Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson is an exciting narrative with high flying antics, a magic system that grabs the reader right away, and a dire situation that only fantasy can imagine.
4/5 20/25 total score
Type of Story: Action-adventure high fantasy with a large focus on world-building.
– One of the most fun magic systems ever created in a fantasy novel.
– An imaginatively hopeless world, but a group of characters with hope.
– Extremely easy to read that is meticulously planned.
– There is a lacking of soul in this novel, a connection for the reader to the characters, and the characters to themselves.
– Simplistic language, similar to a young adult novel. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but some readers should be aware of it.
– I was turned off by the flying at first but then I got used to it. Some people have a large aversion to flying in their fantasy novels and that is only why I mention it.
Similar Books/Media: I found some similarities to The Matrix in this book, especially the action. Of course Magneto from the X-Men has a lot of similarities to the main magic power used in this novel.
Plot – 5(Very Strong)
Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson is a high fantasy novel that focuses on a world under the rule of a tyrant that cannot die. The Lord Ruler has been the leader of The Final Empire for over a millennium and some people believe he is a god. The story focuses on the city of Luthadel, where there are many peasants named skaa that are mistreated by the noble houses, who are granted power by the Lord Ruler. A few of the nobles have special abilities called allomancy, that allows them to manipulate certain metals within their body to have special powers. The even more rare, mistborn, can harness of the power of all the metals, giving them great power.
Our story centers around a young female thief, named Vin, that unknowingly is a mistborn. She is constantly mistreated by people around her, until she meets a mistborn named Kelsier that sees her for what she truly is, and takes her under his wing. Vin joins Kelsier’s thieving crew and they have the impossible plan to attempt to overthrow the Lord Ruler’s government. Because they are a thieving crew, they use their allomancy to subtly perform small tasks to destabilize the Luthadel nobility and create an atmosphere that will allow them to topple the government.
The thing that makes the narrative of Mistborn so great is the scene building by Brandon Sanderson. He is well known for his world-building but I believe that Sanderson is even better at creating scenes. To be more specific, Sanderson is great at stringing together multiple scenes that are of good length, to tell an overall story, without having to resort to filling in the gaps between scenes. The plot is incredibly strong because there are not many scenes that fail to progress the story ahead.
Characters – 3(Fine)
Vin is our main character in Mistborn, we see the majority of the story through her eyes, but we also see the story through the eyes of Kelsier as well. Vin is a character that I was actually torn about at times in the novel. There were times where her character’s actions just didn’t make a lot of sense from how she acted previously. Then I realized something extremely important about Vin, what she thinks and says, is not always what she does. Once I realized this, I came to the realization that she is just a young girl, that really doesn’t know herself that well. Her character progression, in relation to the fact, is great.
Kelsier’s character is enjoyable because we get to see the details of this world through his eyes. He comes across as this entirely put together individual but there is a lot of hurt within him that clouds his judgment. The rest of the characters are hit or miss with me. I absolutely loved Sazed, he was my favorite character in the entire story. Dockson and his background was incredibly interesting to me, especially his talk to Vin about his past. Breeze, Ham, and Marsh however, just weren’t given a lot of time to show off who they were in a deep scene of dialogue. I hope for more characterization with those characters in the future books.
The characters do take a back seat the action and plot for the first third of the novel. Once things settle down and there is less flying around there is much more character development. Be aware that the development is rather weak at first.
Setting/World-Building – 5(Very Strong)
Luthadel, allomancy, mistborn, and The Final Empire are just the highlight of this entire novel. Allomancy is the ability to swallow metals and burn them within you. While you burn the metals, they give you abilities like magnetism, influencing other people’s emotions, becoming stronger, and having heightened senses. There are limitations to the magic system but the reader must realize that this is a very high magic fantasy novel and the abilities are far beyond a normal man. The flying around, by use of pushing and pulling towards metal objects, is a little much at first. I was really turned off by the flying and fighting because I’m not use to this in my fantasy novels. Once I accepted, that yes there is flying, I got over it.
The world is fascinating because the Lord Ruler defeated a great mysterious evil that was going to destroy the entire world but in turn became a being of power himself. The Final Empire was ruled by the savior of the world and he did not become a benevolent ruler. This created a bleak world that is unlike what the world used to be and it is fascinating to learn about.
Writing Style – 4(Strong)
Brandon Sanderson has a writing style that is unique to him. He writes extremely systematic and almost mechanical. He plans almost his entire book out before he writes it, down to the scenes, which creates cohesion not found in a lot of fantasy novels. Very rarely will you find a scene in Mistborn that is a throw away scene and doesn’t have some sort of meaning.
Sanderson is good at deciding if a scene needs exposition, action, or dialogue. He tries not to mix these type of scenes together often. If he goes from an exposition scene to a dialogue scene, there will usually be a page break. This creates an easy book to read. The action scenes do not have a lot of littered dialogue that stops the flow of the action. The language used in Mistborn is extremely easy to read and most YA readers could read this no problem.
The ability to be systematic and mechanical with his writing is also the part of his writing that sometimes creates wooden characters that are hard for the readers to connect to. Sometimes the best characters, the ones that we have a connection with, are the ones that tell us their story. For Sanderson, his characters struggle at times to tell the reader who they are because he uses his characters to show off his world and progress the plot, not to connect to the reader. The only moment in this story where the characters became real to me, and Sanderson’s influence seemed to fade away, was when Dox talked about his wife to Vin.
Heart & Mind Aspect – 3(Fine)
Due to the fact there was not a whole lot of connection for me to the characters the heart aspect of this story was lacking. I enjoyed the story, the characters, and the world but I wouldn’t be inviting any of the characters out for a drink afterwards. The book reminded me of a good date. A date that you had a ton of fun on, great conversation, and just an amazing time but there just wasn’t that spark of romance between the two of you. You could be good friends, but you would never be lovers. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t great.
Recommendation: I would highly recommend Mistborn: The Final Empire to anyone looking for a really strong action filled adventure with an outstanding magic system. This book is a ton of fun. In a way, it reminds me of the Indiana Jones movies, because it is just a whole lot of fun. It is action adventure fantasy with well crafted scenes and almost perfect pacing. However, if you want more emotion and maybe a more adult fantasy novel, then maybe check something else out, and then come back to Mistborn when you are ready for adventure.
The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi is the second book in the Old Man’s War universe. A strong sci-fi book that falls short of its predecessor but manages to bring up interesting ideas about identity and choice. The audio narrator that I listened to was William Dufries and he is once again outstanding.
4/5 17/25 total score
Type of Story: Science Fiction that is light on hard science and more space opera.
– Fun narrative that opened up many possibilities early on.
– A larger expansion of the Old Man’s War universe with more information about the aliens and the Colonial Defense Force.
– Some strong elements of philosophical ideas like choice and identity.
– Change in main character from the first Old Man’s War book that isn’t as engaging.
– The point of view changes more in this book than the previous.
Similar Books/Media: This is going out on a limb a little bit but I saw some similarities between this and Battlestar Galactica, the newest version.
Plot – 4(Strong)
The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi is set in the same world as Old Man’s War but follows a completely different main character, Jared Dirac. Jared Dirac is a new Ghost Brigade soldier that was a failed experiment after they attempted to put the consciousness of a traitor, named Boutin, into Dirac’s body. The consciousness did not take and Dirac ended up being a brand new human with his own consciousness. Dirac becomes a Ghost Brigade and goes on multiple missions with his squadron while being watched carefully in case the consciousness of the traitor comes out. At this point there are just so many opportunities to go anywhere with this narrative and I love it.
Jane Sagan, a character from the previous Old Man’s War novel is in charge of Dirac and when he starts to show signs of remembering things of Boutin’s life, she believes Dirac is a liability. When Boutin is found still helping the CDF’s enemies, Dirac might be the only person that can save the entire universe from all out war.
The Ghost Brigades is a solid narrative that gets more involved in the political and military aspects of the universe because we are mostly around the Special Forces Unit of the CDF. There is a lot less mystery in this book than Old Man’s War because we are dealing with people that know more about what is going on in the universe, however, there are still plenty of secrets to go around. Scalzi expands his Old Man’s War universe by adding more alien species and a more complex weaving between the races and the wars that are happening.
The best part of the plot is the unknowing aspect of what will happen when Dirac’s subconscious of the traitor becomes a part of who he is. Will Dirac become a traitor himself or is he a completely different individual than the man he was copied from? Also, what makes up someone’s conscious, is it just their memories, or is there something more to it?
Characters – 3(Fine)
Jared Dirac is no John Perry but he is still a good enough main character. It took me awhile to like him because at the beginning of the novel he is like a new child. Over time he grew on me and his struggle with who he is was pretty fascinating.
Jane Sagan is back from Old Man’s War but she is a more no nonsense type of character than she was in the previous novel. She has a lot of responsibility now and she takes that responsibility seriously. All of Jared’s squad mates have their own little personalities that entertain.
Boutin is an interesting antagonist because of his relation to Jared. His actions and motivations are clear to the reader and the reader gets to make an important decision if the way he views the world is correct or not.
Setting/World Building – 4(Strong)
The Old Man’s War setting continues to be strong. All of the alien races have such diversity that learning about them each is a lot of fun. The way that the CDF and the Special Forces get along and interact with each other is a strong component to this novel. The universe that Scalzi creates is unlike anything else that I have read because of the transfer of consciousnesses by the CDF. My favorite part of the world that Scalzi has created is figuring out what role the humans are playing in the universe. There are times when the humans are seen as the true antagonists but the reader really doesn’t know.
Writing – 3(Fine)
Scalzi brings his fast-paced writing into The Ghost Brigades but also puts in his classic Scalzi interjections about philosophy and ideas. I felt that this book in particular didn’t bridge the gap as well as previous books he has written with the transition between narrative and dialogue talking about ideas.
I felt that the beginning of The Ghost Brigades could have been stronger. It took me some time to become engaged with this story because the beginning was mostly shown through the eyes of random characters. Once Dirac was created, the story picked up, and became much more interesting. I felt that the Kynan beginning was a little long.
William Dufries does an impeccable job narrating this audio book. He gives character and personality to everyone. You can tell that he read the book, decided on how he was going to approach each scene, and made an effort to give life to each and every character.
Heart & Mind Factor – 3(Fine)
The mind factor played a role in The Ghost Brigade. The question that was the center of the entire story was, “what makes up who we are?” We are what we experience and not just our memories. We must have the tactile experience to anchor our memories because without the bookmarks in our head, we are nothing. We are the sum of all our experiences and even if we think exactly like someone else, our experiences in life is what creates individuals. Two identical twins are basically the same person when they are born but over time they become separate individuals.
Also Scalzi wants us to look at choice in The Ghost Brigades. No matter what our surroundings, background, or experience is, we have a choice as to what we will do.
Recommendation: I recommend The Ghost Brigades to anyone looking to continue reading Old Man’s War and I also feel that this book can be a stand alone too. If you want to read something about a consciousness being put into another person and if the new consciousness will be anything like the original, then check this book out. The action sequences in this story are better than what were in Old Man’s War too.