Mistborn: The Final Empire Group Read, Part 1

“What if the hero of prophecy fails? What kind of world results when the Dark Lord is in charge? The answer will be found in the Mistborn Trilogy, a saga of surprises and magical martial-arts action that begins in Mistborn.”

For a thousand years the ash fell and no flowers bloomed. For a thousand years the Skaa slaved in misery and lived in fear. For a thousand years the Lord Ruler, the “Sliver of Infinity,” reigned with absolute power and ultimate terror, divinely invincible. Then, when hope was so long lost that not even its memory remained, a terribly scarred, heart-broken half-Skaa rediscovered it in the depths of the Lord Ruler’s most hellish prison. Kelsier “snapped” and found in himself the powers of a Mistborn. A brilliant thief and natural leader, he turned his talents to the ultimate caper, with the Lord Ruler himself as the mark.”

This past summer I read The Way of Kings with a group.  It was my first book by Brandon Sanderson and I loved it.  Seriously, I couldn’t put it down.   Since then, I’ve wanted to read more by him.  When Carl mentioned that he was organizing a group read of Mistborn for the Once Upon a Time Challenge I rushed to get the books.  And now it is time for the first group discussion.

Please note that the answers and discussion will contain spoilers.  If you would like to join in on the discussions, please feel free.  Everyone is welcome.  And if you would like to follow all of the discussions click on this page.

1.  This first hundred or so pages was packed!  What things are standing out for you in the story thus far?

I was not expecting the first few pages to reveal a murder.  I’m not sure what I was expecting, but after the murder I thought to myself that I had no clue what the trilogy is about.  And that’s a good thing.  Sanderson is revealing bits and pieces of the world he’s created, however, he isn’t going into a whole lot of detail about this world.  I’m not sure how I feel about this yet.  Usually I like to know how things work.  But I’m trusting Sanderson to make sense of everything for me.  Right now, I’m content with enjoying the ride and I’m not taxing my brain too much by trying to figure out if his world actually makes sense.  The fact that a group of misfits is attempting to overthrow the evil government is quite exciting for me.  I love political intrigue and cheering for the underdogs.

2.  What are your thoughts on the magic system that Sanderson is unveiling in this novel?

As of now, I don’t think I really understand the magic system.  I know nothing about allomancy.  Zip.  As I stated in the previous answer, Sanderson does not provide a lot of explanation.  I’m wondering if he is doing this intentionally since he wants us to be like Vin.  Maybe he wants us to learn as she learns to use her powers and to understand the world around her.

3.  Kelsier and Vin have held most of the spotlight in these first 6 chapters.  As you compare/contrast the two characters, how do you feel about them? Likes? Dislikes?

Kelsier is that lovable rogue that makes a good story.  He isn’t innocent and can be cold-blooded at times, however, I feel that he knows what he’s doing and his actions are justifiable.  In real life, I’m not a fan of vigilante justice.  In these types of books, I love it.  One thing I really appreciate about Kelsier is his attitude.  He’s always smiling even though we know that he has suffered in the past.  I’m still trying to figure out what is behind his smile: a new appreciation for life or the thought of killing the person responsible for ruining his life.

I’m on the fence about Vin.  Right now she is timid and taking everything in.  I don’t really know how I’ll feel about her as a character.  The last twist of her role in the takeover might add a lot more dimension to her and I’m curious to see how it will play out.

4.  Finally, how would you assess Sanderson’s storytelling abilities to this point?

Sanderson has a way of sucking me into his world slowly.  He doesn’t overwhelm the reader with a lot of details about how things work.  He drops bits and pieces along the way and I find myself meandering through his story gathering the breadcrumbs and waiting anxiously to find the big prize.  My one concern is the lack of character development.  In The Way of Kings I was amazed by how he introduced so many characters and defined them all.  So far, I’m finding that Mistborn is not succeeding yet in this category.  I know it is an earlier work and maybe his skills weren’t as sharp.  I’m curious to see the evolution.

The discussions will continue next week and I’ll be providing the questions for the group.  I can’t wait to see what happens next.

About TBM

TB Markinson is an American who's recently returned to the US after a seven-year stint in the UK and Ireland. When she isn't writing, she's traveling the world, watching sports on the telly, visiting pubs in New England, or reading. Not necessarily in that order. Her novels have hit Amazon bestseller lists for lesbian fiction and lesbian romance. She cohosts the Lesbians Who Write Podcast (lesbianswhowrite.com) with Clare Lydon. TB also runs I Heart Lesfic (iheartlesfic.com), a place for authors and fans of lesfic to come together to celebrate lesbian fiction.
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54 Responses to Mistborn: The Final Empire Group Read, Part 1

  1. Wow, it’s the first time that I’ve heard of Brandon Sanderson. We are thinking of doing a Sci-Fi and Fantasy special sometime in the middle of the year. Perhaps I should look into his novels? 🙂

  2. lynnsbooks says:

    I’m enjoying this so far – it does chuck you into the world about but I don’t feel like I’m floundering around at the moment anyway. it’s difficult to know yet about the characters. I like Kelsier although it puzzles me how he can always be so upbeat given what he’s suffered. Perhaps it’s because he’s so confident in his new found abilities – he does seem almost a bit arrogant about them in a way – but that being said you can’t help liking him – he’s already proved himself to be a hero twice already. Vin is a little bit more difficult – you can see she’s had a tough time of it and so she’s not ready to open up or be trusting. It will be interesting to see how her character develops.
    Lynn 😀

    • TBM says:

      I’m really hoping I end up liking Vin. I get a little tired of her going back to her training she underwent with her brother. I would like her to break free from her past and become stronger. She is almost the opposite of Kelsier since he endured a lot and is still smiling. Maybe the two will learn from each other and will both become better. I like Kelsier’s bravado. He makes me giggle.

      • Carl V. says:

        I would like that too, but I suspect we are going to get more angst from Vin as there is a lot of book left to read. And as much as betrayal has been a big theme to this point I am also wondering how that word and idea is going to work its way into the rest of the story.

      • TBM says:

        Good point Carl. I’ll have to keep that in mind as I continue reading.

  3. Carl V. says:

    I’m glad you are enjoying it. As I said in my post I love that Sanderson shows us things rather than tells us, which makes his magic system and his revelation of the world around the characters much more pleasurable. The story doesn’t lag while the artist paints a picture of the world,

    instead that picture is revealed slowly. I hope that continues, he did it so skillfully in The Way of Kings.

    I’ll be interested in seeing if Vin getting more access to her abilities suddenly makes her take risks or try to break away from the group early rather than continuing to go through with her part of the plot. At what point will her desire to be independent and not be “used” become a problem? or will it?

    I really like Kelsier. We see through the story that he has escaped the one place it is impossible to escape and he’s done a lot of killing single handedly (does he remind anyone of Szeth in Way of Kings?) So his confidence to me seems to be based on a pretty steady foundation of overcoming major odds. It will be interesting to see if that success and his confident attitude becomes overconfidence and gets him and the group into trouble.

    • TBM says:

      That is a very good observation about Vin. If she does break free from the group, that would be a huge wrench in the plan. I like your thinking Carl.

      I do like Kelsier, but I see trouble brewing for him. His ego might get the better of him and the group. And if that happens, will the crew of criminals stand by him. Vin’s old crew wouldn’t. Will she convince them to toss Kelsier aside?

      I would like to learn more about the back story of the rest of the crew members. They all have special talents–why?

  4. Caroline says:

    I really regret that i couldn’t make it… Now I wonder if I shouldn’t have downloaded THe Way of Kings as I’m not going to read it now and judging from Carl’s comment and your review it’s the superior book..

    • TBM says:

      So far I enjoyed the Way of Kings more, but I’ve only read 100 pages of Mistborn. Once I complete this novel and the series I can tell you which I like the most. However, if you read The Way of the Kings you can join us for that group read when the next installment comes out in 2013. I’m pretty excited for it!

      • Grace says:

        The Way of Kings was an awesome book, and I wish that Sanderson would write the next one faster. One thing that makes me happy about the Mistborn trilogy is that the whole thing is already written, so I won’t have to wait to see what happens next and can jump into the next book as soon as I finish the first.

      • TBM says:

        LOL…I know, why can’t he write faster. I’m dying to know, especially since he ended with such a cliffhanger. For now, I’ll relish this trilogy.

      • Caroline says:

        Good to know. Thanks.

  5. Michael says:

    I agree that Sanderson does throw readers into the deep end of his world…but that’s a good thing.

    I was really struck by how pervasive the ash is in this world. At one point, Vin contemplates a room that is clean and reflects it must be swept daily because there is no ash at the corners. That just tells me how this ash has affected this entire world and those who live in it

    • TBM says:

      The ash would be hard to live. I can’t imagine always being covered in filth. I’m not the neatest of housekeepers, but this would push me over the edge and get me to contemplate overthrowing the evil empire.

      I like how you put that Sanderson throws us into the deep end. Perfect explanation!

      • Grace says:

        One of the things that I’m wondering is whether the ash is somehow tied to the evil empire. I wonder if the ash is natural or magical… If the Lord Ruler is overthrown, will the planet eventually turn green again? What’s causing the ash, and can it be stopped?

      • Carl V. says:

        Yes, I would not be fond of the ash either, that is for certain.

      • TBM says:

        I have a feeling that the ash is punishment. Did I read that in the book or on a blog? I wish I had a better memory. But I think the Lord Ruler is inflicting the ash on the populace to make them miserable. It would work on me. And I could be totally wrong about this theory.

    • ibeeeg says:

      Yes, same here Michael, the pervasiveness of the ash is a bit mind boggling. I am glad our world is not suffering like this.

  6. Grace says:

    My theory on Kelsier’s smile is that it is in part a gesture of rebellion. The skaa are supposed to be downtrodden and hopeless, but Kelsier is determined to remain cheerful in part because he doesn’t want the Lord Ruler controlling his emotions and mood. I see it as his way of demonstrating his own independence and agency in spite of everything that’s happened to him.

  7. Adam says:

    I’ve heard and read stuff from Sanderson where he explains why he doesn’t describe a lot about allomancy early on in the book. He’s already introducing a strange world, new characters, and laying down the plot that will start the trilogy. Allomancy is a fairly complicated magic system as Fantasy novels go, and if he tried to explain too much of it early on the early part of the book would just be bogged down by constant exposition.

    He explains it all later though, and it ends up working out very well.

    • TBM says:

      Thanks Adam. I think Sanderson’s instincts were on the money. If he went on and on about allomancy right from the start I would have been turned off completely and probably I would have felt stupid. He’s a good writer and knows how readers may or may not react. I found with Way of Kings to just trust him and enjoy the ride.

      I’m excited to see how it all ends up. I have the other two books sitting on my desk.

      • Adam says:

        When pitching this series to people there’s one thing I always tell them. The ending of the trilogy is the greatest ending I have ever seen in any book, movie, video game, whatever. The first time I read the books I was up till about 3 am finishing the last book and then immediately went back and re-read the last 5 or 6 chapters. The ride is fun, but the ending is amazing.

      • lynnsbooks says:

        Oh My Goodness – that is such a tease!!! I can’t wait to get to the end now. I will – I can do this – step away from the book!
        Lynn 😀

      • TBM says:

        Wow Adam…that is one of the best pitches I’ve heard about a book. I see some sleepless nights in my future.

      • Grace says:

        I’m glad that I already have the next two books! I don’t think I’ll be able to stop after this one.

    • ibeeeg says:

      Currently, his explanation of Allomancy is good for me. I don’t think I could absorb more of it right now for the reasons you say Sanderson gave.

  8. nrlymrtl says:

    I have also read The Way of Kings and really enjoyed it and I can see echos in writing style between that book and Mistborn. Totally agree with you on that the characters are not as well-defined as in TWOK. But that is OK. Still really enjoying the ride.

    I see Vin as someone planning ahead – like putting the flatbread aside. Might not need it, but if you do, you’ll be glad to have it.

    • TBM says:

      I’m hoping that it is still too early to come down on Sanderson about the lack of character development. He’s accomplished a lot in the span of 100 pages or so. The next hundred or so will answer my question/concern.

      But I still enjoy the book. He has a way of sucking me into the plot. I’m curious to see what Vin is planning.

  9. I was impressed by how soon I got sucked into the story. Usually in this genre (I find) it takes a good 100 pages to start seeing some action and where the story is going. That part is well done by Sanderson. I like his dialogue, but I am still not amused by the lack of facial expressions. If Vin keeps frowning like that all the time, she’s gonna need some botox. 🙂

    • TBM says:

      I’m with you, he hooked me right from the start. He doesn’t mess around and puts the reader right in the middle of the action. The lack of facial expressions hasn’t gotten to me completely yet. I know you mentioned that before. I’ll pay closer attention tonight when I start the second week’s reading.

  10. Fergiemoto says:

    You are quite a dedicated reader! Impressive.

  11. fgassette says:

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    I know you are quite busy so there is no rush on this. I just wanted to show my apreciation for you and your blog.

  12. Amanda says:

    I’m late to the party, but just posted my first thoughts on this as well. I actually just read the book for the first time a month ago, and was really pulled into the book. I didn’t expect to be, as I really don’t like high fantasy all that much, but the world and characters intrigued me. The characters do open up over time. I was fascinated by Vin immediately, but was really on the fence about Kelsier – exactly opposite as you, interesting.

    • TBM says:

      That is interesting that we had different opinions about the main characters. I felt more of an ease about Kelsier. I’m really looking forward to getting to know Vin more. I have a feeling she has potential of being a great character. And there is still so much left to learn about both of them.

  13. Lisa says:

    I’m enjoying it so far. Of course, I’ve read the whole thing, but from what I can remember the first time around, the beginning was a little slow in terms of getting acclimated to the world.

  14. ibeeeg says:

    My thoughts are posted at Carl’s blog under his comment section, and I mentioned that it has taken a leap of faith to believe the magic system and the world, because the revealing is slow. But, that does not bother me and in fact has added to the story …the intrigue. I think I feel that way because he is doing a good job weaving the details into the story which keeps my mind moving.  Besides that, I am pretty good with reading stories without needing to know the “whys” of things as they are happening.

    Unlike you, I do see character devolopment, or enough of it for at the point we are at.

    • TBM says:

      With these types of stories, when we don’t question the why I think the author has done a great job of creating a story that is fun and full of promise. I don’t really care if I really understand all the aspects as long as I’m entertained.

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