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The Final Empire: Mistborn    by Brandon Sanderson order for
Final Empire
by Brandon Sanderson
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2008 (2006)
Hardcover, Paperback
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Final Empire is Brandon Sanderson's second (following Elantris) fantasy, and the first in his Mistborn series. In it, he postulates a world in which a great evil was overcome, but where the hero succumbed to the corruption of power and has become Lord Ruler, the Sliver of Infinity - essentially an evil god who has imposed a (so far) thousand year tyranny. It's a world enveloped in falling ash, where no flowers bloom, stars and hope both remain hidden, and the serflike skaa are treated brutally by nobles, descendants of the longlived Lord Ruler's original friends and associates.

But, of course, a new hero arises. Kelsier, the scarred Survivor of Hathsin, a legendary thief whose beloved wife Mare was beaten to death in the Pits, has a plan to overthrow the Final Empire and kill the Lord Ruler - he positions it with his con artist crew as a means of stealing the invaluable atium reserves. And there is magic in this world - most of it, unfortunately controlled by the Lord Ruler. But powers of Allomancy show up in the nobility - and in their forbidden half-breed offspring - to burn various metals for very useful results. For example, burning iron and steel can respectively pull and push on nearby metals, giving the ability to move like Spiderman. Other metals enhance senses and strength, influence emotions, and hide or reveal use of allomancy. Those with individual powers are called Mistings. The Mistborn have all these abilities.

Kelsier is Mistborn. Early in the story, he discovers young Vin, an abused, undervalued member of a crew of thieves. Kelsier helps her to understand and use her powers, and enlists her in his project. He needs her to pose as a member of the nobility in order to spy on the Great Houses in the capital city of Luthadel. Unfortunately, one of the Lord Ruler's invincible Inquisitors is on Vin's trail and it's only a matter of time before he finds her. While posing as the Lady Valette Renoux, scion of a minor house, Vin falls for the Venture heir, Elend, a bookish young man who seems - unlike his peers - to feel compassion for the skaa. Tutoring Vin in her role is Sazed, a Terrisman with his own kind of magic, Feruchemy. He promises Kelsier to protect his charge with his life.

The plan unfolds in unexpected ways and with tragic consequences. But when all seems darkest and most hopeless, the full extent of Kelsier's plan is revealed by a mistwraith, and Vin makes one final, desperate effort, aided by Sazed and Elend. After growing up with no-one to trust, Vin learns that there are good men in the world in a very satisfying ending to this first episode. Though I found the beginning very dark and had trouble getting into this book, I was engrossed after the first few chapters and look forward to more in a unique and highly imaginative series.

2nd Review by Alex Telander (Rating: 3):

The first novel in New York Times bestselling author Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy is an introduction to a fantasy world where the poor suffer under the iron fist of the nobility. Mistborn: The Final Empire reveals a unique realm where the Mistborn possess powers of magic never before seen in any other fantasy novel.

Vin is a sixteen year-old skaa, a peasant girl who has never really known her parents. Abandoned by an abusive brother, she spends her days working in a field with no hope of change. That is, until a tall and imposing stranger by the name of Kelsier shows up. He tells Vin that she possesses powers of which she is unaware and then takes her away from her life of slavery, for she is Mistborn. The Mistborn (also known as allomancers) are very few in number, but possess impressive powers. By ingesting small amounts of metal, they are able to burn particular metals and exert power. Different metals result in different powers (Mistings Pewterarms, Seekers, Soothers, Rioters, Lurchers, and Coinshots can only burn one metal).

Steel allows pushing on metal objects - such as railings, doors, coins, belt buckles, etc. - propelling the user into the air to great heights. Iron allows pulling on surrounding metals, up walls and across open spaces. Those who ingest zinc can inflame emotions in others, making them angrier or sadder, or more fearful. Brass is a soothing metal, allowing the user to dampen emotions. Bronze detects the use of metals by others. Copper hides metal use. Pewter greatly enhances physical abilities, the user becoming stronger, with faster reflexes, exceedingly fast movement, and able to sustain injuries and barely notice the pain. Tin enhances the senses. These are the basic metals that Mistings and Mistborn use. But when the small supply of ingested metal is extinguished, the user must find more, or be left with ordinary human abilities.

Then there is the very rare metal atium, only found in small amounts within the crystalline caves of the Pits of Hathsin. Here, prisoners search for the metal and suffer constant wounds from crawling through the narrow tunnels. If the prisoner does not find a piece of atium, he or she is executed. Everyone hungers for atium, the most expensive metal in the realm. The Lord Ruler gives out small amounts to his nobles and keeps the rest for himself. A Mistborn who swallows and uses atium, gains the ability to see the future, including choices made by an opponent in a fight, making it the most important metal of all.

As Vin begins training with Kelsier, who is also a Mistborn, she discovers she is now one of a group plotting to overthrow the Lord Ruler, who has controlled the world for over a millennium, subjugating all to his tyrannical and merciless power. He does this with the help of a religious group, the Steel Ministry, controlled by Inquisitors. A trained group of people with giant spikes hammered into their eyes, they are feared by all for their terrifying appearance and special abilities. Kelsier has chosen his gang of Mistings and Mistborn carefully, for very specific powers. He believes he can kill the Lord Ruler and make the world better.

Sanderson's first in a trilogy opens up a world with unique magical powers. It astounds the reader, as well as keeping him or her reading nonstop to find out what happens next to the well developed and fascinating characters. Mistborn: The Final Empire will make the reader go out and buy the next two books Well of Ascension and Hero of Ages in the series, just to find out how it all ends, and who remains alive on the last page.

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