I wrote this for my own journal, but I thought you guys might be interested. I just finished the second book in his Mistborn trilogy, and really enjoyed it.
What a great time to be a reader. Brandon Sanderson's book The Well of Ascension just came out. It's the second book in a projected trilogy called Mistborn and wow, what meaty, substantive books. Not to get all gushy, but Brandon Sanderson is my new favorite author. He has officially moved into the neighborhood in my brain where Robin McKinley, Orson Scott Card, Ursula K. LeGuin, and Steven Gould live. (Sharon Shinn used to live there on the merits of her Archangel series [brilliant, seriously!], but she keeps churning out crappy books, and she's been demoted to the banlieues of my brain. Scary!)
Back to subject - I read the first Mistborn and I enjoyed it. It was a bit slow to get into, but once I reached the halfway mark it TOOK OFF. My goal in talking about this is not to recap the plot. I really don't want to do that. I find it tedious. What I DO want to talk about is what makes these books unique.
1. The premise is unique in the genre... What happens after the final battle that typically ends epic fantasy novels? The book starts a thousand years after the hero has defeated the enemy the "Deepness." The hero has set himself up as a vicious and cruel despot named the "Lord Ruler" and enslaved an entire people group. He's remade the world in his image, and crushed every independent religion. The people worship him now.
That's how the first book starts. No more details from me. I don't want to spoil it. As good as the first one was, the second one was at least twice as good. It continually surprises. More analysis under the cut.
2. The magic system is incredibly unique. I think setting up unique magic systems is really his trademark. He did it in Elantris, his debut novel, and he upped the ante in Mistborn. The magic in Mistborn is called Allomancy and involves the ingestion and burning of metals. There are eight basic allomantic metals - Steel, Iron, Brass, Bronze, Copper, Zinc, Pewter, and Tin. Burning different metals gives you different abilities. Pewter makes you strong and fast. By burning brass you can inflame emotions while zinc soothes emotions. Tin makes your senses super sharp. Most people who can use allomancy can only use one of the metals. If you can use all of them, you are a Mistborn.
3. The setting is sharp and well drawn. The city of Luthadel is dark and dirty, covered eternally in ashes from the volcanoes that are nearby. The city is ruled by different houses, each accountable to the Lord Ruler, and they vye for favor by assassinating each other and ostentatious displays of wealth. The grinding lives of the Skaa (the enslaved people group I mentioned) is what keeps the society running.
There are a lot more really cool, innovative things that Brandon Sanderson does to set the cliches of fantasy out on their collective ear.
I do think this book has several flaws. The magic system while innovative is REALLY complex and it made it difficult for me to jump into right away. (I've analyzed this in much more depth on my journal. I edited this entry to take it out because a friend of mine pointed out that it might contain some spoilerage. I don't take kindly to spoilers and try to avoid giving them, but I think some people might have a more stringent view on what constitutes a spoiler than I do.) Also, I didn't LOVE the characters like I loved his characters in Elantris. I loved Prince Raoden even when he was mouldy and afflicted. In Mistborn, I really liked all of the characters, but nothing really pushed me too strongly towards lurv.
Overall though, this was a fabulous book, and I would definitely recommend it to any fantasy lover. It was so innovative, it almost felt like discovering the genre for the first time.
I'd rate it an 8 out of 10. (Elantris I'd give a 9.5 out of 10.)
***Edited to remove possible spoilerage.
I can't wait for the third book to come out!