One of my favourite books of all time, from one of the most frustrating authors. It's somewhat difficult to review this book after reading the entireOne of my favourite books of all time, from one of the most frustrating authors. It's somewhat difficult to review this book after reading the entire trilogy, at least without spoilers, because so many of the little details here and there throughout the book end up having some major significance later on in the story, but I will give it a shot.
The characters are deep enough and interesting enough that I remember most of their names even a year later (while I have trouble with it a week after reading most books). The five or so perspective-protagonists in particular aren't written so much as they're crafted- like pieces of beautiful jewelry instead of drawings of some. Everyone has beliefs, desires, fears, motivations, faiths, and unique perspectives and talents, and in the end every single one of those things are challenged to the breaking point.
The setting feels intentionally generic when everything starts- a world ruled by a malevolent king with absolute power, generals who double as the ultimate enforcers of the king's will, themselves so powerful that no one can possibly stand up to them, and a world that's been enslaved so long that it doesn't even remember what freedom is. That generic feeling changes pretty fast. Jim Butcher once said that it doesn't matter if an idea is good or bad, a good author can make ANY idea something that's worth reading. Jim Butcher himself proved that with the Codex Alera series, and Brandon Sanderson proved it again with the Mistborn trilogy. I truly don't think that the concept behind this series was unique, but he made it unique, the same way a master weaver can take a common pattern and make it beautiful. The level of detail and the realism of the motivations not just of the protagonists, but of every character "good" or "bad", makes it a story that you'll never mis-remember for any other story, even fifty years from now.
The series, and this book in particular, have a story depth that's absolutely shocking. It still feels to me that not a single sentence was wasted- EVERYTHING has a meaning and a purpose, and that's a staggering feat for long novels in a trilogy (especially as it doesn't at all feel that way until everything comes together much later). It almost feels as though the series was written backwards, with the sheer number of seemingly (at the time) insignificant moments and comments that all come together to form something entirely new. I couldn't have written it, regardless of how much research and time and effort that I put into the project- and for the people who know me, you'll know how difficult that is for me to say. I simply don't have the talent for writing to pull this series off.
The magic system was absolutely unique, and more importantly it had the kind of internal logic and boundaries that were an absolute pleasure to dive into. I can never stand magic systems that feel like fuel is irrelevant, that skill is irrelevant, and all that matters is desperation or emotion or whatever. Sanderson created a magic system that relies on very strict rules, and whenever those rules were seemingly bent, he always went out of his way (later usually, when it wouldn't disrupt the flow of the scene) to show that no, the rules were maintained, they were just misinterpreted by some of the characters earlier on. That mentality towards magic means that I'll be a fan of Sanderson forever, as it's EXACTLY what I like to see.
I highly recommend this series to absolutely everyone, whether they're a fan of fantasy novels or not, whether they're a fan of epic novels or not, and regardless of their age or sex or nationality. I think it has that kind of appeal. That said (and as I mentioned briefly at the start of the review), I can't really recommend Sanderson as an author in general right now as he's very frustrating. I'm apparently not the only person who thinks he's an absolute genius, and his attention is often drawn by teaching and other non-writing ventures. Even when his attention IS on writing, it's been on writing things that I have no interest in, like the Wheel of Time series (Robert Jordan's baby), or in dividing his attention on many series in many genres simultaneously. I say give him a couple of more years to get a few more books out in each of his (I think six now?) ongoing series before trying to find other novels of his to read....more