Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Hero of Ages - Brandon Sanderson

   2008; 724 pages.  Book #3 (out of 3) of the Mistborn series.  New Author? : No.  Genre : Epic Fantasy.  Overall Rating : 9*/10.

    The world is coming to an end, and there’s nothing to be done about it.  The only question is which unstoppable menace is going to deliver the actual coup de grace.

    At the top of the list is the ubiquitous and ever-falling black ash, which is choking out all plant life and fouling all the water.  Then there’s the mists themselves which are lingering longer and have started killing people.  Let’s not forget the thousands upon thousands of koloss, an endless wave of big, brutal, undead killing machines.  And last but not least, there’s Ruin Itself, released unintentionally by Vin, and probably more dangerous than the other three menaces combined.

    The world needs a miracle.  The world needs a Hero of Ages.

What’s To Like...
    The Hero of Ages is the concluding volume in Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy.  The other two books in the series are reviewed here and here), and there’s no let-up in the fighting, the politicking, and the end-of-the-world drama here.  Indeed, the whole series showcases Sanderson’s masterful writing style and excellent storytelling.

    The chapters alternate with four different POV’s – Sazed’s, Spook’s, Vin/Elend’s, and March’s.  I like this structure.  It makes for very few slow spots, and the storyline, while complex, is remarkably easy to follow.  The world-building is once again very detailed and convincing.  Some new characters are blended in with the surviving members of the gang of rebels.  All are richly developed, and none (with the possible exception of Ruin) are pure black or pure white.  Indeed, quite a few characters seem to ‘lighten’ or ‘darken’ as the story progresses.

    There is a handy “Names and Terms” section at the back of the book; I used it quite often.  This is not a standalone novel, but Brandon Sanderson once again provides brief summaries of the first two books.  These are stashed at the back of the book, but mentioned in the Table of Contents so that readers new to the series can get quickly up to speed about what’s going on.

   The climax is simply spectacular – being somehow both entirely logical and yet utterly unanticipated.  I am in awe of the author’s ability to avoid a lame or trite ending.  The storyline is completely wrapped up in a most satisfying manner.  Brandon Sanderson did write one more book set in the Mistborn world, The Alloy of Law, but it takes place 300 years later, so I doubt it impacts this plotline.

    “You know,” Elend added, “during those days when you refused to marry me, I constantly thought about how strange you were.”
    She raised an eyebrow.  “Well, that’s romantic.”
    Elend smiled.  “Oh, come on.  You have to admit that you’re unusual, Vin.  You’re like some strange mixture of a noblewoman, a street urchin, and a cat.  Plus, you’ve managed – in our short three years together – to kill not only my god, but my father, my brother, and my fiancée.  That’s kind of like a homicidal hat trick.  It’s a strange foundation for a relationship, wouldn’t you say?”  (pg. 239)

    ”Do you know why I dislike men like you, Venture? Yomen finally asked.
    “My insufferable charm and wit?” Elend asked.  “I doubt it’s my good looks – but, compared to that of an obligator, I suppose even my face could be enviable.”
    Yomen’s expression darkened.  “How did a man like you ever end up at a table of negotiation?”
    “I was trained by a surly Mistborn, a sarcastic Terrisman, and a group of disrespectful thieves,” Elend said, sighing.  “Plus, on top of that, I was a fairly insufferable person to begin with.  But, kindly continue with your insult – I didn’t mean to interrupt.”  (pg. 284)

 “In the end they will kill us, Elend said, voice loud, ringing in the cavern.  “But first they shall fear us!”  (pg. 701)
    Perhaps the most salient unique feature in the Mistborn series (and there are a lot of unique features here) is the role given to Religion.  Epic Fantasy and Religion are generally an awkward fit.  Most readers would much prefer the dragon to be zapped into oblivion by a wizard’s spell than for the heroes to pray it away .

    Although Religion plays a somewhat minor part in the first two books, it gets some center-stage time in The Hero of Ages.  I kept fearing that the story would degenerate into some sort of preachy sermon by Sanderson, but to his credit, this never occurs.  Furthermore, no particular Religion is heralded as being the One True Way.

    Instead, Sanderson contrasts the concept of Faith, inherent in any religion, with the Logic and Deductive Reasoning that are the bedrock for any society that relies on rational thought processes.  He seems to propose that the two can coexist.

    The reader can decide for himself whether he agrees with Sanderson's hypothesis.  To his credit, he tackles the difficult Fantasy/Religion issue with admirable skill.  Nevertheless, I hope this doesn’t become a recurring theme in his novels.

    9 Stars.  Add ½ star if you’re quite comfortable with mixing Religion with Fantasy, and wonder why more writers don’t combine the two genres.

No comments: