Premise: Mistborn is the story of Vin, a street urchin in the Final Empire ruled by a god known as the Lord Ruler. She is saved from a thieving crew by Kelsier, who has the powerful special ability of Allomancy. Allomancy is the magic system where users swallow certain metals and “burn” them to give the user special abilities, such as super strength, emotional influences over others, and pushing or pulling on metal sources indicated by invisible blue lines tracing from the metals to the Allomancer. Not only is Kelsier an Allomancer, he is a Mistborn who has the powerful ability to burn all the metals. He is also the Survivor of the Pits of Hathsin, a work camp for criminals to harvest the precious metal atium, used as currency by the nobles and burned by the most powerful of Mistborn.
Vin is taken in by a group of people plotting to overthrow the Lord Ruler, who has been in power for a thousand years. In this crew she discovers that she is also a Mistborn and is trained by Kelsier to explore her new-found powers. As part of their scheming she goes undercover as Valette Renoux, where she spies on the nobles, especially drawn to Elend Venture, the heir to the most powerful noble house in the Final Empire. Elend also happens to philosophize during these parties about changing the social structure to free the skaa (peasants) from the oppression of the nobles and the Lord Ruler.
Themes: Vin begins the book trusting no one, as taught by her brother, Reen, who deserted her, and her mother who killed her sister, since it only brings pain and disappointment. When she is brought into her new thieving crew she begins to discover that trust isn’t the horrible thing that has been her experience her entire life when the people you are around care about her. She opens up more and more to these people who are nothing like the others she has had in her life, including her brother and her insane mother.
There is a strong vein of basic human rights that is prevalent through the overthrowing of oppression of a dictator and god, who created a society of nobles and serfs after destroying the unknown Deepness to save the people. This ordered society places the powerful nobles and skaa in a class system that gives the skaa no rights and the nobles holding parties and vying for power with each other. Kelsier’s crew plots to overthrow the Lord Ruler with his charismatic leadership, even to the point of a face to face confrontation with the thousand year old god.
There are many thoughts on religion in Mistborn, from the religion founded by the Lord Ruler to keep order and control to the people, to the many dead religions memorized by Sazed the Terrisman, who is a eunuch steward and rebel amongst his own people. He uses the memorized religions to inspire and comfort others. A religion is also founded considering Kelsier, the Survivor of Hathsin, as its founder and savior from the oppression of the Lord Ruler. Kelsier takes on the mantle willingly and uses it to inspire the skaa all the way to be willing to die to give power to the religion.
Pros: The first book in the Mistborn Trilogy brings something fresh to the fantasy genre. The magic system is creative and has depth, and the imperfect characters, from street urchins to the god of the entire empire, seem to leap (or Steelpush) off the page. The magic is different enough in itself that I wanted to know more about how it worked even after I finished the book. The characters really make this book as each has their own motivations without becoming too much of a trope, from the philosophizing Thug muscle of Ham to the sleazy yet loyal seemingly self-serving emotion Soother Breeze.
Cons: I waited for the battle scenes to grow in intensity throughout the book, which they do, but moved to the brink of me getting lost a few times during the hectic flinging through the air and pushing and pulling descriptions of the Allomantic abilities. Even still, the magic system had the cool factor that kept me engaged. Also, some of the character motivations seemed confused, such as when Vin gains confidence a little too easily when playing as Vallette Renoux, even though she grew up on the streets getting beaten by Reen and her former thieving crew. Perhaps it is her newly discovered powers, but are sixteen years of engrained mistrust and fear changed so easily?
Recommendations: Mistborn brings something new to the table for those weary of the traditional sword and sorcery that has come to be known as the genre. If you are a fantasy fan and haven’t heard of Mistborn, you have probably been living under a rock for the past five years. If you are a fan of fantasy and you haven’t already read Mistborn, you should probably go out and get a copy of this book right now. This book kept me engaged to the end and wanting more. The book is long enough that it might deter those who aren’t fantasy or science fiction aficionados, but Mistborn is well worth the time put into it.