Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Book Review: The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson

The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson
The Mistborn Trilogy #3
Gollancz, 11 February 2010
768 Pages
5 Stars

Book Depository; Goodreads

Tricked into releasing the evil spirit Ruin while attempting to close the Well of Ascension, new emperor Elend Venture and his wife, the assassin Vin, are now hard-pressed to save the world.This adventure brings the Mistborn epic fantasy trilogy to a dramatic and surprising climax as Sanderson's saga offers complex characters and a compelling plot, asking hard questions about loyalty, faith and responsibility.

This book absolutely shattered all of my expectations and assumptions.  It's been a long time since I read a series so well thought out, where everything led up to one critical moment, yet where the reader wasn't tipped off various times throughout.  I was so surprised by the way Sanderson wrapped up this trilogy; yet, when I thought back, it was the only ending that made sense.  

The plot revolved around Elend and Vin's quest to protect the empire from the end of the world.  For Elend this meant conquering other kingdoms in order to keep the people in them safe, and for Vin it meant stopping Ruin.  Some might say that the plot was slow, but I didn't have a problem with the lack of action compared to the first two books in the series.  There were less action sequences, but the attention to character development well made up for their lack.  

I never thought I would like Elend, but this book made me appreciate him so much more.  War made him harder, and he stepped into his role of an emperor who was willing to do what it took to keep the empire together.  Yet, even as he became stronger and more powerful than ever before, he was filled with greater conflict.  While trying to save the empire, he also had to reconcile the conqueror in him with the peaceful scholar, the knowledge of right with the knowledge of needful.  This struggle made Elend interesting in a way he wasn't in the first two books.

Though I didn't dislike Vin in this book, I still didn't care about her too much.  She claims to no longer be motivated solely because of her love for Elend, but her final, most important act in the book is driven by it.  I have gotten over the fact that I don't like their relationship.  I just wish that there were more to her than him.  

Surprisingly, my favorite character in this book was Spook.  He went from being a side character who was always ignored by his fellow crew members (and this reader, as well) to a central figure in story.  Whereas before he was timid, shy, and unintelligible, he became bold, strong, and well-spoken.  I loved his growth, his doubts, and how he was motivated out of shame of his past and reverence for Kelsier.  His insanity was also a source of constant speculation for me.  I wasn't sure what to believe about him, and I definitely didn't see his character becoming what it did.  

And TenSoon!  I really love the kandra as a species, and TenSoon is one of my favorite characters of the entire series.  He is such a strong character, and he goes against tradition, his people, and his upbringing to follow his convictions.  Yet, he definitely has a dark side, which makes him much more complex than the typical moral hero character.  Finding out how the kandra fit in with the overall scope of the story, as well as seeing TenSoon truly fight for what he believes, was one of my favorite parts of the book.

Sazed is a character I am ambivalent towards.  Many people truly love him, but I have never been especially drawn to him.  I think that he's a great character, but I didn't feel a personal connection with him.  This continued to be true throughout The Hero of Ages.  He was such a bleak character, completely hopeless and really selfish.  Normally, I would be able to relate to a character struggling to find something to believe and all of the self-centeredness that comes with such a search.  What stopped me from empathizing, however, was that Twindyl was the catalyst for it all.  I understand that what happened to her was the beginning of his loss of faith and that it was then perpetuated as he started analyzing each religion, but I feel like much of the other motivations behind his dramatic change in demeanor were not expressed well enough.  Therefore, for most of the book I found myself upset that his character was so weak as to give up everything he believed in for a woman.

I did not foresee what happened with Sazed in the end in the least bit.  Even as it was happening, I was in denial that the trilogy would end that way.  Looking back, it was the only conclusion that made sense.  However, I'm still not sure how I feel about it.  I know that it was right, but it didn't make me happy.  It was an excellent conclusion, however.

Ruin and Preservation, though, were the characters I was most intrigued by.  The personification of these cosmic forces had the same affect on me as it did on Vin - it tricked me into humanizing them, especially Ruin.  Ruin's power and desire for destruction mixed with its fear and arrogance made me so curious about its origins, as if it were a person with motivations and desires.  I wish that there were so much more about these two forces in the book.

The writing was exactly what I expected from a Mistborn book - easily understood without any flash.  Though, stylistically, it's no better than any of the other books, this one made me appreciate Sanderson's overall talent for plot and character development.

That last time I read a series that was so perfectly planned and executed, with just the right amount of information revealed in each book to lead up to a sensational and unforeseen ending, was when I was reading The Harry Potter series for the first time.  I truly marvel at how well Sanderson imagined this world, created each character, and then orchestrated every event (even those done in the past, such as with the Lord Ruler) to tell an epic story.  The organization of each sub-plot, how it adds to the progression of the main story, each revelation that brought a twist, and then the final twist of all - all of it really tells of Sanderson's genius.

One theme that traveled through all three books and really spoke to me was the struggle of identity.  Vin needed to reconcile being a thief, a noblewoman, and Mistborn.  Elend had to figure out how to be an idealistic scholar and a realistic emperor.  Sazed was a scholar of religions and an unbeliever.  Even TenSoon needed to be both a faithful kandra and a friend to Vin.  The duality of each of the characters added to the depth of each, as well as the overall complexity of the story.

Suffice it to say that I truly loved this book.  It was mind-blowing and solidified my belief that one can never anticipate what Sanderson will do.  I gave it an enthusiastic 5 stars.

Have you read The Mistborn Trilogy? What are your thoughts? Tell me in the comments below.

I have also reviewed The Final Empire and The Well of Ascension, books one and two in the trilogy.

As always, you can find me on Twitter, Goodreads, Instagram, and Bloglovin.

Happy reading!

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