I started making notes for this before I’d finished reading The Hero of Ages and I was pretty sure how it was all going to wrap up, and what I’d have to say about it – I’ve scrapped those notes almost entirely. I should have realised before now what a tricksy author Sanderson is, in each book he’s apparently told us one story and then revealed another and why I thought things would be any different for the grand finale is beyond me. Also now that I’ve read the trilogy through I can start to appreciate just how meticulous Sanderson has been throughout. He’s returned to things almost offhandedly covered in books one and two, and given those things sudden weight and meaning. Stuff you thought was incidental suddenly becomes of burning importance. I like to think of Sanderson in his study or writing room as he wrote these books, with this big old map made out of papers and pins connected with string on his wall, kind of like the beautifully obsessive Rust in Season One of True Detective.
In this book Sanderson finally takes us all the way down the rabbit hole. We learn way more about the kandra (although he left me wanting more on this score, I found the kandra fascinating – kind of made me think of Sheri S. Tepper’s Mavin Manyshaped) and the koloss (I liked these less well) and the Inquisitors (positively terrifying – I thought the Inquisitors were just going to fade out, but they’re back in force, creepy nails-for-eyes that they are). We learn more again about the big bad Lord Ruler, how he left provisions to be used in the event of his death, and clues and information to help the very people who killed him. We learn what happened to the world. We learn more about the prophecy that has dictated nearly all the events across the span of the trilogy.
We also see some interesting developments in other characters than Vin and Elend in this final book. Spook, particularly, moves from being a fairly minor player to something of a rebel-leader, and develops some very cool Allomantic abilities along the way. If I weren’t so worried about giving anything really important away I’d have a lot more than that to say about Spook, but I am literally terrified of spoiling this one for anyone who’s reading wondering whether they should give the Mistborn trilogy a go (you definitely should). Sazed, too, has undergone a significant change, he is heartbroken and grieving and is looking for answers, but has lost faith in where to find them. Throughout Sazed has been a favourite of mine, he was the steady, reliable heart of the group, the one who had faith. Now that faith has gone and Sazed is almost a shadow in the story as he tries to come to terms with his loss. It seems to me an unusual thing to do in fantasy, to show a character at their lowest and not immediately have them fixed with some magic swish or other, but maybe I just haven’t read enough fantasy. Anyway, I can genuinely say I did not see Sazed’s ending coming (… ‘ending’ as in completion of his personal story, not ‘ending’ as in he dies … jeez, that’d be a hell of a spoiler wouldn’t it?!)
There are so many cool things I could witter about. I like the various ways in which the surviving cities and their inhabitants try to fill the gap left by the loss of the Lord Ruler, some just accepting a new despot and going on as before, others undergoing a French Revolution style change and hunting down and killing the aristocracy. I like that the people on this dying world don’t all automatically unite under their ‘saviour’; that some curse what Vin has done to them in killing the Lord Ruler, just as others worship her for it. I like the new (but really not new at all) seemingly undefeatable bigger badder Evil at work in this book, and the slow realisation of just how far it’s power extends. And I love that the trilogy as a whole has been a discussion about the definitions of good and evil, about leadership and government, about relationships and faith.
The Mistborn books are a Russian doll. Sanderson shows you the first story, cracks it open and shows you a second. He does this again and again, and each time you’re surprised. Each time you think it’s the last time, that you’ve got the measure of him now and you won’t be caught off-guard again. It’s a great ride, an awesome adventure, and well worth your time. But be warned: tricksy author at work.