Sunday, June 14, 2009

Mistborn. The Final Empire

I previously blogged about how much I like Brandson Sanderson (here and in various other post as well) so I'm not going to sugar coat things. This is not a "review" as such, rather commentary on the work of a favorite author of mine.

The two biggest surprises I had upon finishing this book were that in many ways, it could stand alone even though it is the first in a trilogy and that it was pretty much standard, run-of-the-mill fantasy; anything but what I would expect after reading Sanderson's Elantris.

The pacing of the novel is extremely well controlled: never at break-neck, page-turning speed nor does it limp along; the cruise control is set at a comfortable, if not slightly unhurried, tempo. While he can create tension and conflict as well as anyone else, I wasn't so much left feeling drained only wondering why there was fifty or so pages left after what I found to be the primary climax. Controlled pacing is to be admired but as events rarely got to the point of maddening page-turning and the conclusion was as satisfying as it was, I have to wonder how many readers Sanderson lost for the trilogy after the first book. While I appreciated the lack of a cliched cliffhanger leading into the second entry, Sanderson left me with precious little substance to look forward to.

There is originality here and it comes across in Allomancy, Sanderson's system of 'magic.' The price of originality seems to be convolution and repetition. The principles of Allomancy are beaten into the readers head to the point that upon completion I could have passed a written exam on what was presented in the book concerning Allomancy's rules. While the readers' understanding is essential, the better part of most all action sequences were explanations of who was doing what, with which force, to whom. Rarely confusing, but frequently tiresome passages made up the bulk of the action. Every time a physical conflict came about I couldn't help but say to myself, "Here's the review lesson for the test I'll take tomorrow on Allomany."

Characters may have influenced most of my shoulder shrugging. I don't expect David Gemmell-esque, larger than life, people to populate anyone else's books, but I do have to care about the characters or the setting enough to make a connection. The "A-List" hero fell flat for me and while the endearing apprentice is positioned for greater things, she didn't quite tug at my emotions enough to make me anxious as to her fate.

The characters names certainly didn't help anything: Felt, Sazed, Ham, Marsh, Breeze, Clubs, Spooks. Did Sarah Palin win a contest that allowed her to name Sanderson's characters? Granted Ham was short for Hammond, but in general it was as if the names, much like Allomancy, while original came across as the author trying to hard.

I recall Sanderson using italics to set off interior monologue in Elantris but no where near to the extent he does in The Final Empire. I found the sheer amount used to be an eye sore, and compensation for not finding a different (better) way to express how his characters were feeling.

Swords and sorcery, action adventure fans are sure to be satisfied, as was I, even if I was constantly wanting something more substantial. Either I've matured as a reader since Elantris or for whatever reason it struck a special chord with me, either way Mistborn is worth the time despite my long list of personal peccadillos.

It's difficult to form an opinion as this is book one of three and perhpas in the next installments all that I love about Sanderson will be on the pages before me. If not, I fear my commentary for the second and third books will read just as this one has.

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