The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson
I’m impressed with Brandon Sanderson’s first fantasy trilogy. The entire story was carefully thought out, well-plotted, and well-paced. What impresses me most is that in this last installment, The Hero of Ages, there are plenty of wonderful surprises left. But these surprises aren’t little add-ons that Sanderson lately thought up and decided to throw in just to keep up the interest and excitement. These are major pieces of the puzzle that have purposely been left for the characters (and therefore the readers) to discover. Back in The Final Empire, the first book of the Mistborn trilogy, I thought Brandon Sanderson had created a unique and really cool magic system. That was nothin’ — it gets even better!
Finally, we understand the origin and purpose of the koloss, kandra, and inquisitors. Now we know what the Lord Ruler has been about for his 1000 year reign, what the mists are doing, and how people get allomantic powers. All of our questions are answered in fact, and you probably will have guessed some of the answers, but others will surprise you, I think. The end of The Hero of Ages (2008) is bittersweet, just as I like my fantasy. We are left with hope and light, not in despair, but there was a high cost to what was achieved.
One thing I particularly liked about this series is the way that the “bad guys” are not universally and one-dimensionally evil (except for one, who is an evil “force”). Some of them aren’t really “bad guys” at all. In addition, most of the characters are logical, no matter which “side” they’re on. The “enemies” are just as reasonable, intelligent, and well-spoken as our heroes. Vin, Elend, Spook, Sazed (etc.) don’t blow anyone away with superior plans, arguments, or bravery — they find that their antagonists are just as well prepared.
As usual, the audio version of this novel is high quality. The narrator, Michael Kramer, is excellent, though he was inconsistent with Spook’s voice. Mr. Sanderson has drastically cut back on the number of times a character “paused,” so that was no longer an irritation.
I heartily recommend the Mistborn series for anyone looking for an original, well constructed epic which is satisfyingly finished in three volumes. If you listen to audiobooks, that’s a great format for this series. If you have not read Mistborn, put it on your list.
The Hero of Ages is Brandon Sanderson’s final book in the MISTBORN TRILOGY. As you probably know, but I didn’t, Sanderson envisioned a novena of books in this world. (I just made up that usage of “novena,” by the way); three trilogies in three separate sub-genres: epic fantasy, urban fantasy and science fiction. The Hero of Ages completed the epic fantasy series and creates the world in which the other six books will take place.
While I enjoyed Mistborn, the first book, I struggled with the bridge book, The Well of Ascension. I thought that Sanderson fell down, badly, on describing this world — and the world description and background is more important to this series than some others. It felt as if Sanderson was hand-waving away lots of serious gaps in his culture and societies. I am pleased to report that in The Hero of Ages, nearly all my questions are addressed in some way. In one case, the answer to my question about gunpowder is simply that the Lord Ruler didn’t let it be created. Given the power of the Lord Ruler, this is a plausible reason.
Throughout the trilogy, Ruin and Preservation have been introduced as principles or nebulous forces. In this book, they emerge fully and the true struggle is revealed. The mystical metal atium is more than a magic trick. It is vital to both cosmic forces, and that contest is convincingly drawn.
I liked The Hero of Ages because we had a chance to follow some secondary characters from the previous books, as they encounter challenges and struggles. In particular, Spook, a street kid who tended to be fondly underestimated or overlooked by the others in the first two books, comes into his own in this one. Spook has always felt that he was never part of the original “crew” who set in motion the revolt against the immortal Lord Ruler. By the end of this book, he has developed confidence and self-respect. He is ready to take his place in the world. Those lessons did not come easily to him and he has a compelling story.
Sanderson also spends more time with the kandra in this book, and that’s all to the good, because they are really interesting. We finally get to see some mines, which play a big role in this story, and have an idea of what some of the other cities look like. Sanderson uses the steady fall of cinder and ash from the ashmounts as a barometer of risk in this book; the ash is falling faster and thicker and soon will cover everything including food crops, and everyone will starve. Surprisingly, this isn’t the biggest danger the planet faces in this story.
While I never warmed up to Elend, the king — now Emperor — and husband of the superhero Vin, he does act heroically in the last hundred pages of this book. I think the amount of character development that went into Vin, the main character of the series, left Elend as little more than a foil for her. She’s a street urchin, he’s noble. She’s instinctual, he’s a scholar. She’s shy, he’s diplomatic. That really doesn’t get any better here, but Elend is active enough that it didn’t matter.
Sanderson managed to tie up everything, and create an epic, supernatural and downright poetic ending. While the book drags on too long, the last hundred pages sparkle with energy and suspense. All along I had felt real concern about Vin and Elend’s ability to act as governing rulers, since that plainly was not a strength for either of them. I was pleased that the ending resolved that issue. Throughout the book, the spiritual journey of Sazed remains emotionally authentic and believable.
These books are much too long and suffer from indirect writing; circular, repetitive dialogue; and too much past perfect tense. It’s a measure of how frustrated I was that I even noticed the last one. I much prefer Sanderson’s tighter works like The Alloy of Law and The Emperor’s Soul. Still, the trilogy is worth reading for its original concept, its magical system, and an ending that is true to the story, heart-rending, and gorgeously written.
I didn’t know it was going to be a novena, either. Or is that novology?
I very much like this use of the word “novena.” And I’m looking forward to reading this trilogy. Thanks for the great reviews of all three books, Marion.