What if the whole world were a dead, blasted wasteland?
I read The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson in February 2021 as part of the Cosmere Conquest book club, which has now become The Oasis, an SFF themed book server on Discord. Consider joining us!
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About the Book
The Final Empire
The Mistborn Saga Book One
by Brandon Sanderson
Published 17 July 2006
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Page Count: 541
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What if the whole world were a dead, blasted wasteland?
For a thousand years the ash fell and no flowers bloomed. For a thousand years the Skaa slaved in misery and lived in fear. For a thousand years the Lord Ruler, the “Sliver of Infinity,” reigned with absolute power and ultimate terror, divinely invincible. Then, when hope was so long lost that not even its memory remained, a terribly scarred, heart-broken half-Skaa rediscovered it in the depths of the Lord Ruler’s most hellish prison. Kelsier “snapped” and found in himself the powers of a Mistborn. A brilliant thief and natural leader, he turned his talents to the ultimate caper, with the Lord Ruler himself as the mark.
Kelsier recruited the underworld’s elite, the smartest and most trustworthy allomancers, each of whom shares one of his many powers, and all of whom relish a high-stakes challenge. Then Kelsier reveals his ultimate dream, not just the greatest heist in history, but the downfall of the divine despot.
But even with the best criminal crew ever assembled, Kel’s plan looks more like the ultimate long shot, until luck brings a ragged girl named Vin into his life. Like him, she’s a half-Skaa orphan, but she’s lived a much harsher life. Vin has learned to expect betrayal from everyone she meets. She will have to learn trust if Kel is to help her master powers of which she never dreamed.
Brandon Sanderson, fantasy’s newest master tale-spinner and author of the acclaimed debut Elantris, dares to turn a genre on its head by asking a simple question: What if the prophesied hero failed to defeat the Dark Lord? The answer will be found in the Misborn Trilogy, a saga of surprises that begins with the book in your hands. Fantasy will never be the same again.
My Rating: 5 Stars
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The Final Empire is an epic start to an epic series and I really wish this had been my first Sanderson. I wasn’t ready for Elantris when the year-long Cosmere reading club I was in decided to start there, but when we moved on to the Mistborn series and I got a taste of this world, I was hooked. I’m a Sanderson fan!
This book does an excellent job of setting up the world we’ll be in for the rest of the series, establishing the different groups of people involved in the major conflict for the first trilogy arc, introducing important ongoing characters, and teaching us all about the magic systems in place.
Kelsier, the fabled the Survivor of Hathsin, is the leader of a group of Skaa thieves, many of whom have allomantic talents. He wants to take down the Lord Ruler, overthrow the noble class, and destroy The Final Empire in order to rebuild a world that is more fair for people like the skaa, people who use magic but aren’t noble-born, and people who wish to push the boundaries of said magics.
Vin is a young skaa teenager who is recruited into Kelsier’s band when he realizes what she is: a mistborn. Someone who is born with not one, not two, but ALL of the allomantic abilities. She could be the key to Kelsier’s success.
Throughout the course of this first book in the Mistborn series we see Kelsier and some of his men teaching Vin how to use her powers and we watch Vin pretend to be a visiting noblewoman in order to attend all of the high society balls and act as a spy. Through these activities we meed Sazed and Lord Renoux, Vin’s new servant and uncle, and important key players in the trilogy as a whole.
I enjoyed reading Vin and Sazed most in this book, and watching Vin learn how to use all of her abilities. This book is perfectly paced with all of the character development, battles, dialogue-heavy scenes, training scenes, etc. perfectly balanced and spaced out. You never get tired or overwhelmed with any one element because they come in bite-sized scenes and chapters, but you also don’t mind jumping around so quickly because it’s all excellent.
I do think Sanderson sometimes went a little too in-depth about how the magic worked, particularly when POV characters monologues to the reader (or to themselves) about the why and how and what of their actions as they did them, long after we had those explanations the first time. I love the idea of pushing and pulling on metals to leap or virtually fly long distances, but by the fifth or sixth time Vin or Kelsier explains that to themselves I start to get worried about how many pages are left. I do think that’s just a sign of this being from early on in Sanderson’s career though, since it’s not something I could critique so much about later books in this series.
The ending! No spoilers here, but oh my goodness that ending. I don’t go into the first book in a series expecting all strings tied up at the end but wow! Sanderson really sets the expectation for how the whole series will go by introducing several dozen loose ends right at the end! I’m so glad I read this book as part of a Cosmere reading club where we were all buddy reading one book a month. If I had read this one my own I would have either rushed right into the second book immediately and done the same for the rest until I was burnt out on the series, or put it off far too long altogether because I constantly have so many books to read. As it worked out, I got about a week off between this book and the second, which proved just long enough to REALLY speculate on every question this one left unanswered.
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Want more? Check out my 5 star review of The Starless Crown by James Rollins!