Book Review: Mistborn – The Final Empire

Written by: Brandon Sanderson
Series: Mistborn Trilogy
Sequence in Series: Book 1
Paperback: 657 pages
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication Date: July 17, 2006
ISBN-10: 076536543X
ISBN-13: 978-0765365439
Genre: Dark Fantasy


Once, a hero arose to save the world. A young man with a mysterious heritage courageously challenged the darkness that strangled the land.

He failed.

For a thousand years since, the world has been a wasteland of ash and mist ruled by the immortal emperor known as the Lord Ruler. Every revolt has failed miserably.

Yet somehow, hope survives. Hope that dares to dream of ending the empire and even the Lord Ruler himself. A new kind of uprising is being planned, one built around the ultimate caper, one that depends on the cunning of a brilliant criminal mastermind and the determination of an unlikely heroine, a street urchin who must learn to master Allomancy, the power of a Mistborn.


I found Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn: The Final Empire to be an interesting incorporation of both the old and the new.

Where most stories are about the rise of a great evil that is conquered by plucky heroes, this book is set in the dystopian aftermath of that story when the hero fails to conquer the evil. It adds a lovely twist to the traditional plotting of downtrodden protagonist becoming the chosen one. How that traditional plotting is told is with predetermined skill. Sanderson masterfully foreshadows and hints at things which still feel a refreshing surprise when revealed.

The magic systems are also indicative of Sanderson’s strengths. It is a hard magic system rather than a soft one. It has rules for use and limitations to what it can do. The protagonists’’ and antagonists characters are revealed as much through regular means as by how skillfully they interpret and interact with the magic.

The characters also harken back to an older period of fantasy where, instead of being morally ambiguous, the characters are actually, believably at heart, all good people whom you want to root for.  The characters’ flaws are something I have not often seen in stories though and so he maintains the element of something new. He fleshes out his main characters with nuance and adroitly relies on characterizations to round out the rest of them.

The writing itself is direct and simplistic, making this an easy and faster read on the surface. However, the book itself and the characters are verbose. Due to the intricate depth of worldbuilding and the need to explain the rules and uses of the magic systems, there is a great deal of exposition in this book, often in heavy dialogue that can make reading a grind. At the same time, the action sequences are exquisitely paced and described, giving just enough detail to set tone and allow for immersion.

All in all, I find this to be solidly told story. I believe it will definitely become a staple in the list of books I am willing to re-read. I enjoyed the world Sanderson built and look forward to playing there some more with book two.

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