Mistborn: The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson
Review by: Michael Baker
I have another book review, this time continuing with Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series, this time with a detailed look into Book Two: The Well of Ascension. After the explosive ending to The Final Empire in which a god is overthrown by an edgy street urchin girl (mostly through dumb luck, but the ending was still excellent), we find ourselves in the aftermath of an empire tearing itself apart.
Like the fall of Alexander the Great, Caesar or Genghis Khan, great dynasties are only as strong as their rulers, and boy, The Lord Ruler Rashek’s death sends things up shit creek without a paddle, and our merry band of heroes find themselves in the crux of a long, drawn out siege, in which Elend Venture’s fragile government is under siege by not one, not two, but three armies. They’re in for the long haul, with everything to lose.
And my GOD, does the siege drag. A lot of people call out this book as the weakest in the series, and…they have a point. Middle Book Syndrome really shows in this book, and one of my biggest issues was that after the year time skip…everyone seemed to stop. Let me explain this a little better.
The worst example of this was during an emotional conversation between Vin and Elend (in which Elend compares himself to Kelsier. Man, I missed him in this book.), and he casually brings up that Kelsier saved his life when the Inqusitor tried to kill Elend in Book One. I closed the book for several hours in awe. Why in plain fuck would you spend a year to bring this up, Elend? It just felt like something you should bring up weeks into your relationship with Vin! Everything just seemed static, which is a rough beginning, and the romance is barely there. at least Vin points this out in a little breaking the forth wall moment, but it was grating for the first half.
Their constant struggles, Vin’s near constant fretting, then when Elend starts to grow a spine, thinks he doesn’t need her anymore. Sigh…but I can’t say it’s unrealistic. It didn’t stop me by getting pissed off with it. All the angst drags out the book, but the moment it all clicks was a beautiful moment. Now let’s talk about that love triangle. Zane…he was a bad character. I just did not like him. Edgy, Kelsier-like Mistborn that only seemed to exist to be cool and test Vin’s relationship. The revelation he was never insane, Ruin’s manipulation and his final fight with Vin was good at least, but you don’t need to force in a love triangle and YA-level angst that does not belong in this series. Angst, slow-burning romance and love triangles are only a few ways to annoy me. The last half of the book showed such improvement it baffled me why it wasn’t like this for the first 400 pages.
Now, let’s talk about the pace of the book. The pace was just a little bit slow in some places for me. As you may or may not know, I’m not normally very bothered by a slow pace, and indeed, sieges tend to be slow. There was quite a lot of cool shit happening here. All the political games and the plan to pit three armies against each other was awesome, and all the dangers of a siege was well realised. However, there were just a few parts here that dragged a bit longer than I found necessary. It takes a long time for anything serious to happen. Overall though, I didn’t mind the pace too badly. It’s methodical, it’s well done, and most of the information presented here is necessary. If you like fast paced books, this is not for you.
There is a fair bit of info dumping throughout the book that can be trying to get through, and he keeps shoving the rules of Allomancy in your face throughout the series. And boy, does he continue it in this book, repeating the information every single bloody time there’s an Allomancy fight! I know the magic rules already. Stop showing me them! I got it the first time. I listen to what I read. He kinda treats you like a newbie, and while his magic system is more complex then most, I know what I’m doing, Brandon. I’m not an idiot. I research this stuff!
On the plus side, the battle/action scenes are still awesome. Gut-wrenching (The assault on Luthadel by the koloss), and brutal all the way through. Despite my annoyance with his lack of trust of the reader, Allomancy is still fucking awesome, with amazing fights. Vin and Zane’s murder of Cett’s Keep, the fight in the Voting Hall, Vin vs the Mistborn and crew in the beginning, Vin vs Zane are all great. My fave fight though? Sazed against Marsh, who rapidly becomes corrupted by Ruin. Once again, the ending is incredibly strong.
There are new characters in this book. After the massive sausage fest we’ve been used to so far, we get some new female blood in Allrianne and Tindwyl, who are both introduced halfway through this, bringing some estrogen to the predominantly male cast. (Not a criticism, as I could use some lessons on this one!) One is frilly and extremely irritating, the other hardened and blunt as hell, but both are developed characters without being squashed in any particular role. Allrianne’s skill with Allomancy and her love for Breeze is quite endearing, and Tindwyl’s short romance with Sazed is a beautiful moment in the book, one of Brandon’s best romances. (Steris and Wax still win though!) But my favourite new character? Oreseur. I wont spoil it, but he was incredible throughout, the kandra remaining an awesome race and his growing loyalty and friendship with Vin makes up for the extremely slow start and annoying angst moments, and the usual cast remains fairly solid throughout.
In conclusion, even though I had some issues, I still find this book a recommended choice. Yes, it’s slow and it has problems, but the excellent action, good world-building, overall solid character development and the brilliant ending makes up for it. I’ll rate it a 4/5, just like The Final Empire.