Welcome to the second discussion of Mistborn: The Final Empire, by Brandon Sanderson. Carl at Stainless Steel Dropping is hosting this group read. This week I had the privilege of providing the questions for the group. Please note that there will be spoilers in the discussion and in the comments. If you would like to follow all of the discussions please visit Carl’s page.
Without further ado, here are my answers:
1. The nobility, the skaa, and the Lord Ruler have integral roles in the novel and yet we haven’t really interacted with them much. Do you think there is a reason for this? Have you formed an opinion about them?
It seems like all three of these groups are elusive subjects that are talked about but they don’t really have a voice of their own. In the opening pages we were introduced to the skaa working for Lord Tresting and their lives did indeed seem miserable. Lord Tresting is not a nice guy by any stretch of the imagination. Are we to believe that all skaa are treated just as poorly?
The nobility, according to Kelsier, is a group that should be slaughtered since they support the Lord Ruler. However, when Vin attended her first party we get a glimpse inside their world. On the surface, I saw comparisons to southern plantation owners before the American Civil War. While their workers are slaving away making fortunes for their owners, the nobles are attending balls every night and living the high life. But then Vin meets Elend and I felt that Sanderson wanted us to see that not all of them are horrible like Lord Tresting. At one point Elend comments that he doesn’t like the House Venture since they are “an ostentatious lot, even for high nobility. They can’t just have a party, they have to throw the best party. Never mind that they run their servants ragged setting it up, then beat the poor things in retribution when the hall isn’t perfectly clean the next morning.” Elend does not fit Kelsier’s description to me.
The Lord Ruler fascinates me since so far we haven’t met him. Sometimes I wonder if he is like the man behind the curtain who doesn’t have any magical powers. Or is he a puppet and a group is controlling him?
I think Sanderson has a skillful way of formulating a story to get the reader to believe one thing and then all of a sudden he introduces a new element to throw the reader off the scent completely. For instance, a character like Elend. I think having these three groups on the periphery is not an accident. He is leading us, but I don’t know where yet. And that’s exciting.
2. Religion plays a vital role in the story. What is your opinion about the role of religion under the Lord Ruler? What do you think of Sazed’s role as a Keeper.
Having the Lord Ruler as God can be dangerous. Ham raises a valid point about their rebellion. He states that the Lord Ruler “defines what is good.” When the citizens go against his will they are committing not only acts of treason but evil. What if the Lord Ruler is evil himself? Can acts against him still be considered evil? Having a system of rule and religion that is controlled solely by one man, in my opinion is dangerous. What happens if that one person is evil? Or is insane? Who do you turn to? And I have to wonder why the Lord Ruler is destroying other religious beliefs. What is he so afraid of?
The Keepers raise a new issue in the story. According to Sazed, he has memorized 562 different religions to keep alive even though the present society is only allowed to worship the Lord Ruler. How did the Lord Ruler gain control? Sazed’s role and other Keepers are taking huge risks. The Lord Ruler fears them and wants to destroy them. This makes Sazed character more admirable to me. To actively seek and preserve knowledge that is forbidden by the ruler…well that’s pretty cool. Maybe it is the nerd in me.
3. Are you for/against/or ambivalent about Kelsier’s plan to overthrow the Lord Ruler? Do you think his heart is in the right place or is it just revenge?
I always like to cheer for the underdog. However, I feel like we have only been shown one side of the story. Kelsier’s brother Marsh had some harsh words about Kelsier and his motives. I found it interesting that Marsh was once active in the rebellion and Kelsier was too busy partying and making money. However, after Kelsier’s punishment he “saw” the way. Is Marsh correct in his accusation that Kelsier is using this plot to enrich himself? Or is he using it for pure revenge? Or is he arrogant and he wants to see if he can get away with it? Right now, I think it is a combination of all three plus he saw firsthand how the Lord Ruler can be cruel. And I find it interesting that most of the group who is participating isn’t really for or against it. When Ham asks Vin if they are in the right trying to overthrow the Lord Ruler her reply is, “Does it matter?” Then Breeze responds with, “Well answered.” Are all of them in it for a challenge? Don’t get me wrong, this makes for an interesting story. It kind of reminds me of the movie Ocean’s Eleven and the challenge of breaking into Terry Benedict’s vaults.
4. Vin and Kelsier are the main characters of the novel, yet there are many characters. Is there a certain character who intrigues you more than the others?
Sazed intrigues me, however I am drawn to the Soother Breeze. He’s snarky. I had to chuckle when he tries having a conversation with Vin and she ignores him completely. He says, “Ah…I’d almost forgotten what a fascinating conversationalist you are.” It isn’t just this quality that intrigues me. I can’t get a feel about where he really stands. At first, he wasn’t completely onboard with Kelsier’s plan. Is he only participating since he likes a challenge? Later on in the story, he doesn’t want to participate in Ham’s debate about whether or not they are committing evil, but he points out flaws in Ham’s argument without committing to a side. I like characters that are difficult to put my finger on. Maybe he has me under his powers so I’ll like him.
Next week the questions will be provided by Grace at Books Without Any Pictures. I’m excited to continue the story and to see what questions Grace will provide for us.
Please note that today is the last day of the London Book Fair. I will be able to respond to comments and visit other blogs on Thursday. I apologize for the delay. I am super excited to discuss this book. Sanderson is a wonderful storyteller.
I like your reference to Ocean’s 11. These guys do seem to like a challenge. At first, I thought they might be doing this because they didn’t really have anything to loose, but as we’ve gotten to see these side characters more we see that they do have things, and people, to loose. So… the challenge? The glory? Do each of them have a revenge story? I look forward to finding out.
There does seem to be a world weariness about them, but I am intrigued by why they are willing to try something so dangerous that has such a low chance of success: are they all that tired of living? 😀
For some reason the movie Ocean’s 11 keeps popping into my mind. I’m enjoying how slowly the stories of the crew members are surfacing and you start to realize that not everything is cut and dry. So I’m wondering with you, what is their motive. Why take on the impossible with so much to lose?
Hey, TBM, this is the only spot I could find to reply to your “Hunger Games” q. Actually, I haven’t read it either, but my kids have read the trilogy, and we all saw the movie. In fact, we went to a “drive-in theatre” with my kids, including some of my daughter’s college friends, and all of those 20 year olds were incredibly into the story. It’s a very compelling plot, and one that I found extremely thought provoking. The book was recommended to me, and I do want to read it. Sometimes, ad-lit is a terrific read!
I do miss going to the drive-ins. Good to know that yours is still operating. Enjoy some flicks for me. I’ve heard a lot of good things about this series. I plan on reading it at some point…oh so many books.
I love Breeze. I get the impression that he’s the sort of person I might either hate in real life, or love with a passion. He has the best lines and I can’t help smiling pretty much every time he opens his mouth. Ham, too. I love that he questions, but never comes up with an answer – he just loves to debate, it doesn’t matter who with. 😀 Vin’s line in that one scene you mention is pretty telling, too.
I don’t think greed comes into it much when it comes to this plot. I think Kelsier mentioned the atium solely to clinch any wavering reservations in the people he chose, but other than its use in Allomancy, I don’t think he’s much interested in it. I think this is more about both revenge and freeing the skaa.
I think that the atium is especially interesting because Kelsier saw that a lot more is being produced in the pits than being used. Is it all being stockpiled, or is the Lord Ruler using it for something? I wonder if it has anything to do with what’s in the mystery room…
@Amanda–isn’t Breeze a fun character. I love reading his dialogue. He’s like that drinking buddy who you never know what he is going to say and you have to decide whether to just laugh or to get annoyed. I prefer laughing. And I enjoy Ham and his quest to debate. I hope you are right that Kelsier isn’t just in this for atium. I do want to like him and if it turns out that he is just a crook that will be tough.
@Grace–that is an interesting theory Grace that Kelsier is more interested in the mystery surrounding the atium. And what is in the mystery room (right now the Scooby Doo song is going through my head).
Sounds like a very interesting read! (Is this sci-fi? Or ad lit, like The Hunger Games?) At any rate, you have some terrific questions and insights, as well.
It’s fantasy, but the author treats magic kind of like a science, which gives the book an interesting dimension.
I don’t read much of this genre. Would you recommend the book?
Definitely. I’m having a difficult time putting it down!
Well, that’s quite an endorsement!
I also recommend the book.
So far it has more of a fantasy feel. It would seem that we are not on Earth, but there hasn’t been any obvious connection to us yet, so any sic-fi has yet to present itself.
@Robin–I haven’t read the Hunger Games yet. I feel like I’m the only one who hasn’t. Do you suggest it?
@Grace–I like your comment that he treats magic like science. I hadn’t thought of that, but you are right!
@Sue–That is funny, I never even considered if it was on Earth or not. I just assumed it was a completely different world–not of our own. I’ll pay closer attention.
@TBM So far I have only read the first Hunger Games book, but it was excellent. It has a lot to say about modern culture and is very thought-provoking as well as entertaining.
Thanks Sue. I do enjoy books that make me think. I’ll have to add it to my pile 🙂
I think that a lot of the characters on the crew really are in it just for the challenge, that’s definitely the case with Breeze at least. Kelsier is definitely the only one who really has an agenda against the Lord Ruler specifically at this point. And Vin is mostly staying just so she can learn allomancy.
Ham is a little unique in that he actually questions what they’re doing for a moment. It’s always fun to watch Ham and Breeze go back and forth, I think Sanderson does an excellent job with their banter.
And of course, the fact that it is the Thug who is interested in philosophical debates is nicely ironic! 🙂
Hi Adam. I think you might be right that the crew really loves a good challenge. Maybe they are bored with life or know that even though there is much to lose, there really isn’t much to lose since life under the Lord Ruler isn’t wonderful. Who knows. But I hope we find out. And yes I love the relationship between Ham and Breeze. Not only are their interactions entertaining, but I learn a lot of the back story via them.
Hi Sue–yes I love that a criminal is debating whether they are committing evil or not. I like that dimension to the character development. These guys are smart and they are thinkers. Maybe that is why they are so good at their job.
I am thinking because of the things we see through Vin’s eyes, for example her surprise that the skaa in fake Lord Renoux’s castle are well treated and seem happy, that it is not just Tresting that treats skaa poorly but that it is a reality of the world at large.
I believe at this point in the story that Kelsier has made it clear that anyone supporting the Lord Ruler, even if that “support” is merely that they are not opposing him, is guilty by association and thus deserves their fate (which if left to him would be death). It is going to be fun to see if this belief is challenged by Sanderson including more and more characters who are “good” but appear to be on the wrong side of things. It also sets up all kinds of opportunities for betrayal, a theme that I still believe will rear its ugly head.
I cannot help but see the Keepers as akin to walking libraries, full of the culture and history (or religion) of many people throughout history. Makes me think of the movie The Book of Eli (which I will not spoil for those who haven’t seen it).
I’m not sure I see the “get rich” motive in what Kelsier is doing simply because I think he could get rich in less dangerous ways by merely robbing the great houses, but I do see a potential struggle ahead with his obvious desire for revenge and his statements that he has more noble purposes than that in mind. I do think that all of the bit players, for lack of a better description, are in this for the challenge as much as anything else. It seems to me that this crew would have that kind of personality as a group and as individuals or they would not have survived or thrived. But will that make them overconfident and get them into trouble? Hmmm….
Great job with the questions, thanks so much for helping co-host this thing!
Thanks for letting me co-host. I actually really enjoyed reading the novel knowing that I would have to come up with questions. Back in my grad school days I used to lead discussions each week for history students. It was much easier coming up with reading questions for this work than Justinian’s Code 🙂
I love Sanderson’s ploy of using Vin as a way of letting the reader see the world he is creating. The more I read the more I realize how brilliant the man is. Nothing is included in his work by accident. All of the characters and action are clues to the mystery. I love it!
People who see things in such black and white terms like Kelsier scare me. However, I am curious if he will meet some who will change his view. His brother Marsh might be able to lead him to the grey areas.
I love the Seekers. I wish I could be one, but as I get older, my memory gets worse. Walking libraries–that does have a nice ring to it. I haven’t seen the Book of Eli, but I may have to look into it.
I like the odd collection of people on Kelsier’s crew. Their interactions are delightful. I’m starting to wonder if they are all egomaniacs and that this will get them into hot water. The thought of that makes me cringe and it also makes such a great story. I can’t wait to sit down and start reading the next section.
I get the feeling that we’ve only been given a glimpse into each level of the society so far, but that’s about to expand.
I hope you are right Michael. I dying to know about the other layers to this story!
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Firstly, great questions, thanks – very thought provoking.
I was thinking when I read your question to No.1 – in relation to Venture – he openly ‘dissed’ the nobles who organised the party and he wasn’t afraid to do so in front of somebody that he just met. I guess from that that I should have realised he was higher nobility than at first seemed the case because it was like he didn’t have to fear any repercussions for his misguided words. I can’t wait to find out more about the Lord Ruler – I liked your thoughts on him – makes me think he’s like the Wizard of Oz – a phoney.
You also made me wonder about Kelsier – I was thinking about the part of the story where he gets involved in more fights than is strictly necessary – it’s like he’s proving something (not sure whether to himself or to the Lord Ruler) – it comes across as strangely competitive or something.
Not being very articulate there am I!
Hope you enjoy your event.
Great point about Elend. I should have know right off the bat that he was important since he felt no fear stating his opinion about Venture. I am dying to meet the Lord Ruler. Is he like the Wizard of Oz–all smoke and mirrors.
I think you are onto something with Kelsier. He does seem like a man who is going out of his way to prove something. He reminds me of some boys I went to school with who always picked fights and I disliked them for being mean. Then I learned more about their backgrounds and I felt sorry for them. Not that this ever justifies being a bully, but I did learn to empathize.
Excellent answers! I’ve finished the book and moved on to Neil Gaiman’s short stories. So, I won’t comment not to spoil the fun 🙂
Enjoy Gaiman’s short stories. I have that on my TBR, but it might take me some time to get to them.