Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Hero of Ages Book Review

by The Wanderer

Author: Brandon Sanderson
Publisher: Tor Books
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Series: Mistborn Book Three
Pages: 760

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(Spoilers for the previous two books in the Mistborn Trilogy are below).

All things must come to an end, and that’s what the Mistborn protagonists are facing at the climax of Sanderson’s trilogy – the end of the world.  Although the first half of the book tends to drag, it doesn’t drag for nearly as long as beginning of The Well of Ascension.  It’s a lot easier to forgive the slow start once readers get to the concluding half of this book.   It’s in the final half of this book that Sanderson, who had previously established himself as a great creator of magic systems, now establishes himself as a great plot architect.

Subtly inter-weaved into the previous Mistborn books is the importance of religion and faith.  These themes are brought to the forefront for the conclusion of the Mistborn trilogy, and they will probably bother some people who are not religious.

At times Sanderson gets too preachy with his take on faith, and although he never condemns atheism verbatim, his stance on the importance of faith does so indirectly.  All religious connotations set aside, The Hero of Ages wraps up all the major plot-lines, rewards the readers who have been paying attention to the details, and climaxes in a fast paced, emotionally wrought ending.

One year has passed since the concluding events at The Well of Ascension.  Since Ruin’s release from the Well, the world has suffered heavier ash falls, more frequent earthquakes, and a lack of fertile land for growing crops.  The world is ending and the remnants of Kelsier’s crew know that there isn’t much time left to figure out how to defeat Ruin.

Elend and Vin, both mistborn now, are working to bring the outer Providences back into Elend’s New Empire, and to save the common people from the impending apocalypse.  While working on saving the people, they discover the clue to defeating Ruin may be on a series of metal tablets scattered across the empire in safe-houses left behind by The Lord Ruler.

As Vin and Elend work to secure the final safe-house in the West; Sazed, Spook, and Breeze work together to secure the final safe-house in the North before Ruin destroys the world.

One of the best aspects of The Hero of Ages is the way Sanderson rewards his readers.  Little nuances and details that have been frequently mentioned since the first book finally get justifiable explanations for their occurrences.  In depth readers should enjoy how these plot elements play out, if they haven’t already figured them out.

The thematic tie ins to religion are probably the strongest area of dissent for readers in regards to enjoying this book. Sanderson is pro-religion, and most of his rhetoric on religion comes through the voice of Sazed, who’s arc in the final book is largely fueled by his internal conflict to rediscover his faith.  It’s a great character developing arc, but Sanderson’s explanations about the importance of faith and religion, at times, comes across like a sermon that’s intended to convert readers towards a religion.  I personally found that moments like this took me out of the book, but it didn’t stop me from largely enjoying the rest of the story.

The mythological elements that are added to the story, or basically the origin story of the world Mistborn is set in, is brilliantly laid out.  It makes sense logically and adds depth to the story and a lot of the characters actions.

Ruin proves to be an excellent villain, or more correctly said, force of evil.  He is very powerful, menacing, and manipulative.  The battle to bring him down with the survival of the world on the line is absolutely epic, and Sanderson delivers an ending that should please most fans of the series.

Spook noticeably gets a lot more time in this book, too, and it is not put to waste.  In the previous books Spook didn’t do all that much (something acknowledged by Sanderson in this installment), but in this final book his character undergoes a number of changes that really help turn him into a decent character rather than another bland friend of Elend and Vin’s.

For the first time in the series, most of the story takes place outside of Luthadel, allowing readers to explore other parts of the New Empire.  The most interesting of these places is the homeland of the kandra, which allows readers to explore another non-human culture for the first time.

Another interesting aspect is the government set up in Urteau.  Here the skaa are ruled under a new powerful entity called the Citizen, who hunts and executes the former ruling nobility.  The Urteau government system is an amiable role-reversal of the Lord Ruler’s government.  By showing the evil’s of skaa rule, along with the previous evil’s of noble rule, Sanderson invokes the idea that evil is an error of humanity, rather than an error of class.

A significant change in the structure of the book is the shortened length of chapters, the majority of which are under ten pages.  Chapters that are over ten pages will frequently shift points of view quickly which increases the pace of the story and does a lot add to its intensity.

The previous two books in Mistborn focused on allomancy and feruchemy.  This final book spends a lot of time exploring the details of hemalurgy the third and final magic system.  Hemalurgy is brutal to say the least, and should easily satisfy any potential blood lust that readers may crave. It perfectly completes Sanderson’s expertly crafted system of magic, while it simultaneously ties itself into the story’s themes.

Magic systems will be this series’ greatest strength, but plot development is a close second.  The Hero of Ages concludes the Mistborn Trilogy in a satisfying way, and not only has me eagerly awaiting the conclusion to Sanderson’s current ten book epic the Stormlight Archive, but it gives me faith that the ending to that series will be even more spectacular.

Score: 9.1

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