Mistborn: The Final Empire  - Brandon Sanderson Actual rating is 3.5 to 3.75.

When I think back on this book, the first thing that comes to mind is amazing magic system and thorough world building. Usually, I tend to see magic and world building as spices that enhance plot and characterization. Without it, the story could turn out to be bland and tasteless, but the story itself would still exist.

Well, in this case, without the magic system and world building, there would be no story.


STORY SYNOPSIS

Imagine a post-apocalyptic medieval world, buried in ash and scalded by a red sun. Then imagine almost all the inhabitants of this cursed land, let's call them skaa, enslaved by a tiny minority of noblemen. Oh, and let's not forget about the immortal Lord Ruler, who over his one thousand year reign has mercilessly quashed every single skaa rebellion.



The setting of the book explores the question: What if the hero fails? What would the world look like? The world of the Mistborn seems like a very likely possibility.

What really sets this book apart was Allomancy, the magic with which our downtrodden heroes seek to subvert the status quo. Allomancy is a skill where those born with the ability can ingest certain metals and "burn" them to gain superhuman skills. Think superhuman strength, emotional coercion, and even flying through the air.

Both of the main characters are intimately connected to Allomancy. Vin, our leading lady, is a Mistborn, someone who can burn all Allomantic metals. Kelsier, the other main character, is also a Mistborn who keeps the story rolling with his grand schemes to steal the Lord Ruler's vast stores of atium, a rare Allomantic metal and the foundation of the world's economy. We learn about the complexities and intricacies of Allomancy through them.


SO, WHY NOT 4+ STARS?

Well, Reason #1 is that it feels like the author spent more time developing Allomancy than his characters and story. Vin, while a delightful and relatable character, seems to belong more in YA fantasy bildungsromans than a dark fantasy focused on two, rather than just one, complex character. Same with Kelsier, though maybe his character is not as YA. Both bear deep scars, and I would have much preferred that the author spend 600 pages exploring just one of them than both.

Reason #2, the pacing of the story was uneven and odd. The author bangs out in 15 or so pages a skeleton plan of how to overthrow an immortal dark lord over a roundtable brainstorm session with Kelsier jotting notes on a board. The entire scene was more a weekly management meeting to discuss quarterly profits than a serious discussion of achieving the impossible. Furthermore, later chapters focus almost excessively on Vin's infiltration of the nobility, i.e., going to balls and wondering which dress she'll wear... you know, petty things in light of the ultimate goal. The imbalanced amount of time spent on Vin's activities as opposed to the rest of the crew's diminished the scale of the revolution efforts.

Also, though this probably is a personal issue, Reason #3: is there supposed to be romance or not? The back cover quoted a favorable review from Romantic Times, so I thought there would be more romantic elements. There were...kind of...but a lot of it was show-and-tell and left me emotionally untouched. The author expressed many different emotions well: Regret, yes. Guilt, yes. Love, yes. But romance, um why and how?


However, even despite those three road bumps, the book was extremely readable. Once I got past the first 50 pages or so, I could not put this book down. The book has nonstop action, and Allomancy is so seamlessly woven into the narrative that it feels almost natural. Despite some pacing issues, this book is a fine read and a must for all fantasy lovers.

3.5 to 3.75 stars and highly recommended for all fantasy lovers.