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Book Review: Mistborn: The Well of Ascension (Book Two of the Mistborn Trilogy)
Having gone a bit long in my recap of the first Mistborn book, I now come to the second book of the series, The Well of Ascension. This marks the third Brandon Sanderson book I’ve read and the man keeps proving that he knows what he’s doing when it comes to epic fantasy.
Now, I should state that I’m not much of a sequel guy. I’ve just begun reading the second parts of series, starting with The Great Hunt and this. I used to have a rule that I wouldn’t start a series if I knew it would be more than two books. However, that view gets in the way of reading some of the best series out there and now I’m in it for the long run. This being book two of a trilogy, there are some spoilers involving the first one, but I’ll try to keep everything at a minimum.
The Well of Ascension begins right where the first book ends; the Lord Ruler is gone and civil war has broken out. The city of Luthadel is under siege by men who want to claim kingship in the power vacuum and our heroes are the only ones willing to stop them. Elend, the love interest from the first book, is now a main protagonist and current king of Luthadel. He’s also the current leader of the main crew from the first book. His adversary is his father, Straff Venture, as well as the council of leadership set up in the city. Where the first book was about rebelling against the established authority; the second is about retaining the current authority. It’s funny how rebels never think about that.
Vin is back and working alongside Elend to maintain order. Their relationship is a big part of this book; Vin loves him but she still has trouble trusting that he won’t leave. I wanted to roll my eyes at her insecurity, but it reminds me all too well of my own. Also on display is Vin’s increased power. She’s the resident Mistborn and has to carry the weight in the city. While the first few fights with other Allomancers left me bored due to Sanderson’s exposition of the magic system, the book picks up the slack latter on. There are scenes with Vin stopping armies and leaping from the sky with swords that are too big for her. It can get very “anime” at times and it’s fantastic. Reading about arrows splitting and heads being cracked gets crazy and leaves you wanted to see how powerful Vin can really become.
There’s new characters, such as Zane, a rival Mistborn who’s connected to Elend. He’s as crazy as they come, talking to himself and lying to others. Tindwyl is a Terriswoman who has mixed feelings about Sazed and plays an important part in Elend’s kingship. We also have OreSeur, a shapeshifter who becomes this book's scene stealer. The scenes with Vin and OreSeur are great and show the building of trust in ways that seem too acute to be in a fiction book. Old characters return, with Sazed having a much bigger and deserving spot in this story.
I finished this book much faster than I did the first one. Where the first book was easy to put down and walk away from, this one left me wanting more. The politicking was more interesting that I would have guessed and even some of the bad guys aren’t that terrible. Creatures like the Koloss are scary and learning about OreSeur’s people was cool. There’s a lot going on, just like the first, but it all works much better in this volume.
Elend is a much stronger character in this book than previously. You can see how he becomes more like the king he needs to be, and you can understand why a character like Vin would stay with him. His training, his mistakes, they all build together to turn him into a leader. The scene in the Koloss' camp where he tests his combat skills is one of his highlights and helped win me over to him.
Vin’s moments at the end of the book are great. She, too, becomes the leader she needs to be and accepts her position among the people. As Vin studies and determines truths about the Well of Ascension, you see her grow as a character. She’s not just knife in the dark, she’s intelligent and strong, and will fight for what she knows is right. It can be scary watching her defend her friends, but that’s what relationships do to people.
The ending was good and left me more interested in the next book than the first one did. I’m not sure what it was about book one, but the sequel was more my speed. I preferred the characters and the plot, enjoyed the action, and felt more despair in this read. Maybe the first one was less complex, or maybe I was less interested in Vin when she didn’t trust than I am in Vin when she’s worried about those she now loves. Sanderson doesn’t play around in this book; he tackles views of religion and death, as well as the futility of war. Major characters don’t make it out of this book alive, and there’s one death in particular that left me upset at Sanderson.
If you’ve read the first book, you shouldn’t hesitate in reading the sequel. Even if you’ve never read the first book, this one is readable, with Sanderson doing a decent job recapping the first book. You would lose the connection to some characters, but I could still see someone liking this book without having knowledge of the first. If the third book is as good as this one than the trilogy will be one my favorites and easily recommendable.