Sometimes the fantasy genre feels a little stagnant. Nothing groundbreaking has come along in a while, and the newest popular series seem to be recycling plots and characters from older books. I was despairing of finding a fantasy book with a unique premise, until I discovered Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn Trilogy, a series of high fantasy books that takes clichés normally present in fantasy novels and somehow makes them fresh and exciting again. Mistborn is a perfect read for anyone looking for a new take on the fantasy genre.
Mistborn is set on the world Scadrial in an ash-covered land called the Final Empire. The country is ruled by the Lord Ruler, an all-powerful tyrant that keeps the skaa (the peasant and slave class) in line with the help of mysterious Inquisitors. The first book follows the rebel Kelser, his apprentice Vin, and his unlikely crew of crooks and thieves as they struggle to take down an entire empire. The world-building is both expansive and intricate, and unlike most fantasy novels, Mistborn has set rules that allow for a more sophisticated and complicated society to develop despite the existence of “magic.” Only a small percentage of the population, known as mistings and mistborns, have special abilities, which are fueled by the consumption of metals. They have limits and exact formulas to their powers, which at first seemed odd but that I soon came to appreciate for the realism it allowed. The setting is dismal and gritty, and the reader easily becomes invested in the plight of the skaa as they struggle to survive in such a hostile environment.
The plot is occasionally slow, but makes up for the pacing issues with fantastic twists and vivid action. There are some storylines that could be considered clichéd, but Sanderson manages to make them feel like organic developments rather than a well-used storytelling devices. That organic feel is what makes the series so brilliant. I’ve read many books, and often the hand of the author, pushing the characters and manipulating the plot, is very apparent. Sanderson must be a master of finesse, because the story felt like a natural progression of events rather than a work of fiction. The characters are well-developed and relate-able, and unlike in many series, they grow, change, and become better people over time. The characters became so real to me that I felt like they’d become friends by the end of the series. Good books are the ones a reader can become lost in, and Sanderson made that easy with his layered world-building, organic plot, and realistic characters.
Brandon Sanderson said he wanted to avoid medieval stasis (a fantasy world remaining in a medieval state and failing to advance technologically over hundreds or thousands of years), which is a conspicuous problem with the fantasy genre. To this end, Sanderson continues to show the growth of the universe he created by making it the setting of several series. There is the Mistborn Trilogy, or course, which was published between 2006 and 2008. The first short novel in a new series set in the same universe as Mistborn called Wax and Wayne, was released in 2011. Alloy of Law is set 300 years after the conclusion of the original Mistborn series, and the technology resembles that found in the 19th century. A sequel called Shadow of Self will be released in late 2014 or early 2015. Sanderson also hinted that he may write another series set in the Mistborn universe in a modern era.