I initially read Mistborn: The Final Empire when it was released in 2006. It is the first in a trilogy published between 2006 and 2008. While Sanderson’s debut novel Elantris was well-received, it was the Mistborn series and being chosen to complete renowned fantasy writer Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series that catapulted him to fame.
In revisiting Mistborn: The Final Empire with a more critical eye, I found that my respect for the book only grew. Sanderson is a masterful fantasy writer that anyone from a serious to a casual reader of the genre will surely enjoy.
Mistborn: The Final Empire draws you in before you begin to read with a rock solid conceptual hook: what if the hero of the prophesy fails? It’s simple, immediately intriguing, and places the whole story in an accessible frame of reference.
While the hook pulls you into Mistborn: The Final Empire, it’s the characters, plotting, worldbuilding, and prose that keeps you engrossed.
Mistborn: The Final Empire relates the story of Vin, a sixteen-year-old street girl and thief in the hardened, highly class-structured world of the Final Empire. Divided into baseborn workers, known as Skaa, and highborn nobles with Allomantic gifts, all in the Final Empire bow before the unmatchable powers of the Lord Ruler, or “God.”
Kept from starvation by her abusive half-brother and a mysterious gift, Vin unexpectedly captures the attention of Kelsier, a famous rogue and a Mistborn Allomancer.Kelsier wields supernatural powers by burning different types and concentrations of metal. It is through Kelsier that Vin discovers the true nature of her talents–she, too, is a Mistborn, the most powerful and versatile type of Allomancer. The charismatic thief becomes Vin’s mentor and guardian.
When the Skaa rebellion hires Kelsier’s crew to help overthrow the Lord Ruler, Vin, Kelsier, and their loveable companions become involved in their highest stakes robbery yet–they’re stealing a kingdom.
Sanderson brings levity to traditional high fantasy with witty dialogues and a sense of fun in his plotting. While long, the book never comes across as heavy. Exceptionally well-developed characters and a carefully edited story arch, without an ounce of added fat, give Mistborn: The Final Empire its sense of weightlessness.
What really makes Mistborn: the Final Empire special, however, is Allomancy. The concept of magic derived from metals is utterly original, and Sanderson unfurls the powers for his readers with just the right depth and speed over the course of the book.
All in all, Mistborn: The Final Empire is a true masterwork of fantasy. It has the whole package: great characters, excellent fight scenes, fantastic worldbuilding and magic, a catchy hook, crisp writing, funny dialogues, and supurb plotting. Sanderson has a great deal to teach writers of any genre.