Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Book Review: Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson

Confession: It took me awhile to find a cover for this one that I wasn't ashamed to post.  I'm a bit of a snob when it comes to fantasy, although I'm not sure why, since so far I've only had good experiences (A Song of Ice and Fire and The Kingkiller Chronicles).  I just really really really hate the look of fantasy covers.  So I was very reluctant to start this one and even more reluctant to post about it on my blog.  Luke read and loved these though, so they were on my Nook.  And I got to feeling nostalgic for Kvothe and Daenerys and the other characters I was reading about this time last year.  So I decided to give them a try and was, of course, captivated again.

I'm doing my review a little bit differently today.  I don't feel like I can really analyze the writing without giving away some small spoilers, so I'm going to give my review for entertainment value and my overall recommendation and THEN my writing review, so you can stop before you get to the spoilers if you don't want to read them.  But I'm not going to white them out this time so stop after my overall recommendation if you don't want to see them. 

Entertainment Value
Addictive.  I do most of my reading at night before bed because during the day I feel obligated to get things accomplished.  However, I spent about three hours straight on Sunday reading because I just couldn't put this one down.  The characters are charming and intriguing and I was kept guessing about their motives, which is always a positive.  There are lots of twists and turns and many I didn't see coming - also a plus.  The middle of the book is a bit slow.  I think it makes sense within the context of the story, and it was a better decision on the author's part than just skipping that time period or rushing the story, but I have to admit it did drag for a short while.  The rest of the book totally made up for that though.

I highly recommend giving this one a try, despite the heinous fantasy-stereotype covers.  Seriously, those nearly did the book in for me.  But I'm so glad I got past it.  There are some writing issues, that I'll address below, but they certainly didn't make the book unenjoyable.  And from what I've heard, Sanderson's writing continues to improve throughout this series.  One big plus for me was that Luke has read the series.  It's so much fun when we can connect on a book and discuss theories and writing and what will happen next.  This one is also fairly clean for what I've come to expect in fantasy - no graphic sex and nowhere near the gore in the Song of Ice and Fire books, so if you're usually turned off by that, this might be a good one to try.

Writing - SPOILERS
Ok, so as much as I enjoyed this book, there were some problematic writing moments. 

  • I didn't like the villain.  The Lord Ruler was a cartoon-ish bad guy to me.  He makes stupid egotistical mistakes that I just didn't find believable from a centuries old, supposedly immortal deity.    For example: Why did he put the logbook that reveals his true identity (and one weakness) on a pedestal in his castle?  Why would you do that?  If you are an evil genius, I think you'd probably not try to advertise the key to your own destruction.  Luke assures me this will make more sense later in the series, but for now I'm choosing to believe that the Lord Ruler was not really the bad guy, just a selfish, prideful man who was being used by a greater power.  That said, I was just disappointed in general with him as a villain.  He didn't scare me.  The Inquisitors made much more threatening and menacing enemies - the Lord Ruler was just like the cartoon villain in the background to me.  I want to be terrifed by a fantasy villain. 
  • I also was put off by how some of the backstory is revealed.  I think there are worse ways to present backstory, but Sanderson uses some of my least favorite fantasy world tropes to display his backstory.  Examples: We get a good deal of information from the logbook as the characters read it.  That one especially bothers me.  I HATE when things are explained by a character reading them in a book.  Also the master teaching the pupil whose lessons we just so happen to overhear so we see how the magic works or hear the history of the world.  I don't like those.  And there's a LOT of that in this book.
  • The main character, Vin, is shown throughout the entire first half of the book to be a girl raised in the slums, a thief, who trusts no one.  She has survived so long by not trusting anyone and by using her Special Snowflake magic (lot of people have this kind of magic, but Vin is a Special Snowflake with extra magic).  Like, it is pounded into the reader's head that Vin's main characteristic is her lack of trust.  But once she meets her love interest she is spilling secrets left and right almost immediately.  Major secrets that could cost her her life and the lives of her friends.  It just didn't ring true to me because we spent the first half of the book hearing all about how untrusting she is - how that is the only way she survived.  And then within a day or two of meeting this man, she's an open book.  It didn't add up.
So, that may seem like a lot and, truthfully, I wasn't just hugely impressed by the writing.  However, I think the book was successful as a whole because it was so very entertaining.  If it's any indication, I picked up the second book pretty much immediately after putting down the first.  I've heard from several reliable sources that the writing improves, so I'm anxious to see if that holds true, but, moment of truth: when I'm reading fantasy, I'm generally in it for the entertainment value, not the stellar writing.  Of course there are exception (Patrick Rofuss!) but mostly I'm looking to be swept up in the story - and this one delivers.

1 comment:

  1. I probably would like fantasty more if I actually read it once in awhile. It has a stigma for me that I can't get over. I do have TKGC at home that I should read.