Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson (Tor 2006)
At last I ventured into Mistborn territory, at the urging of my brother and my grandson, and because I've read and enjoyed a couple of other Sanderson books. I was reluctant to get involved with a series of very long books (this one is 541 pages), but there's a difference between a 500-page nonfiction book—even a really enjoyable one—and good fiction of similar length. This book did not take long to read, and the only reason I haven't moved on to The Well of Ascension, the second book in the series, is that our library doesn't have it. I've submitted a request....
I can't say I love Brandon Sanderson's writing as much as our grandson does, at least not yet. It's impossible to judge a book like this on first reading, especially when it's part of a series, but I didn't feel the deep connection to the good, the true, and the beautiful I've felt in my favorite books, such as J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, C. S. Lewis's Narnia stories, and S. D. Smith's Green Ember books. Even in my favorite authors that connection is not the same in all their works: it's there, for example, in Lewis's Space Trilogy, but not nearly as strongly. That's okay; authors aren't required to be completely consistent, and they are allowed to grow and develop. :)
What I can say for certain about this first Mistborn book is this: it's clever, it's wildly complex, and it's enjoyable to read. It's more explicitly dark in places than I would prefer, and quite violent, but the foundation of the story still feels good, not evil. And there's no doubt that Sanderson is a clever, skilled, and thoughtful writer.
We'll see what the next book brings.
Yay! The library has ordered The Well of Ascension. Now, how patient can I be?
"Thank you for your suggestion. This title has been requested for the collection. The current processing time is 6-8 weeks. Please check back after this time to see if this title has become available."
The library may yet come through; I finally called them to see what was going on, and our best guess is that after approving the purchase someone noticed that they already had that title in audiobook format and thought that was good enough. It's not! The person I talked with agreed, and they've supposedly tried again to order it, but I decided I'd been waiting too long and took out the audio book.
Audio books are great for some uses. They make driving time feel like less of a waste. They're good for falling asleep to. But I did not find this a good format for reading an 800-page book for which I only had a non-renewable, two-week borrowing period. It's not a problem for my grandsons, who apparently think nothing of staying up all night to finish a book, but it's been a very long time since I've been willing to do that.
Nonetheless, I succeeded, even with the frustratingly slow audio version. Things went much better once I discovered the ability to speed up the narration! Going at twice speed was too fast; I could make out the words if I concentrated, but that took too much of the pleasure out of the story. Going at 1.5 times speed was perfect.
The verdict? Almost exactly what I said above about the first book: clever, complex, and enjoyable, although too dark and violent for my taste. Knowing it was only the second book in a trilogy kept me from being disappointed in the cliffhanger ending. Fortunately, our library has this one in print and my name is already on the waiting list.
At the beginning of July I made it to the top of the waiting list for the final book, The Hero of Ages, in my favorite form: a physical book to read. Oddly, the library gives me a three-week loan on physical books, but only two weeks on audio books. I struggled, even at 1.5 speed, to get through Book 2 in audio format, needing to spend much too much time out of each day in order to beat the deadline, since the book was not renewable. Book 3, equally large, was easy to finish in just 10 days without ever feeling I was spending too much time on it. How much more enjoyable to savor a book instead of feeling rushed!
As for the content? Third verse, same as the first: wildly complex, enjoyable to read, but dark and much too violent. It was fun to see how Sanderson worked it all out. There is fodder here for endless discussion: Sanderson seems determined to incorporate every religion and philosophy on earth—and then some!—into his world. I won't presume even to try to summarize it, but will say it contains far too much dualism for me, since I totally reject the ideas that good and evil are equal and opposite forces, and that evil is necessary, important, or helpful in any way.