Friday, January 25, 2013

Review of: The Well of Ascension (Mistborn book 2) by Brandon Sanderson

The Well of Ascension
The Well of Ascension cover art
This review is long overdue. I actually finished reading the book a few days before Christmas, but exams and such prevented me from writing this review.

This review may contain spoilers of the previous book, but I endeavour not to spoil any of this book.

As in The Final Empire, Brandon Sanderson has done an excellent job on pretty much all fronts with this book. The characters are very well developed, and despite the relatively large cast, I felt enough time was devoted to each one to warrant an emotional attachment. Character is, in my opinion, the overwhelming theme of the books so far. Each character changes throughout the book and a lot of the changes shocked me.

I don't want to give anything away in this review, but for the majority of the book I had no idea who the traitor was. I had inklings, but all were wrong. Only in the chapter where the traitor was revealed did I actually guess correctly. Looking back I realise Sanderson had littered the entire book with hints about the traitor. By revealing little bits of character information for all the characters and making sure some of these were contradictory, he manges to maintain suspense and make the process of working out the traitor very effective.

The book very usefully has a summary of book 1 in the back. As I left a couple of weeks between ending book 1 and starting book 2 I found this very helpful in getting back up to speed. There are also useful charts for all the allomantic and feruchemical metals featured in the book. Additionally there is a glossary of some of
the terms and characters in the book, though I didn't find myself referring to this very often as Sanderson sufficiently describes it all within the book.

The story starts 1 year after the end of the last book. Now the Lord Ruler is dead, the land is changing and Elend is the king of Luthadel. The book is in a way a coming of age story. Not so much that Elend gets older, but he matures into his role as king with the help of a Terriswoman, Tindwyl.

The main plot of the story revolves around a siege with two and eventually three armies of Elend's doorstep. Whilst this could have led to a boring story, it did quite the opposite. Fascinating politics and dangerous decisions to be made the siege participants are all manipulated by each other in a variety of ways. I can't really say much more on the plot without giving away too much.

Now Kelsier is dead, Dox takes over as the leader of the main group. In the first book the group dynamic was very vibrant and a highlight of the book. This time, is was far more subdued and far less playful. Each member acted more seriously, and with the biggest risk-taker gone, they all thought a little more about their actions. However, Kelsier's influence hasn't worn off. This is very evident, and rather enjoyable, about a third of the way through where they and Elend are planning their next move. Elend suggests a very dangerous idea, almost as a throw away, and the crew leap at it. They love the danger and the challenge.

By far the shining moment in the book just before the end of Part 5 (if I remember correctly). The epic battle scenes in this part are astonishing. They say that writers have an unlimited special effects budget, and Sanderson really utilises this. The Koloss are a brutal force to be up against and there are a perfect mix of fast paced, adrenaline pumping scenes, and more retrospective scenes with a powerful emotional punch. Most notable are the scenes with Sazed. His feruchemical powers are used in thrilling and surprising ways and then the emotional scene with him is heart-wrenching.

I thought the end of the previous book was a little rushed, and this one I have similar thoughts for. After the fantastic battle scenes, when they get to the Well (I won't say anymore than that) everything that happens does so very quickly. I found myself re-reading parts of it, in some cases more than twice. The issue was Sanderson tries to put across many complex ideas, drawing on references throughout the book. Some of the references I had originally dismissed as metaphors or completely misunderstood them in context to the story as a hole. Luckily book three has a summary which puts it very neatly.

Despite not understanding some of the ending it was still pretty strong. The main driving force of the ending (pre-epilogue) was emotion, and in this regard it excelled. Everything that happens between Vin and Elend is strong and makes sense. Without giving anything away, I was not expecting the bead in the pot to do that!

The epilogue does as most epilogues do, slowly bring everything to an end and not introduce too many new concepts. Obviously the major result of the previous chapter needed a little explanation and the epilogue does will in this regard. I am pleased Sanderson put the epilogue in, as otherwise I may have had withdrawal symptoms!

 Overall I would rate The Well of Ascension, Mistborn Book 2 by Brandon Sanderson 4.8 stars out of five. Had the ending been slightly better paced it would have gained back that .2 of a star. However, being a bulky book of 763 pages, this ending did not reduce my enjoyment of the book significantly.

Thanks
Matt B

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