The age-old struggle between good and evil rarely favours the villain—except for when it does. The sun is red, ash falls from the sky, and plants, as far as people know, have always been brown. Brandon Sanderson’s The Final Empire, first of the Mistborn trilogy, centres itself in a world where one thousand years ago, the evil Lord Ruler seized control of society and has since worked to sustain the oppression of the working class called Skaa.
The two main protagonists, con-artist turned revolutionary, Kelsier, and young street urchin, Vin, are both Skaa who are planning to end the Lord Ruler’s reign of terror. But how does one go about undoing a thousand years of oppression and incite the revolution to end all revolutions?
It’s safe to say that the book provides satisfying answers to those questions, and yet leaves room for more discovery in the following books.
The cover of The Final Empire next to the original artwork
The Final Empire takes on the tone of a heist novel but feels wider in scope. I really enjoyed following Vin’s character development as she became more confident in her friendships and Allomantic powers. Vin has an ability called Allomancy which allows her to consume metals and “burn” them for specific purposes such as increasing strength or enhancing one’s senses. Usually, people with Allomancy can only control one metal (called Mistings), but Vin turns out to be one of the rare few who can control all metals (called Mistborn). Sanderson does an excellent job of introducing the many metals and their uses through Vin as she learns how to control her Allomantic skills. The magic system is easy enough to follow, but the book does provide a glossary in the back for user reference.
Kelsier was also another favourite character of mine and I began to anticipate scenes where his talent for leadership and scheming shined through. The mentor-mentee relationship between Kelsier and Vin was really endearing and I loved the scenes where these two would interact.
A nice touch I really liked was the short snippets of diary entries at the end of each chapter. It was fun coming up with theories on how these entries connected to the main story (just when I thought I was right, Sanderson pulls another twist!) Readers aren’t given any context on the authorship of the entries, but we eventually get our revelation among many revelations by the end of The Final Empire.
I’ve only barely grazed the surface of what The Final Empire encompasses. The Final Empire is a rich world where the agenda of the Lord Ruler underpins a complex social, economic, political system that the heroes must navigate and exploit in their revolutionary quest. Sanderson’s plot twists blew me away and I honestly could not see most of them coming. This book probably isn’t the easiest fantasy novel to dive into if you’re new to the genre, but the payoff is highly rewarding.