The book series that Brandon Sanderson is most well known for (save, perhaps, the Stormlight Archive), in addition to being one of the few works he’s published that I haven’t talked about, I figured that this is a good a time as any to state my thoughts on it. I’ll reserve my thoughts on the other books in the Mistborn series for a later date, though, as the Wax and Wayne (Era 2) isn’t quite finished as of writing this. This post will be with minimal spoilers, because I would really encourage you to read them if you haven’t already.
Overall, I think it goes without saying that there’s a good reason this trilogy is so popular. I would personally tie it to one distinct feature of the trilogy, but let’s save that for later. There’s a lot that is great about these books. One of my favorite things is the magic system. There are a few people in this world that can ingest certain metals and harness their powers. Somebody that can use tin can “burn it” to enhance their senses like hearing and sight. Somebody that burns steel can push metal objects away from them, and by contrast somebody that burns iron can pull metal objects towards them. If you have this ability, you can only burn one type of metal, unless you’re one of the lucky special ones. A mistborn can burn all types of metals.
This trilogy is sort of a dystopian fantasy, because everybody is living under the ruthless tyranny of the Lord Ruler, who is a god-king of this society. The skies constantly rain ash during the day, and at night mist shrouds the land. The main characters are the most subjugated race of people in this world, and a brave few have plans to change things.
So, the best thing about this series is that it is full of plot twists. But these twists aren’t really “surprise, I’m your sibling!” like Star Wars or anything like that. Rather, as the series progresses, your entire understanding of the world and how it works is constantly growing and evolving. Every book in the first Era made me think “Wait, what?!“at some point, because questions are answered in ways that are impossible to predict the first time you read it. That isn’t to say that things aren’t foreshadowed, because they are, but rather the conclusions that you jump to about the situations are rarely accurate.
This series is part of Sanderson’s Cosmere, which is his big universe that has a bunch of books that take place on different worlds that will all, eventually, connect. But all of his books are standalone works, as well, and while the scope of the size of the Mistborn universe gets larger with every progressive books, it expands naturally. It’s also a great introduction to the Cosmere as a whole.
My biggest qualm with this series is the second book. I personally hate romantic subplots because they’re always so contrived and annoying. To often they’re thrown in because it is either expected to be there or to get more people interested in the book. I don’t really know what it is, but it happens a lot. The Well of Ascension does this a lot, which is really annoying. There is too much “I don’t know what [my partner] sees in me, I’m worthless” on both ends of the romantic subplot, and it does nothing but anger me. Provide more character depth? I suppose, but there are better ways of doing that than putting chapters of insecure whining.
All that said, this book series is great. The first book of the second era, The Alloy of Law, is arguably one of my favorite books of all time, but the second era spoils the first era, so while you can skip it, obviously there would be a ton of spoilers if you backtracked, which kind of ruins the strongest point of the series as a whole.
Given that this book series aren’t the thick door stoppers that the Stormlight Archive books are, this would probably be my first series to recommend to somebody that wants to read some Sanderson fantasy. (I might also recommend Steelheart, but it’s not part of the Cosmere and is more sci-fi than fantasy.)