The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson

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So, having been lent this I felt obliged to get on it immediately. I usually take a break between volumes if I’m reading a trilogy or series. I haven’t read anything back to back since I was in college, when I’d block out the real world for as much time as possible – thus avoiding eye-contact, awkward social interactions (i.e. ALL social interactions), and having to think about my complete lack of people skills. It’s been nice to be completely in the Mistborn world – only coming up for food and toilet breaks, (and work, obviously, now that I’m a groan-up) – but I think I’ll be taking a break before book three.

Brandon Sanderson has just jumped up a few rungs on my ladder of fantasy writer greatness however. Where The Final Empire was almost formulaic, following Vin from skaa urchin to kickass Mistborn, The Well of Ascension looks at some pretty interesting ideas, like, what makes a good king? Or, with no one to fight against, how do you effect governmental change? (Am I sounding intelligent yet?) And, what do you do after you’ve won the battle against a centuries-old oppressor?

The crew from the first book are faced with a new impossible task: establishing Elend as king and setting up a new government in the city of Luthadel while under siege from not one, not two, but three armies, (one of which is made up of super-warrior-trolls called koloss who will absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt, smash everybody into dust).

I feel that this book is less about Vin’s development and more about Elend’s. He has a supremely annoying verbal tick at the beginning of the book (“Now, see …” seems to begin every sentence he utters) to demonstrate how uncommanding he is. This frustrated the blazes out of me, even though I knew what Sanderson was doing with it, but with some help Elend drops it pretty swiftly, and gets down to being a much more inspiring leader.

Sanderson continues to hint at the darker corners of his world, touching lightly on Tindwyl’s past as a sex slave, on Lord Straff’s penchant for very young ladies, and his disgust for those he has literally worn out (I was more than a little creeped out by Straff, and … *SPOILER* … there is a very satisfying scene where he is at the mercy of one of said women – although unfortunately he survives it). Then there is a new character, Zane. Elend’s unknown-about half-brother and a Mistborn like Vin, Straff has kept the illegitimate Zane under wraps as secret weapon/ personal bodyguard, even though Zane makes repeated attempts to kill his father and is as mad as a bag of spanners, (‘God’ talks to him, and tells him to kill people … well, I mean, of course he does). Zane haunts Vin, trying to win her over to his side as a fellow ‘superior’ Mistborn, and plays a sort of dark counterpart to Elend as Vin struggles to make sense of her feelings for and the changes in Elend as he assumes his new role.

The pacing of this second book is slower than the first, as Sanderson fills in the back-backstory of the Hero, Alendi, and what happened at the Wells of Ascension the first time round, (again using those beginning-of-the-chapter snippets introduced in the first book), while also manoeuvring the current characters into a position to discover the Well for themselves. The book opens with Vin facing off against eight Allomancers, and she regularly fights Zane and others throughout the book, but these fights seem to be to lift the pace rather than being completely necessary to the story. Not that I’m complaining, Vin’s fight scene are works of art. Anyway, Sanderson gets everyone into position for the big showdown, and just when you think things can’t get any more perilous, and then think Vin and Elend are going to pull off a miracle save, everything apparently gets much, much worse. End of book two. Arghhhh! So, despite saying I’m going to take a break before book three, it seems I can’t because Sanderson won’t let me. You can’t end it there, dude, I need answers!

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