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Mistborn 2 : The Well of Ascension

So I raided the Barnes and Noble the other night. I knew Brandon Sanderson's sequel to Mistborn: The Final Empire had come out, and it was on my list. (I also snagged Lois Bujold's The Sharing Knife, Terry Pratchett's Going Postal--again, because I can't find my other copy and I wanted to re-read it before Making Money comes out--and George R. R. Martin's fourth book in the Ice and Fire series. At the time of this writing, I've finished The Sharing Knife and Mistborn.) You can read what I thought of the first book here.

I will now take the time to announce that this book is a SEQUEL! and while it was pretty cool, if you haven't read book one, go read it before reading this review as there will be some spoilerage for Book One here. You'll be a happier monkey for it.


The first thing I'm going to say is that the ensemble cast is given more face time here. It was a gripe from the first book--although admittedly one I have less an issue with on further re-readings--that they tended to each front a various archetype. In this book, Brandon does a decent job of developing the characters further, so that they still hold true to their various roles in the crew. Furthermore, their roles can be double-edged. For example, Elend is still the philosopher prince, but once the Final Empire falls and he has the chance to put theory into practice, his fine ideals get him in a lot of trouble. He believes in the will of the people--but has some interesting moments where the will of the people is in direct opposition to his own. The moral dilemma raised here provides some interesting details to his character.

The first book was essentially a heist story in a fantasy setting. The Luthadel version of Ocean's Eleven, if you will. Only instead of robbing a casino blind, they've decided to overthrow an unjust and stagnant government that has unnaturally perpetuated itself for a thousand years. They succeed against major odds, and this is where book two more or less starts.

And overthrowing the Final Empire seems to have been the EASY part. Keeping the kingdom together after the overthrow, that's tricky. I like this idea because it deliberately explores the silly and pervasive trope that the true king returns and everybody (except the bad guys, natch) just wibbles and gives up the throne to him. Instead of succumbing to this, Brandon explores the power vaccuums and the resulting squabbles and struggles. Elend doesn't get his kingdom handed to him on a silver platter. He has to fight for it tooth and nail. Vin doesn't just settle into becoming the decorative arm candy--she still has to fight off assassins. And both of them? They have to sort through their trust issues and figure out relationship things. It's not a done deal just because they were both still standing at the end of book one.

Vin, our heroine from book one, gets to have lots of fun pyrotechnic action moments in this book. Which I must say is a nice change. I know she and Elend goes through the stupid gender role restrictions in their heads: Vin, occasionally wishing she could be more girly for Elend; Elend, occasionally wishing he could be more protective of Vin. While this slightly annoys me, they never actually fall prey to these desires, and learn to accept their own roles and their own selves without really giving up to the standard "man protects physically, woman does the social front" side of things. Vin remains very physically talented and stands as Elend's body guard, and Elend does the tricky politicking side of things. (Although maybe I'm just pleased that Vin gets to go all apeshit because I never play the casters in RPGs...I'm always hunter or warrior types.)

The story is satisfyingly layered, it builds fairly well from the first book, the complications aren't overly caused by dumbassery on the part of the characters but instead from a nasty political situation, and the conclusion, like the previous book, creates as many new problems for our intrepid team as it solves. I more or less read full-tilt to the end, and put the book down feeling satisfied.

.....

On tiny tiny tiny tiny bitch that I have that nobody else will: Elend's name pronunciation. Because everybody calls him El, I must assume that it's Ell-end. But all the way through the first book, I was pronouncing it E-lend in my head. I admit, that makes him sound somewhere between an online mortgage company and an African antelope, but it never bugged me til this book when people started calling him El.

And the El thing--well, I'm in the midst of the Stag, and one of my main female protagonists is named Elriah. And people call her El in her childhood. So, the nickname El signifies female in my brain.)

Coincidently, this isn't the first Stag character to have this problem. Because I have Ven, my little assassin boy that looks like Jonathon Rhys-Myers. So when I first read Mistborn: The Final Empire, I had to deal with that name-similarity as well. Vin, Ven....sounds pretty close. Although Ven is much more minor character in the Stag world than Vin is in hers.

(I promise, Brandon, that my characters were named LONG AGO.)

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