I don’t really like the idea of reviewing sequels, though I get it. I definitely don’t like the idea of reviewing third or fourth entries in a series. To me, book reviews exist to give potential readers an idea of whether or not they should read the book. If you’ve already read the first book, you generally know if you want to carry on with the series. True, you might be on the fence, which is why reviewing a sequel makes sense. But if you’ve already read two books in the series, chances are you are well aware of your opinions on it and whether or not you want to continue on. You don’t need me to tell you that.
So that’s why I haven’t reviewed any sequels or additional entries in a series on this blog and I probably won’t. It doesn’t fit with what I think a review should be for. It doesn’t feel helpful. I could be wrong about that, but it’s where I’ve landed.
However, I think a series review could be helpful. It makes sense, if I’ve finished a series, to give my opinion on the whole thing to help you decide on whether or not you should start on it as well.
Recently, I finished reading the Mistborn trilogy from Brandon Sanderson. Everyone, at least everyone who reads Sci Fi/ Fantasy, knows Brandon Sanderson. He is the Fantasy heavyweight, the current king of Fantasy literature. As this was my first time reading any of his work (aside from the end of the Wheel of Time series), I thought it made sense to write out my thoughts.
The ideas behind this series, the plot points it sets up, the story it creates, is super fascinating. The idea of a heist story within a fantasy world is such a fun concept. That was what originally drew me to these books: I love heist movies, I love fantasy, so it made sense.
As the first book progresses, the heist story sort of falls off. Sure, its there in the background with the characters we’re introduced to and what brought them together, but there really isn’t a heist anymore. It becomes more of a traditional good guy vs evil leader set up. And that shift isn’t jarring, if anything you’re lulled into it. It makes sense as the book progresses, but as I finished and looked back on the book I realized that I didn’t get a heist story. I got a Star Wars, rebellion story.
The subsequent novels didn’t have a hint of heist story, it was all empires and fighting evil. While that was still done really well, it wasn’t anything groundbreaking. It wasn’t anything fresh and new. It was Sanderson’s take on things that have been done before and Sanderson is a great enough storyteller that it was still interesting.
I loved the set up and I wish we hung out there more.
The world is another part of this series that starts off fascinating and intriguing, but somehow shifts into the more cliched. As with the plot set up, I didn’t mind the shift. The intial differences – a world where the good guy lost and the evil emperor rules – hooked me, but when it started to shift I didn’t mind because Sanderson does that well, too.
The Cosmere is famously in depth and thought out. It is one of the more elaborate and planned worlds in modern fantasy. Sanderson is renowned for his ability to create worlds and magic systems. I don’t think that was on full display with this series, but there was enough of it to keep me interested in this universe.
Especially in the last two book, we start to see the real nuances and intricacies of this connected universe. Parts of it I didn’t understand, but I’m sure will become more clear as I delve further into the Cosmere. I think the first book was all about showing the culture of the city we were in – the ska and the nobility, how they interact, how they live, what that social fabric looks like. And that was great. But the last book in particular focused on meta-narrative world building and that made me excited to see the rest of the books in the universe.
The magic, of course, was wonderful. Thought-out, unbending, and full of surprises, I have absolutely no complaints. I was confused at times, as I should be – magic is complex. But, in the end, it all worked as it should and made sense for it too. Sanderson is notoriously good at magic systems, so I wasn’t surprised about that.
Something that I enjoyed more than I thought I would about this series is the introduction of new creatures into fantasy. Most fantasy writers rehash the same mythic creatures: dragons, elves, dwarves, goblins, etc. Essentially, variations on Tolkien’s creatures. Sanderson created new creatures and that’s something that doesn’t happen often in modern fantasy. The Kandra and the Mistwraiths – I don’t recall seeing things like that in fantasy before. Maybe they exist somewhere, but from my perspective they are brand new. I love that.
In my review of the first book, I mentioned how I loved the supporting characters but didn’t really connect with the main protagonist. That opinion stayed consistent throughout the series, but I warmed to Vin a bit. I think she deepened and expanded as her world did.
Kelsier is a fantastic character, but he’s more interesting for the world (and religion) that develops around him. The religions of this series essentially serve as another character and that’s a fascinating way to deepen the world and enhance the characters: give them something to question or believe in.
I do think this series needed more women. I didn’t appreciate Vin and she was the only main female character. Sure, Breeze had his love interest but she wasn’t in the first novel and didn’t have a strong place in the third. Maybe Sanderson didn’t feel comfortable writing women at this point, but I think the series hurts from a lack of that perspective.
Marsh. Marsh is one of the best characters I’ve ever read.Especially in the last book, the tension he is under, the stakes he is holding, the weight of what he has to deal with is absurdly powerful. The idea of a good guy forced to be a bad guy, holding out for that one moment he can be good again…man. Powerful. I loved the complexity of Marsh and he was one of my favorite characters despite the more gruesome aspects of his later life.
This is really a fantastic series. I think most fans of fantasy would recommend this trilogy as a great entry point into both the Cosmere and modern fantasy. If you think it sounds fun to read about magic and other universes and strange creatures, but Lord of the Rings feels too daunting or The Wheel of Time is too much of a commitment, start here. The Mistborn series is short, fast-paced, and exceptionally written.