Brandon Sanderson’s MISTBORN TRILOGY
A few months ago, I read the Mistborn Trilogy and I strongly advise you to give it a try if you’re looking for some great heroic-fantasy books. The author, Brandon Sanderson, has lately been recognized as one of the most famous authors of the genre and many of his books have turned into bestsellers. The guy has the particularity of inventing, creating stories which take place in a lot of different worlds, instead of just focusing on one as most authors do. But every single world of his is really unique, with its own magic, economic, political and religious systems, each influencing the others, eventually creating realistic worlds. For now, I’d like to talk about one of them, called Scadrial, where the Mistborn trilogy takes place.
The story focuses on one continent, called the Final Empire, which has been ruled for many centuries by Lord Ruler, a man considered a god because of his impressive longevity and his incredible strength. But many think this has lasted for too long. It’s time to take the power back. It’s time to defeat a god. This shortly sums up the plot, which seems very basic, but the characters’ deepness and the unexpected plot twists make these books unforgivable. I remember I thought I knew this world perfectly and then, something happened, forcing me to re-consider everything because I knew the author would never have introduced anything illogical. And it’s mostly by paying attention to little details that I could somehow anticipate some events.
Another uncommon thing with this writer is that he often gives very important roles to female characters, whereas they are often left behind in most other books of the genre (they are only used as an impotent and naive character and often kidnapped to trap the hero). In his universe, they are very independent, in need of freedom and add a lot to the story. In Mistborn, we follow the story of many characters, but the most important one is Vin, the girl you can see in the center of the picture below.
This world, just like the others he wrote, follows what’s called ‘Sanderson’s 3 laws of magic’. These 3 laws are, I think, what makes his books so interesting, allowing him to create such realistic worlds.
The first one is: “An author’s ability to solve conflict with magic is directly proportional to how well the reader understands said magic”. It’s really easy to see in his books as his magic system is perfectly described and we know what a character can do on nearly any given situation. I think that’s a good thing because some authors are using it too easily and we don’t really understand what’s going on, or the limits of one character’s power, creating Deus Ex Machina events that could be disturbing sometimes. For example, in Mistborn, the magic system is based on metals. 16 of them can be “absorbed”, each one granting a different power. Using steel allows you to push on nearby metals lighter than you are (coins can be used as throwing weapons this way) otherwise you’ll be pushed in the other way. Iron is basically the opposite as it allows you to pull lighter metalic items.
The second law is: “Limitations > Powers”. This law can easily be understood with the example of Superman. Indeed, what’s interesting about this character is what happens when he his facing someone using kryptonite. Were he always strong as hell, the comic would be pretty boring. In Mistborn, the limitations can be seen as the need of metals to have powers, and with the limitations linked with every single one of them. This forces characters to work harder to achieve their goals as they can’t just destroy everything in front of them throwing fireballs.
While the first 2 laws are mostly about characters, the final one is totally different but is definitely my favourite. The third law is: “Expand what you already have before adding something new”. It’s a huge problem with many new authors that try to add too many things to their universe, making it too hard to understand for the reader. This law can be easily observec in Mistborn very. Indeed, the power of absorbing metals is at the center of everything in this world. As only the nobles can use this power (it’s transmitted genetically), it reinforces their powers, adding a social dimension to this problem. This is exacerbated by atium, a very rare and expensive metal, which grants the ability of seeing the near future. This metal is the source of most of the struggles between the great houses as its gathering is controlled by Lord Ruler himself. Therefore, we can see that one power involves, in this trilogy, an economic and a social system. This law improves the realistic side of the worlds Sanderson created.
If you’re looking for an epic story that will keep you short-breathing until the end, just go for it.