Mistborn is the name of Brandon’s epic fantasy trilogy. The first book is technically Mistborn: The Final Empire, though people just tend to call it Mistborn or Mistborn 1. The entire trilogy consists of The Final Empire (2006), The Well of Ascension (2007), and The Hero of Ages (2008). It’s a hybrid epic fantasy heist story with a focus on political intrigue and powerful action scenes. If you want a more standard review, scroll down to the news media ones. If you want to launch into the chapters, here’s a link. Read directly below for a more casual explanation in Brandon’s own words.
THE MISTBORN® SAGA – THE ORIGINAL TRILOGY
BOOK 1: THE FINAL EMPIRE
I came into this book with two big ideas for the plot. The first was that of a heist story, like Sneakers or Ocean’s Eleven involving a gang of gentlemen thieves who each had a distinctive magic power. I wanted to tell the story of how their different magics and abilities worked together for them to pull an incredible caper.
The second idea was to write a story about a world where the good guys lost. I wanted to take the standard fantasy story I’d read a dozen times, that of a young peasant hero who went on a quest to defeat a Dark Lord, and turn it on its head. What if the Dark Lord won? What if, in the final climactic moments, he killed the hero and took over the world?
Hence, Mistborn. A thousand years ago, the prophesied hero from lore rose up to overthrow a great and terrible evil. Only, he lost, and the Dark Lord took over and has been ruling with an iron fist for a thousand years. Ash falls from the sky in this barren land, and mists come every night, deep and mysterious. In this setting, a gang of thieves decides that the prophecies were all lies and that they can’t trust in some fabled hero to save them. They decide to take matters into their own hands, and plan a daring heist of the dark lord himself, planning to use the emperor’s own wealth to bribe his armies away from him and take over the empire.
Anyway, that’s the ‘back of the book’ movie trailer type explanation. If I talk about it more conversationally, however, the plot takes a back seat to characters. The truth is that while Mistborn grew out of my love for heist movies, it didn’t end up being much of a heist story itself. As early as the planning stages of the series, I felt that I wanted both more scope from the plot and more focus on character.
During development, the story moved further and further away from the heist. It’s still there, don’t worry, but it’s more of a backdrop now. Instead, the book focuses on Vin, a young girl who gets recruited into the team. Beaten down by a life on the streets, Vin doesn’t realize that she has the power of a Mistborn (the magic in this book, which many say is its prime selling point.) Her dynamic with Kelsier, the charismatic leader of the gang of thieves, is really what drives this novel.
The book has a little of everything for everyone. Romance, lots of action, a wiz-bang cool magic system, dark lords running amok, great visuals, and character tension. And that’s just book one.
Booklist said the following: “The Sliver of Infinity, the Lord Ruler, is the locus of religious and temporal order in a world in which the skaa are slaves or worse. Half-skaa erstwhile thief Kelsier is the only person to survive and escape the Lord Ruler’s most brutal prison, in which, however, he discovered he has the powers of the Mistborn, which are based on the internal “burning” of certain metals, all of which the Mistborn can use, while most others can burn only one. Now Kelsier plans his most daring raid ever, into the center of the palace to discover the secret of the Lord Ruler’s power. Beforehand, his band finds the half-skaa orphan Vin in another thieving crew, where she’s useful because she brings good luck. She is also Mistborn and, if she can master and learn to trust her powers, will enable Kelsier’s crew to infiltrate the nobility and possibly overthrow the status quo. Intrigue, politics, and conspiracies mesh complexly in a world Sanderson realizes in satisfying depth and peoples with impressive characters.”
Cinescape magazine said “Author of the critically acclaimed instant fantasy classic Elantris (2005), Brandon Sanderson returns with the first novel of his new Mistborn Series. After 1,000 years of oppression the memory of hope has all but faded in a mist-haunted, dust-ridden world where powerful Great Houses rule the serf-like Skaa with a cruel, bourgeois hand. In one of the Lord Ruler’s hellish prisons, however, Kelsier discovers he is one of the Mistborn, a select group of individuals with impressive, metallurgic powers. Together with a band of elite, cutthroat criminals Kel wrenches his way upwards to stage a coup of unprecedented proportions, but are his powers alone enough to topple the immortal dictator known as the “Sliver of Infinity”? Staunch fans of Elantris no longer have to defend their new favorite fantasy author; with a riveting opener to an intriguing new series Sanderson is here to stay. Be sure to check this book out.
The Romantic Times gave the book full marks and said “The characters in this book are amazingly believable. Vin is an eminently sympathetic protagonist whose development over the course of the book is beautifully and realistically delineated. The system of magic is exceedingly clever and well integrated into this complex and plausible world that Vin and Kelsier inhabit. While this is the first in a series, it’s an exceedingly satisfying book on its own, and fans of the genre should waste no time picking it up.”
More reviews and a list of foreign sales can be found on My Agent’s website
“Mistborn utilizes a well thought out system of magic. It also has a great cast of believable characters, a plausible world, an intriguing political system, and despite being the first book of The Final Empire, a very satisfying ending. In short, it’s one of those great kettle books, in which the author has thrown not merely a bone of an idea and a few potatoes of originality, but half a cow and everything in the garden. And then added seasonings. Highly recommended to anyone hungry for a good read.”
“Intrigue, politics, and conspiracies mesh complexly in a world Sanderson realizes in satisfying depth and peoples with impressive characters.”
Read the whole review on Amazon
“Staunch fans of Elantris no longer have to defend their new favorite fantasy author; with a riveting opener to an intriguing new series Sanderson is here to stay. Be sure to check this book out.”
Check out the whole review RIGHT HERE!
“[Sanderson] has created a fascinating world here, one that deserves a sequel.
The Washington Post
Like all of my books, I try to release a lot of ‘behind the scenes’ material, all of which you can get to from the Related Content sidebar, or the Library. Annotations are chapter-by-chapter musings I have written to be something like a director’s commentary for a DVD. There are also sample chapters and deleted scenes. Have a look! I think you’ll find plenty to interest you.
THE FINAL EMPIRE ART
BOOK 2: THE WELL OF ASCENSION
This page is about the second book in the Mistborn Trilogy. If you haven’t read the first book, I suggest looking here first. The Well of Ascension, which I often refer to as Mistborn Two, was published in hardcover in August 2007.
Like all of my series, I wrote book one of Mistborn to stand on its own, yet lead into potential sequels. Unlike all previous series (which I wrote when I was trying to break into publishing) I actually got to write this sequel. It was the first time I tried to write a second novel, and it presented a number of challenges.
In book one, the characters overthrew the dark lord and seized the throne. It covered in one book what some series prefer to cover over the course of six or seven books. In a way, however, this was the book I wanted to write most when I started the series. Everyone has read the stories of the heroes overthrowing a tyrant—what I don’t think many people have read is the story of those same heroes trying to build and rule a kingdom following their great victory.
I think that rule—building something up, rather than tearing something down—is an even more difficult task than than overthrowing an enemy. We begin this book with Elend Venture on the throne, and Kelsier’s former crew forming his most trusted advisors and government officials. The city is under siege from Straff Venture, Elend’s father, a vicious tyrant. In one sense, the novel is about Elend, Vin, and the rest of the team struggling with politics and armies as they try not to lose control of the city.
In another sense, however, this book is about the characters struggling to decide who they are and what they want to be. It is a much more personal book than book one was, with a lot of time spent on Vin and Elend’s relationship, Sazed’s faith, and Elend’s struggles to be a king. It’s about what really happened a thousand years ago, when the Lord Ruler took the power at the Well of Ascension, and the truth behind the coming of the Deepness.
I tried very hard not to just make this a bridge from book one to book three. I wanted it to be its own book, with a distinct feel and plot all its own. I hope you find it enjoyable!
This entertaining read will especially please those who always wanted to know what happened after the good guys won.
The Well of Ascension is full of plot twists and surprises, leading to a cliffhanger ending.
Vin’s a beautifully realized protagonist whose struggles are wonderfully written and, as always, the worldbuilding is unusual and compelling.
Vin’s struggles with love and power inject the human element into Sanderson’s engaging epic.
Throughout the novel Sanderson does a good job of incorporating interesting aspects of the mist-magic into the otherwise realistic scenario, and of juggling the small-scale and large-scale scenes that must comprise an undertaking of this scope and magnitude. . . . most [readers] will be mesmerized by Sanderson’s balancing act.
Realms of Fantasy
Part of this one is a quest, but part of it is also an examination of what it might really be like to bring down an absolute ruler.
Fans of Terry Goodkind and Terry Brooks will find The Well of Ascension fulfilling, satisfying and incredibly exciting.
Sanderson is crafting an extremely well-thought out saga with Mistborn, one that looks to stand above the pack of his literary peers. The magic system is perfectly detailed, the world, though not completely revealed, has a great sense of natural logic to it, and the characters are a reflection of both. Reading both books so far has helped to remind me why I enjoy Fantasy, especially those stories told in a secondary world, so much.
For readers who always wanted to know what happened after the hero killed off the evil bad guys, this is an intricate story fill of tangles and twists, and plenty of intriguing characters.
[Sanderson’s] books are a lot different than I’ve come to expect from fantasy. What I like about Sanderson is that he can write novels where the plot just hums along, and still have some profound character development going on at the same time.
Builds to a heartstopping crescendo of a conclusion, setting the stage nicely for book three.
THE WELL OF ASCENSION ART
BOOK 3: THE HERO OF AGES
This page is about the third and concluding volume in the Mistborn Trilogy. If you haven’t read the first book, I suggest looking here first. The Hero of Ages, which I often refer to as Mistborn Three, was published in hardcover October 2008 and in paperback April 2009.
This book is not only the third book in a trilogy, but it’s Act Three of the the three-act structure for the Mistborn Trilogy—it’s the part of the story where the heroes have discovered that what they thought was the problem all along was not the true danger, and now they’re fighting for not only their own survival but that of the world they live in. The mists are killing people and staying out much longer than they should. The Ashmounts are spewing more and more choking ash into the sky, burying the crops that everyone needs to eat to live. And Ruin, the creature Vin was tricked into freeing from its prison of a millennium, is loose to wreak havoc upon the land. Life under the Lord Ruler is starting to look like paradise in comparison.
While the first book in the trilogy turned the standard fantasy story on its head, this volume (perhaps inevitably?) returns in a way to the tropes the first volume was a reaction against. Yet in this case the enemy is not a human or humanlike Dark Lord, but something more like a force of nature—entropy itself given a will and a guiding personality in the form of Ruin.
Ultimately, the book is about how the characters we have grown to love from the previous volumes—Vin, Elend, Sazed, TenSoon, Spook, Marsh, and others—find the courage and faith to fight on in the face of overwhelming odds, just as Kelsier taught them when he plotted the downfall of the Final Empire.
Transcendent . . . all the familiar ideas and plots from epic fantasy have been turned inside out, and what happens at the end is utterly astounding in its audacity. The characterization is stellar, the worldbuilding solid and the plot intricate and compelling—if you haven’t read the first two books, go and do so immediately then buy this one. You won’t regret it.
Winner, Romantic Times 2008 Reviewers’ Choice Awards, Best Epic Fantasy Novel
A dramatic and surprising climax . . . Sanderson’s saga of consequences offers complex characters and a compelling plot, asking hard questions about loyalty, faith and responsibility.
A good story and a good ending to the series . . . if (this) is any indication, “Wheel of Time” will have an excellent conclusion as well.
Sacramento Book Review
Fantasy trilogies are so common that it’s sometimes hard to decide which ones to recommend above the others. I have no problem recommending this one.
Sanderson finish(es) the trilogy with three top notch books, each telling a part in a greater story all the while managing to play with his own rules and the conventions of the genre . . . a terrific story, with great characters and a fascinating world. I would highly recommend this volume and the whole series without hesitation.
The conclusion to Sanderson’s outstanding—and highly innovative in its magical elements—Mistborn trilogy . . . I highly recommend this unique series to all fantasy readers. I thoroughly enjoyed The Hero of Ages and look forward to Sanderson’s future works.
THE HERO OF AGES ART
BOOK 3.5: MISTBORN SECRET HISTORY
NOTE: This novella is included within Arcanum Unbounded: The Cosmere Collection, now available in print, ebook, and audiobook from Tor (US/Canada) and Gollancz (UK/Commonwealth).
Mistborn: Secret History builds upon the characterization, events, and worldbuilding of the original trilogy. Reading it without that background will be a confusing process at best.
In short, this isn’t the place to start your journey into Mistborn. (Though if you have read the trilogy—but it has been a while—you should be just fine, so long as you remember the characters and the general plot of the books.)
Saying anything more here risks revealing too much. Even knowledge of this story’s existence is, in a way, a spoiler.
There’s always another secret.