The mistborn trilogy
“It’s like the chaos of normal random statistics has broken down (…) A population should never react this precisely—there should be a curve of probability, with smaller populations reflecting the expected percentages less accurately.” The Hero of Ages
Last night, I finished the third volume of Brandon Saunderson‘s Mistborn trilogy, The Hero of Ages. While I read the first volume, Mistborn: The Final Empire, with pleasure and excitement, and enjoyed the second volume, The Well of Ascension, I went through this last volume at a miserable pace, slowed down by boredom and disillusion, often reading nothing but a single page before falling asleep! Following another disappointing read of Elantris, this does not abide well for the incoming completion of The Wheel of Time.
“These numbers are just too regular to be natural. Nature works in organized chaos—randomness on the small scale, with trends on the large scale.” The Hero of Ages
Indeed, while both Mistborn and Elantris managed to create innovative universes and compelling characters (Mistborn more than Elantris), they both suffer from superficial plots and disappointing endings. Mistborn creates an interesting connection between metals and magical abilities, some magicians named mistings being able to use a single metal and others, named mistborns, being able to use all sixteen of them, and the different races (humans, terrismen, mistwraiths, koloss, kandras) introduced in the first book are well-designed (even though ska is a denomination also used in Jack Vance’s Lyonesse trilogy). The initial band of rebels found in Mistborn: The Final Empire is nicely balanced between characters and the teenage ska hero Vin is psychologically deep enough to be a central character, as is the rebellious son and future emperor, Elend Venture. The plot in The Well of Ascension starts deteriorating, with the predicted (and rather predictable) fight between father—reminding me of the Lannister father in George Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire unfinished series—and son and a more interesting competition between Elend Venture and his mad half-brother for Vin’s love. This volume sees the appearance of the evil entity Ruin, released by a misled Vin, that will dominate the final volume. Both first volumes contain interesting reflections and subplots about political and religious aspects, not that deep—in that enlightened dictatorship always seems better than democracy, especially during crises—but nonetheless interesting, which is a relief for the completion of The Wheel of Time, where political maneuvering is a strong part of the plot. But the relation between Vin and Elend remains at a fairly superficial level and the lack of moral qualms in Vin for using her superpower to massacre entire armies unsettling.
The scribes didn’t have a large enough set from which to determine patterns. “This seems completely random.” The Hero of Ages
The final volume, The Hero of Ages, contains the resolution of the series and brings a complete explanation about the structure of the Mistborn universe, including the true nature of the kandras, the koloss and the Steel inquisitors. But it is done in such a pedestrian way that it is downright boring. The quest of Vin and Elend for the final cache of the special atium metal is unconvincing, the fights and battles are repetitive of earlier ones and the characters have lost all depth. The evil entity turns up having a benign double and the pantheon of the Mistborn universe ends up being of the Ying/Yang variety! The ending is appaling: both central characters Vin and Elend die and everything is set right, from stopping volcanoes to changing the orbit of the planet, to re-creating flowers by a single historian of religions… Disappointing to say the least! (I have added the quotes to indicate that the books contain interesting scientific undercurrents, trying (too much?) to explain the magic, not because those quotes are particularly deep!)