The Hero of Ages is a great ending to a fantastic series that, more than anything else, displays Sanderson’s writing discipline.
4/5 20/25 Possible Score
Plot – 4(Strong)
Characters – 4(Strong)
Setting/World Building – 5(Very Strong)
Writing Style – 4(Strong)
Heart & Mind Aspect – 3(Fine)
The Hero of Ages is the third book in The Mistborn Trilogy and the end of the world is coming soon. The ashmounts are spewing ash at a larger rate, earthquakes are frequent, the mists are all day and are killing people, and Koloss are ravaging the country side. Vin and Elend are seeking a way to protect the world by finding caches that the Lord Ruler has set up just for this very moment. In these caches are food and supplies, but also instructions on where to find the next cache, and information about what is happening to the world. Sazed is searching for answers himself, with the help of Breeze, when they meet with Spook, a man that used to lack confidence, but has gained all the confidence in the world for some unknown reason. TenSoon is in kandra prison for his actions in The Well of Ascension, but while in prison, he finds out that the kandra know more about what is happening to the world than anyone. An exciting ending that is able to fill in every question that the reader has about this world.
So my record for this trilogy is that I loved the first book, gave it a 5, and I liked the second book, but it was flawed for me, a 3. I am so happy that the quality of the third book rose above the second book, and every single issue I had with book two was fixed for me. Vin and Elend’s relationship took a backseat to everything else and that made me very happy. In The Hero of Ages we switched view point characters often, with less Vin and Elend. Also, the setting of The Hero of Ages changed often, and that made me happy because I got tired of being stuck in Luthadel in book two. Overall, a much better showing from Sanderson, that I must admit, I had my doubts about after reading book two.
With this review I would like to focus on something specific instead of just rehashing what so many people have said before about a popular book. I want to focus on Sanderson’s writing mechanics when he starts a book and how that ties into creating a fantastic ending to a trilogy. Sanderson writes excessively detailed outlines before he begins his writing. For example, before Sanderson wrote The Mistborn Trilogy he wrote The Way of Kings, a book later published after Mistborn. Before The Way of Kings his books were just not that satisfying for him and he wrote more towards what the market wanted. With The Way of Kings, he decided to just write what he wanted to write, the way he wanted to write it. He created an outline that was 180,000 words, for The Way of Kings, longer than any actual book he has written to that point. He then wrote The Way of Kings, a 300,000 word book, that he had to put on the back burner because no publisher would ever sign a newer author with a manuscript that large. However, The Way of Kings changed the way he approached his books.
The Mistborn Trilogy’s ideas were from a previous group of books he wrote but were never published that he felt were just awful. He took the best parts of those books and created his pre-writing outline. The things he wanted to incorporate into the book, the setting, plot elements, and characters is where he starts. He then starts plugging in interesting points to each of these sections, for example, he puts in mists that you can’t see through for setting, or he puts a group of thieves wanting to overthrow The Dark Lord under plot. From there he’ll add more and more elements until a kind of story is starting to form. The important thing though, is that he cross references everything, so if a character has something important with the mists, he’ll make sure to put both that under mists and that character. He’ll rework a lot of what he thinks up so that they fit in with the story and structure.
Now the fun part begins of trying to figure out what things he should withhold from the reader until it is revealed. The Mistborn Trilogy, especially The Hero of Ages’s pace is really dependent on the reader wanting to find out these mysteries, these truths about the world that have not been shared with the reader. This is what makes a setting/world centered story work, the ability to capture the reader with questions that need answers, and that is what The Mistborn Trilogy really is. What makes The Hero of Ages special is that almost the entire book’s mood is one in which the reader feels like the author is approaching a climax, and that is created mostly by the beginning of answering questions that the author created for the reader.
By outlining the entire book and creating questions out of withholding information, Sanderson creates a setting mystery, that I personally love. I love books like this so much but they really only work when the author knows what these big question and answers are before he begins writing. The author will then sprinkle hints and clues throughout the book to a question the reader is dying to know the answer to. Steven Erikson is also an author that does this extremely well. Peter V Brett also had the hardest time writing his first Demon Cycle book until he switched to this overall outlining.
I believe that Sanderson will get better at this technique of writing, as he writes more books. This type of writing is called architect writing as opposed to gardener writing. Architect writers create the book in the pre-writing phase and then fill in the blanks with scenes when they write. A gardener writer, has a character, or an idea, and sees where that character or idea takes him, as he or she writes. Stephen King is a very famous gardener writer. Where gardener type of writers thrive is on creating complex characters, because they are basically allowing their character to carry their story. This is where Sanderson falters some in his writing. Sanderson’s characters are just another piece of the puzzle and they don’t feel as fleshed out as some writer’s. Because of that The Hero of Ages’ weak spot is that the reader doesn’t get too attached to the characters and slight things that the characters do, might seem annoying because we don’t know them closely enough.
I realize this was a slightly different review of The Hero of Ages, but I find the way that Sanderson writes created the things I loved about The Hero of Ages, and the entire trilogy. The setting and world building, the mystery elements of the world, the unforgettable magic systerm, wanting answers to questions and finally being rewarded, all of these things are as good as they are because of the pre-writing outlines that Sanderson creates. If you would like more information about Sanderson’s writing process check out the following links:
Most of my information was gleamed from these 3 sources.