Reading this book taught me an important lesson. Namely, that when my wife recommends something I should listen to her. Picking up this series gave me another revelation as well: reading books you already own can be just as worthwhile as finding new ones.
Set on the planet Scadrial, we are introduced to a feudal society roughly analogous to our own Middle Ages. Dominating the land from his fortress in the capital city Luthadel is the despotic Lord Ruler, a once-prophesized hero who has reigned as king and deity for roughly 1,000 years. With his ascendency came many changes to the Earth-like world; all plant-life turned brown, frequent volcanic eruptions regularly pour ash over the land, and every night a dense mist engulfs the land and confines most of the terrified population indoors. Society has stagnated in this time and a rigidly enforced strict class system emerged. Beneath the Lord Ruler and his bureaucracy lays a heavily regulated noble class to oversee the Skaa, a brutally subjected class of laborers who work, live, and die at the mercy of their masters. A few other groups fill in the gaps, but as a general rule if one is not at least noble born they are not doing too well in this world. Holding this order together is magic, which here revolves around the ability to metabolize particular metals. Each metal grants a different mental or physical power to its user, or Allomancer, though practitioners can typically access only one type. There are however, rare and powerful individuals known as Mistborns with the ability to burn them all.
Now that I’ve set up the background, our two primary characters are both Skaa, one a teenaged thief named Vin and the other a legendary dissident named Kelsier. Vin has spent the majority of her life on the streets and we first meet her as a low ranking member in a group of thieves. Prized by her boss for an uncanny ability to influence people and situations she is brought in on a plot that goes wrong, drawing the attention of the authorities in the process. With the Lord Ruler’s agents closing in, Vin is approached by Kelsier, who shocks her with the news that her role in the incident has exposed her as Mistborn. Being Mistborn himself, he invites her to train with him and join the small but skilled crew of Allomancers he is assembling in Luthadel. She accepts, and in doing so agrees to help them they to accomplish the impossible – overthrow the Lord Ruler and avenge society’s poor treatment of the Skaa.
I really got into this book and the world in which it takes place. I found myself eagerly looking forward to finding out more information about what was going on and enjoyed the teasers offered by the chapter introductions, especially once I got far enough in that I was able to get a sense of what they were suggesting. In addition to liking both Kelsier and Vin, there was an excellent group of supporting characters that were all well written with a clear purpose beyond exploring the full scope of powers available. Speaking of powers, the magic system was not only different than what might be expected, but very well thought out, balanced, and rewarding of ingenuity in some really interesting ways. The one negative for me was there were a few places I felt the story slowed down a bit, most notably in relation to Vin’s drawn out love/hate musings on ball gowns and a slow-moving courtship with Elend Venture, a potentially sympathetic noble. My wife, on the other hand, strongly disagrees with me on this so take my opinions for whatever they’re worth. Regardless, I really enjoyed this novel and jumped right into the next book. I guess that’s an advantage of reading something you already own.