ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Review of Mistborn

Updated on March 5, 2019
satomko profile image

Seth Tomko is a writer, college-level educator, and adventurer.

Cover of Mistborn, art by Christian McGrath.
Cover of Mistborn, art by Christian McGrath. | Source

For a thousand years, the Final Empire has been controlled by the immortal Lord Ruler. He has maintained dominance through monopolizing raw materials, hand-picking the aristocratic families, engaging horrific and ruthless Inquisitors, and by being apparently unkillable. The skaa, slaves who provide all labor, see no hope for a better future until a man named Kelsier survives his captivity in a grueling political prison, escapes, and returns to the capital of Luthadel with every intention of overthrowing the Final Empire. To this end, he gathers a team of underground revolutionaries, thieves, and a collection of wizards called Allomancers who perform amazing feats by ingesting and “burning” bits of metal. Among the recruits is an orphan girl named Vin. Because of her recently discovered Allomancy and anonymity, Vin becomes indispensable to Kelsier as a spy among the noble houses and surrogate because she, like him, has near limitless potential as an Allomancer. Against all odds, Kelsier’s scheme seems like it might make progress, but Vin has her doubts not only about the possibility of usurping a god-king but also about the betrayal she has come to expect because of lifetime of crime an oppression.

The Survivor of Hathsin

So much of Sanderson’s works are refreshing because, like Ursula K. Le Guin, he is a fantasy writer who has no interest in simply mimicking Tolkien. The setting of Mistborn is an urban high fantasy dystopia, characterized by environmental degradation, criminality, and oppression that is social, political, and economic in nature. The detail is such that Luthadel feels both fantastical and grounded. Most of the action takes place in this one, sprawling, urban location, which is a far cry from most fantasy novels. Similarly, the central characters seem like magic-using refugees from a heist movie, which again, is nothing like the tropes of the fantasy genre. Vin, too, often reads like a character Charles Dickens would have invented. All of this provides the novel with a fresh vibrancy that carries through the long page count.

As for story progress, the book rarely feels weighed down by it many moving parts. Focusing primarily on Kelsier and Vin gives readers a clear window into the lives of these characters and the goals and efforts of their crew. Even though the book is long it is also remarkably well-paced. Each character moment, plot point, and setting detail is called back to greater effect, so nothing goes to waste. Much like Elantris, the plot really speeds up in the last one hundred pages or so. This sense of compression and tension pulls readers through this final stretch with an additional sense of urgency and propulsion. Though some member of the audience will not doubt wonder is such a long set up was necessary or if some of those plot twists could have been just as effective scattered throughout the novel.

Brandon Sanderson holding a German-language copy of his fantasy novel Elantris on August 18, 2007 at the book pre-release event for Mistborn: The Well of Ascension at the Waldenbooks store in the Provo Towne Centre mall in Provo, Utah.
Brandon Sanderson holding a German-language copy of his fantasy novel Elantris on August 18, 2007 at the book pre-release event for Mistborn: The Well of Ascension at the Waldenbooks store in the Provo Towne Centre mall in Provo, Utah. | Source


One trait that Sanderson has in common with Golden Age science-fiction writers is his desire to make sure the readers understand how things happen. Allomancy and how it works is explained in detail. At a narrative level, this choice makes sense as Vin is learning to use her various abilities, so the audience learns along with her. Readers who find this level of detail exhausting might find themselves skimming pages, waiting to see Allomancy in action rather than have people talking about it. These choices are, in part, a measure of Sanderson’s theories regarding “hard” and “soft” systems of magic. While these details can be lengthy, they never bring the novel to a halt. Nevertheless, for readers who do not care about scholastic and metaphysical explorations of how magic happens, these sections can read like the volume and excitement was turned down. They never reach the bizarre asides some of Sapkowski’s Witcher novels, but neither do they add to the tension

The Final Empire

While Mistborn is the start of a series, it stands strong on its own. The story is suitably epic and engaging, and the characters are distinct with their own parts to play. Some elements of Sanderson’s style may irk readers who aren’t interested in detailed explanations of how things happen, but on the whole the novel is an incredible read and worthy of the attention of any fantasy fan.


Sanderson, Brandon. Mistborn. Tor, 2006.

© 2019 Seth Tomko


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • satomko profile imageAUTHOR

      Seth Tomko 

      20 months ago from Macon, GA

      Thank you, Gilbert. I think this is a good novel with a sense of adventure, and even readers who do not normally go in for fantasy could find something to enjoy in this one.

    • rebelogilbert profile image

      Gilbert Arevalo 

      20 months ago from Hacienda Heights, California

      Well written book review, Seth. Your point-of-view sells it as an interesting fantasy novel. You paid excellent attention to the characters, plot, and narrative.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)