Jameson Recomends: ‘Mistborn’

Commentary by Jameson Filston, Campus Carrier Arts & Living Editor

Fantasy as a genre is growing in popularity, but still woefully underrated. The genre is viewed by many as less valuable than classic literature, nonfiction and poetry. However, fantasy has as much potential for learning and self-discovery as any of these genres. 

“Mistborn: The Final Empire” by Brandon Sanderson is a fantastic example of the value of modern fantasy. The book captures the imagination while addressing modern topics like racism and religion, and shows a new world through new eyes in a way that allows readers to think outside their limits and gain a new perspective.

“The Final Empire” takes place on the dark planet of Scadrial, where ash falls from the sky. One thousand years ago, the Lord Ruler is said to have defeated the Deepness, saving mankind and ascending to godhood in the process. Ever since, he perpetuated his reign of terror in a world that has been broken.

Vin, who is half skaa, an oppressed race, and half noble, is roped into the resistance after she is saved from gruesome death at the hands of the Lord Ruler’s minions. Resistance leader Kelsier, half skaa and half noble, believes he can return the world to a land full of green plants and flowers of legend. 

Kelsier leads a small band of thieves in a scheme to kill the Lord Ruler and take his fortune. Sanderson examines how humans react to oppression by revealing the true nature of these characters, and whether they are in it for the money or the good of the human race.

Sanderson makes a world that is completely alien work by including details that help a reader to picture the world and believe that it is real.  He includes features like how the skaa clean up the ash that regularly falls from the sky to draw you in. Once he has you, you can begin to explore what fantasy is all about, which is the relationships.

Learning about magic systems and fantastical worlds is a fun experience, but magic and fake planets are empty without people. The book focuses on Vin and her relationships as she develops from a street urchin into a powerful magician. 

She has a great mentee relationship with Kelsier as he teaches her magic. She then has a romantic relationship with a noble that any romance novel would covet. These relationships are realistic and engaging, and allow a reader to explore romance and friendship in people who are different from any reader, but relatable to all.

The idea of racism is thoroughly explored in the book. Vin masquerades as a noble lady and falls in love will Ellend Venture. In a world where skaa can be killed for being in the wrong place, her fear while interacting with Ellend explores the social constructions and institutions of race in an entertaining way.

By exploring these relationships, readers can exercise their creativity and be entertained. “The Final Empire” allows an audience to see what goes on in another’s head. Sanderson shows the anguish of loss and Vin’s fear from her days on the streets clearly and effectively. 

Another social aspect that Sanderson addresses in this book is religion. Creating a religion can be extremely touchy, but “The Final Empire” brings up valuable points about the importance of religion. The book examines aspects of several religions and what these religions lend their followers. As a Christian, I appreciated how Sanderson pointed to the hope and inspiration that religion can provide throughout the text.

Sanderson also does a good job of making the character’s decisions feel real. There is great mystery in the book, but it is usually followed by a logical, if surprising, explanation of motives.

If “The Final Empire” has a major flaw, it’s that there is too much mystery for the casual reader. Sanderson enjoys including Easter eggs in his books that point to a larger plot, but this can swamp readers at times with details when they don’t have the context. Despite this flaw, “The Final Empire” is a stellar example of how a book can explore real issues in a fake world.

Sanderson wrote this book exceptionally, and has written five successful sequels to the first. It is a great read, and one I highly recommend for readers and nonreaders alike. Reading this book just might change your view of fantasy, and of the world too. 

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