Fatesocruel's Reviews > The Well of Ascension

The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson
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May 13, 12

bookshelves: books-that-make-me-go-squee, nerdly-joy, recommend-to-everyone
Read from April 21 to May 06, 2012

After finishing The Well of Ascension approximately a week ago, I’m still in awe of Brandon Sanderson and his marvelous books.

HEAVY SPOILERS AHEAD FOR MISTBORN: THE FINAL EMPIRE











Where to begin? There’s just so much to love. I could start with the characters, who are flawed and silly and hurting but most of all growing; I could gush about the expansion of the world and little puzzles that both fall into place and give me more questions; I could tell you about the way that Kelsier’s legacy affects everyone he left behind and the strong, fair nation his friends are trying to build, or the way Sanderson constantly picks up fantasy tropes and plays with them in the way a good seamstress can create a beautiful, fascinating dress from plain cotton, or the twists that are hinted at but you will never see coming, or a million things that keep me up late into the night thinking, and admiring the skill of one of my new favorite authors (who is doing his utmost to break my no-absolute-favorites standard).

Perhaps the best place to start is with a general thing that I’ve noticed in this book especially, and will remain a small theme for this review: the relationships are so well-realized, and ring so true, and are wonderful to behold. Both romantic and platonic relationships are explored in all their intimacy, and the characters have serious problems that pick at their feelings and create insecurities. And the best part? The characters have to deal with that. Vin must figure out where things are headed with Elend, and how her definition of herself, his definition of her, and Vin’s idea of Elend’s definition of her will affect her choice and how she live her life. It is something that she struggles with over the course of the book, and just when you think she’s got it figured out, BAM CLIMAX.

To use Vin as an example again, the way that her employer/employee relationship and eventual friendship with OreSeur is portrayed is also a definite highlight of the book. As they started out Vin’s attitude toward the kandra irked me, but gradually their conversations took on a more civil form, and OreSeur’s sense of humor came out (to my everlasting amusement). But of course, one never knows what to expect in a Sanderson book and I teared up just a little as a result.

Tindwyl and Sazed’s maneuverings were quite lovely to behold as well, since they are members of a different society and have expectations placed on them that cannot be ignored. Their relationship reminded me a bit of Riza Hawkeye and Roy Mustang’s relationship in Fullmetal Alchemist, in that both couples’ feeling ran deep but were subtly shown and very understated, and also must come second to the work that has to be done.

Then, of course, there’s the rest of the crew and their attempts to cope with Kelsier’s death, the new responsibilities of running a kingdom, and literal woldbuilding, since there is now more freedom in society than there has been in a thousand years. I enjoyed Breeze’s elevated role, and more point of view characters, notably, Breeze, Elend, Sazed, and likely a few others I can’t think of. And Zane. Zane…is definitely more of a tool than a character. Of course, he is very much a well-developed character, but his purpose is fairly clear and he doesn’t add quite as much to the plot as I would have liked. However, he was still interesting and had a few quirks that left me wondering. I enjoyed Allrianne for the brief moments she appeared, both because she was funny and stereotypically female (not necessarily a bad thing in a book of kickass women who have more important things on their mind) and because she is definitely not all she appears to be.

Elend became a much more important figure in this book, and a much more interesting one. He’s got grand, utopian ideas for reshaping the country, but he’s not that good at politics and struggles to present an image of authority. As much as I loved him I was in despair, because I wanted Elend to succeed and I knew he was digging himself into a grave. And then…and then he started to show me his potential, and then he started to fulfill his potential, and the more I read the more I wiggled in joy. How he dealt with having to be the leader that the crew expected to be Kelsier, their impressions of him as a result, and his own feelings about trying to live up to that legacy, were all wonderfully done and an excellent lens through which to look at consequence and the changing of circumstances.

And and and now I have to take a moment to fangirl madly about Vin and Elend’s relationship because whenever I was reading I simply couldn’t stop smiling. It got a bit ridiculous at times and I was glad no one could see me. It’s just, this is the way relationships work. Outside pressures and events take their toll, and Vin and Elend have to work through that. Most wonderfully, there’s a particular part where they both go to Sazed for help, having noticed the same problem but perceiving it differently and it was so adorable and frustrating and made me so happy. And don’t even get me started on a Certain Event and what follows, because I will let out an ear-splitting screech of bliss.

Another large part of what I loved about this book so much was the worldbuilding, which is excellent and honestly some of the very, very best that’s out there. More metals are explored, with interesting results; in addition, the creatures of the land, specifically the kandra and koloss, are also given a closer look, along with their relationship with Allomancy. Most importantly, the Terris religion is scrutinized with both scholarly interest and as a means to explain strange events that unfurl throughout the novel. One particularly good effect of this is that we learn more about the Lord Ruler, and why he became what he was, and what he was part of before his reign. This humanizes him somewhat, and I loved the way that no one really understood what happened (or what was happening), and how time and censorship erode information and forge events into myth. Moreover, that the presence of the Lord Ruler can still be felt in this book speaks to just how encompassing his power and his reign were. We see this especially with the country skaa. (view spoiler)

Finally, the crown jewel in this masterpiece of a book is the very end, where Sanderson brings everything together and then frames it in the most logical, cruelly twisted way possible. It was everything I could have desired and more, and although he prepared me for the moment, it still caught me unawares and made me shout “But you can’t do that! Can you?” The answer, fellow readers, is that yes, yes you can, and Sanderson did that. Thinking about it still leaves me breathless.

Overall, I must conclude that The Well of Ascension is even better than Mistborn. Although Sanderson is as merciless as ever, character deaths aren’t quite as devastating. His prose is good, very good, although there is room for improvement. If you haven’t read this book yet, do it now. It is a decision you will not regret. I am in total awe, and I can’t wait to see what’s pulled off in The Hero of Ages. Suffice it to say: Mr. Sanderson, I take off my hat to you.
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Reading Progress

04/21/2012 page 49
6.0% "I can tell that the way Vin treats OreSeur is really going to bother me."
04/21/2012 page 69
9.0% "DAMNIT VIN AND ELEND, STOP BEING SO ADORABLE!"
04/26/2012 page 210
26.0% "Books shouldn't be allowed to be this good."
04/27/2012 page 239
30.0% "Breezy! Breezy! I'll never be able to read Breeze with a straight face again."
04/28/2012 page 334
42.0% ""As for the other..."He nodded to the cup of wine in Breeze's hand. "He does seem quite fond of marinating himself." OreSeur is quickly becoming one of my favorite characters in this book."
05/04/2012 page 562
71.0% "They have the same problems, and they go to the same person to sort it out, and it's so wonderful and frustrating and I love their relationship in this book even while it drives me crazy."
05/04/2012 page 595
75.0% "Best. Kandra/Vin. Moment. Ever."
05/04/2012 page 601
76.0% "AHHH I’m so happy and I’m jumping and dancing and squeaking and I can’t stop smiling because they did it and it was so wonderful and sweet and perfect!

In summary:



"
05/05/2012 page 644
81.0% "I swear, Brandon Sanderson releases my inner shipping fangirl into spasms of excitement like none other."

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