Premise: One year after the Lord Ruler is defeated and the Final Empire is broken, Elend and Vin are trying to bring the people together under a more representative government, with the skaa now playing a role along with the nobles and the merchants. It seems to be a good idea at first, but squabbles arise and they soon find themselves besieged by three armies, one of them belonging to Elend’s own father, Straff Venture. The other two armies are led by Cett, while the other is a koloss army led by one of Elend’s old friends from his days of talking politics at their noble parties.
We learn more about Allomancy, and that is expanded to Feruchemy, the magic that we were introduced to at the end of the first book, where instead of swallowing metals and burning them, the user wears the metals and stores abilities for later use. In The Well of Ascension, we get to see Feruchemy at work as Sazed taps into his stored speed, strength, health, and more from his different metals, along with his stored memories of all the long dead religions from before the Lord Ruler.
The Well of Ascension brings us another layer to an expansive world full of political intrigue, religious fervor, including that of the believers of the new Church of the Survivor, and what it means to be a leader. Elend is a victim of his own laws that he wrote when he is ousted as king, while Vin begins to be suspicious of the mists that she thought she could rely on. Straff’s Mistborn, Zane, plays a big part in that mistrust, especially when it is learned that he is Elend’s half brother. Vin’s powers are pushed beyond their previous limits, with the help of duralumin, and her battles with Zane make her question her loyalties and help hone her abilities. The search for the Well of Ascension, which is supposed to contain the power necessary to stop the ash and the mists that Vin believes could be The Deepness that the Lord Ruler defeated before, is a main objective for Vin as she seeks to use the power to repeat the task of the Lord Ruler of saving the world.
Themes: The ever-present theme of trust in continues in The Well of Ascension, with Vin and Elend learning to trust each other as they enter into new roles, but also with Elend attempting to lead his people to trust each other to make the new government work. Elend also must trust Tindwyl to advise him on being a leader worthy of respect. Vin’s trust is put to the test as she interacts with Zane and he attempts to sway her to join him.
Not only is love shown as a theme between Vin and Elend, but Sazed even gets to learn the value of love being a motivator for everything in life when the Terriswoman Tindwyl shows up, who is there to help shape Elend and Vin into the leaders they need to be. While she is there, Sazed and Tindwyl work together to discover more about their lost Terris religion and the location of the Well of Ascension. During their time studying together, a bond is formed and mutual respect is revealed from years ago that blossoms into a deep affection for each other.
Politics are all over this book, with alliances formed and broken, deals behind closed doors, bribery, spying, pitting one enemy against the other, with military powers and battlefield tactics also coming into play. We go from a complete dictatorship with the Lord Ruler, to a republic style democracy, to an emperor ruling over lesser kings.
Pros: The magic system is further explained with Allomancy and expanded in Feruchemy. I thought that Allomancy was enough, but the addition of Feruchemy just added so much more and was just plain cool. The major battle scene fighting the koloss with Sazed tapping into his years of stored abilities alone was worth reading this book. The extra layers of politics, religion, magic, and the well-formed back story take the Mistborn series from one good book to something more, showing us that Sanderson took a lot of care in building this world.
Cons: The political wrangling and backstabbing between the different factions and powers gave much depth to this book, but could be tiring at times. Think of how exciting it is to watch congresspeople bicker over pointless bills in real life and this is what you’ll get in a fictional book as well. While it gave it more of a sense of reality, it can be boring until you add in the spying and fighting and the threat of armies. With that working against the story, even that was done well enough that it didn’t take long to wade through those parts to get back on track with more exciting things.
Recommendations: This second book in the Mistborn Trilogy takes what you learned in the first book and builds on it, shattering some things you thought you learned and expanding the magic system to give it even more depth. We learn how people can change when forced into certain situations and that what we think about ourselves and our world morphs and grows with experience. With a story full of challenges to faith and trust, this trilogy is very recommended. If you are going to read any of the Mistborn books, you shouldn’t stop with the first book.