May contain spoilers for people who haven’t read the first two books. But if you’re reading this review, you probably should read the first two books anyway.
Premise: The god Ruin has been released from the Well of Ascension and his antithesis Preservation is weakened to the point of disappearing from the land. As the final book in the Mistborn Trilogy, The Hero of Ages expands even further what you thought you knew about the Final Empire. The background behind the strange powers of Allomancy and Feruchemy are further explained, with new metals added to their knowledge, and we are introduced to the third part of the magic system: Hemalurgy. This new facet is where metal spikes are driven through one person and into another to grant powers to the the person receiving the spike.
The ashes are now falling continuously and they are piling up. People are now falling sick to the mists, some even dying. Elend is now a powerful Allomancer after being mortally wounded at the Well of Ascension and being saved by the last bead of a unique metal that created the first Allomancers. Vin and Elend go on separate quests to find the hidden caches that the Lord Ruler created to help the people during this time that he apparently knew would come. Elend is seeking the rumored stockpile of atium that he thinks will somehow help them, while Vin is searching for more information that leads her to believe that she is the prophesied Hero of Ages.
The shape-shifting kandra play a much larger role than just spying as they did in the first two books. The kandra TenSoon, who took the place of OreSeur to spy for Straff Venture, goes back to his people after the death of Zane to try to convince them to fulfill their agreement from the First Contract. We learn their part in the grand scheme and how they came to be through the use of Hemalurgy at the hands of the Lord Ruler. The Steel Inquisitors, led by Kelsier’s brother Marsh, are gaining more powers by going around and killing Allomancers and Feruchemists. We also learn more about how the Koloss were created and their role. We discover that Hemalurgy is actually a way for Ruin to control people depending on the size and amount of spikes in their bodies, which includes the Koloss, kandra, Steel Inquisitors, even Spook, and more.
Themes: Faith is a theme that has grown through the trilogy, culminating in The Hero of Ages. After the loss of Tindwyl, Sazed has lost his faith in all the religions he spent his life memorizing and storing in his Copperminds. He goes through them one by one discerning whether they are truth or lies as he seeks his long lost Terris religion. He grows more and more disappointed with the results as he disproves one after another until he comes learn of the Terris religion, which turns out to come full circle to their current situation with Preservation and Ruin. Spook’s faith in the Church of the Survivor is also tested when Kelsier appears to him and gives him instructions.
The recurring theme of trust comes to a head in this book, as well, as Vin and Elend learn to trust each other and themselves in making decisions for the good of the empire. The trust in their relationship with each other defines them. This theme is so prevalent that there is a section of the book entitled Trust. Spook even has to make some choices about trust as his words to Vin tell us something about the truth behind Hemalurgy:
“Don’t trust anyone pierced by metal. Even the smallest bit can taint a man.”
Pros: Another layer is added to the magic system, the character depth, and the overall plot. At the end of the second book I wasn’t sure how the release of Ruin from the Well of Ascension was going to tie into the story, but I was incredibly surprised at how it wrapped everything together while adding depth to the entire trilogy. The Hero of Ages turns out to not necessarily be who you think it is but loose ends are tied up. Plot points are brought back into the mix and everything makes so much more sense in the big picture of Preservation and Ruin that now I want to go back and read the series again.
Cons: There were a few things that I felt were over-explained, if not becoming a little tedious, such as Vin and Elend trying to secure the caches and Sazed reviewing the religions. I feel like all three books could have been cut another 5-10,000 words without any effect to the story.
Recommendations: This is a story of faith, trust, love, and hope, and Sanderson explores all of them expertly. The depth added to the trilogy from this book made me like the first two even more. Sanderson raised the bar for the fantasy genre with the Mistborn trilogy and my expectations for new fiction with his innovative world and masterful storytelling, and he did it with style. If you have to choose any new fantasy series to read, this should be it.
Recently released was The Allow of Law, which is a standalone book set in the same Mistborn universe but in more of a modern age.