Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Well of Ascension - Brandon Sanderson

   2007; 763 freakin’ pages.  Book 2 of the Mistborn trilogy.  New Author? : No.  Genre : Epic Fantasy.  Overall Rating : 9*/10.

    Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.  Elend Venture may be king of the Central Dominance, but there is one, then two, then three hostile armies laying siege to his capital city of Luthadel.  Everyone agrees that any one of those armies can take the city whenever they want.

    But it will cost the attacking army a significant portion of its fighting men, and in turn it will be vulnerable to either – or both – of the other two besieging forces.

    Of course, this matters little to Elend and his Mistborn, Vin; they'll have perished defending Luthadel.  But perhaps there is room to negotiate.  The three invading armies are of roughly equal strengths, which makes Elend’s weaker army a potential tie-breaker.  And negotiations can buy the Luthadel defenders some time.

    It would be even better if one or more of the invading armies could be inveigled to attack the other(s).  Alas, that would take some shrewd politicking, and Elend is a novice in the art.

What’s To Like...
    It’s  been two years since I read the first book in the series, Mistborn, but Brandon Sanderson made it easy to pick the threads back up, especially which Allomancers have what ability.  For those readers who are new to the series there is a brief backstory, but it’s tacked on in the Appendices at the end of the book.  The Well of Ascension is not a standalone novel, so it is advisable to either read the first book or the backstory.

    I am in awe of Brandon Sanderson’s ability to pen Epic Fantasy.  There are lots of plot twists, and the bad guys in particular seem to stay one step ahead of the good guys.  Some of the white-hats die in the story; some of the black-hats live to fight another day.  That's kewl.

    There are some new characters to get to know – most notably Tindwyl and Zane.  And some new beasties as well, most notably the Koloss and the Mistwraiths.  Plus a new alloy, Duralumin.  The Feruchemists play a larger role this time around, as do the Keepers.  I really enjoyed getting to know OreSeur the Kandra.

    The book is mainly focused on the siege of Luthadel, and this inherently means less action than in Mistborn.  But that consequently allows for greater character development, and Sanderson still manages to work enough action into the narrative to keep things hopping. 

    Since this is the middle book in a trilogy, the storyline suffers a bit from being neither the beginning nor the end of tale.  There is little progress on the overarching thread, which involves healing the land from the encroachment of the Mists.   The embodiment of this Evil, called The Deepness, is growing stronger and more deadly as time passes. Still, the immediate plotline thread – the siege of Luthadel – is fully resolved, so this is an entertaining read that presumably sets up the dramatic climax in Book 3

Kewlest New Word. . .
Mulled Wine (n.; phrase) : a hot alcoholic drink made of red wine mixed with sugar and spices and served hot or warm.  Traditionally drunk during winter.

    “You know,” OreSeur muttered quietly, obviously counting on her tin to let Vin hear him, “it seems that these meetings would be more productive if someone forgot to invite those two.”
    Vin smiled.  “They’re not that bad,” she whispered.
    OreSeur raised an eyebrow.
    “Okay,” Vin said.  “They do distract us a little bit.”
    “I could always eat one of them, if you wish,” OreSeur said.  That might speed things up.
    Vin paused.  (pg. 334)

    “Nothing to worry about,” Spook said.  “Just a mistwraith.”
    “What?” Elend asked.
    “Mistwraith,” Spook said.  “You know.  Big goopy things?  Related to Kandra?  Don’t tell me you haven’t read about them?”
    “I have,” Elend said, nervously scanning the darkness.  “But, I never thought I’d be out in the mists with one.”
    Spook shrugged.  “It’s probably just following our scent, hoping that we’ll leave some trash for it to eat.  The things are harmless, mostly.”
    “Mostly?” Elend asked.  (pg. 716)

“I’m not a good person or a bad person.  I’m just here to kill things.”  (pg. 255)
    Religion has a larger role in The Well of Ascension than in most Epic Fantasies, and I’ve seen some reviewers knock Brandon Sanderson because of his religious upbringing.  Personally, I haven’t seen any “preachiness” in either of the first two books in this series.

    If there is a theological message here, it is “There are many religions in the world.  They are all of equal value.  Pick whichever one seems best suited for you.”  I have read other books that have been little more than a sham veneer for the author’s self-driven proselytizing.  This book, and this series for that matter, do not fall in that category.

    9 Stars.  Thus far, this is just about a perfect Epic Fantasy series.  Excellent world-building; a complex saga; installments published in a timely manner; and over and done with after only three books.  The closing volume, The Hero of Ages, sits upon my TBR shelf.

No comments: