You’re probably now thinking, “Allomancy? Burning metals? What the heck is this book about again?!”
Again, all questions I’d be more than happy to answer now! Allomancy is the primary (but not the only) system of magic in Mistborn. Allomancy is the use of metals through “burning” them after you have ingested them. Burning, or using your allomantic metals, can provide you with a variety of physical or mental powers, here’s a handy breakdown:
- Bronze: A misting who can burn only bronze is called a Seeker, due to their ability to seek out sources of allomancy and detect the use of allomancy by others. Bronze is the internal pushing mental metal.
- Copper: A misting who can burn only copper is called a Smoker, due to their allomantic ability to create a coppercloud, or “smoke” that hides the use of allomancy within an area. When burning copper, the user is unaffected by emotional allomancy, however, anybody within their coppercloud not “smoking” will still be affected. Copper is the internal pulling mental metal.
- Zinc: A misting who can burn only zinc is called a Rioter, due to their allomantic ability to enflame and riot another person’s emotions. Zinc is the external pulling mental metal.
- Brass: A misting who can burn only brass is called a Soother, due to their allomantic ability to calm, or soothe another person’s emotions. Brass is the external pushing mental metal.
- Pewter: A misting who can use only pewter is called a Thug or a Pewterarm, due to the strength and stamina boost that burning pewter provides. A thug is likely to last several times longer in combat due to the effect of their allomantic power. Pewter is the internal pushing physical metal.
- Tin: A misting who can only burn tin is known as a Tineye, due to tin providing its user enhanced physical senses (sight, sound, etc). Tineyes are most effective for scouting. Tin is the internal pulling physical metal.
- Steel: A misting with the ability to burn only steel is known as a Coinshot, because, well, steel lets you push on metals and the preferred metal that most allomancers use to push on is a coin. Steel is the external pushing physical metal.
- Iron: A misting who can burn only iron is known as a Lurcher due to the fact that burning iron allows the user to pull a source of metal towards them, lurching it off of it’s course if it’s airborne. Iron is the external pulling physical metal.
There are a few other metals, but most of them don’t show up until the second Mistborn book, and the “high metals,” as they are called, I’ll leave for you to discover. Now that I’ve given a brief overview of the plot and the primary system of magic in Mistborn, here’s what I’ve got to say about this book:
It’s fantastic. Absolutely phenomenal. I remember the first time I read this book, it was winter of 2010 when I was only about 17. My chemistry teacher in high school recommended it to me, and I was instantly hooked on this series.
The way Sanderson weaves the story from its beginning to its end is absolutely masterful. hether they come from privilege, abuse, or fallen grace, one thing is abundantly clear: Sanderson knows how people’s minds work. He develops his characters and instills a sense of realism in the way they act. There’s really no wonder why Harriet McDougal chose Sanderson to finish the Wheel of Time series after Robert Jordan’s passing in 2007.
I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, but I will tell you that in each of the Mistborn era 1 books (The Final Empire, The Well of Ascension, The Hero of Ages), Sanderson skillfully intertwines two stories in each book. What happened 1000 years ago in the Lord Ruler’s ascension is a mystery, one that you’ll spend the entirety of the book trying to solve along with my favorite thief’s crew.
If you want to fight for freedom. If you want to be the savior of the common man. If you want to overcome the pain in your past. If you want to be a part of something bigger than yourself. Join the crew and read Mistborn. You absolutely won’t be disappointed.
I’ll end this article with one of my favorite quotes from this book:
“Do you stop loving someone just because they betray you? I don't think so. That's what makes the betrayal hurt so much - pain, frustration, anger...”
Editor's Note: If you're interested in more Brandon Sanderson, there's a fantastic Humble Bundle available for the next two weeks. It includes several stories, audiobooks, and some Mistborn Adventure Game books, all for an incredibly low price. Plus, you decide how much of what you pay goes to charity! Check it out here!