At first glance, this is a fairly traditional fantasy novel, one with an evil overlord who needs to be overthrown for the good of the people. But if you scratch beneath the surface, you’ll find that there’s a lot of nuance to it which helps make the world of Mistborn feel much more three dimensional.
The novel has quite a large cast of characters, but I’d say that the two central characters were a teenage girl named Vin and a charismatic man named Kelsier, who leads a gang of thieves who are planning to overthrow the Tyrannical Lord Ruler. Vin has lead a horrible life and isn’t very trusting of anyone as a result. It’s through her that we are introduced to the world and all the things in it, so she’s a nice sort of gateway character, even though her life will be so different to most readers.
Conversely, Kelsier is a man who likes to put his trust in everyone and seems to be a happy-go-lucky sort of guy, although he certainly has a darker side. What was interesting was that he was so personable that, as a reader, I found myself liking him and being able to look past the bad things that he did. He was a morally grey character (they all were, really) but Kelsier wins you over. Almost like a cult leader, I suppose. It was great to see the evolving relationship between Kelsier and Vin and there were several particularly enjoyable and memorable interactions between the two.
An important aspect of the novel is that the ‘magic’ of this world (called Allomancy) is a very structured system which is almost closer to a science. In this book, when people consume different types of metals, they gain different powers. For example, iron lets a person pull nearby metals towards them, brass soothes peoples emotions and makes them more amiable, and pewter gives people a huge boost in endurance. People consume the metal in vials, then it lasts until their body has burned all of it. There are eight different metals which grant powers, but most people can only use one, or none of them. Only a few people can use all eight and those who can are called Mistborn. It’s a very nice system and the fact that you know exactly how it works helps make the setting feel more real. I appreciate the amount of thought which had been put into it.
Another character I was particularly fond of was Sazed, a eunuch who assists Vin throughout a lot of the novel. He was such a kind and gentle man who created such a contrast with the cold, hard world around him. He dedicates his life to trying to save the world’s many religions (vanquished under the Lord Ruler) using a power called Feruchemy, which allows him to store knowledge and information within metals, for him to access whenever he needs. Feruchemy is just as expertly laid out as Allomancy. Many things (e.g. energy, eye sight, strength etc.) can be stored within metals and accessed when needed, meaning someone could choose to have poor eye sight for a period of time and then later have particularly strong eyesight because they’d saved the ability for later.
Equally, I was quite pleased with the Lord Ruler himself. His an immortal man who has been leading the empire for thousands of years, hence why they call it ‘The Final Empire’ – nobody believes that he could be overthrown. You may think he sounds like a typical evil overlord, but you actually get a good look at his backstory and how he came to be who he is. There’s a very interesting twist with him too. He is still an absolute monster, but, again, there was that nuance which I appreciated.
Overall, it’s a wonderful fantasy novel with plenty of believable and charming characters, interesting twists and turns in the story and a lot of genuine emotion. I definitely recommend it for fans of fantasy novels and to people who just like reading generally!