The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson
Series: Mistborn #2
Published by Tor Books
Published on: August 21 2007
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The impossible has been accomplished. The Lord Ruler – the man who claimed to be god incarnate and brutally ruled the world for a thousand years – has been vanquished. But Kelsier, the hero who masterminded that triumph, is dead too, and now the awesome task of building a new world has been left to his young protégé, Vin, the former street urchin who is now the most powerful Mistborn in the land, and to the idealistic young nobleman she loves.
As Kelsier’s protégé and slayer of the Lord Ruler she is now venerated by a budding new religion, a distinction that makes her intensely uncomfortable. Even more worrying, the mists have begun behaving strangely since the Lord Ruler died, and seem to harbor a strange vaporous entity that haunts her.
Stopping assassins may keep Vin’s Mistborn skills sharp, but it’s the least of her problems. Luthadel, the largest city of the former empire, doesn’t run itself, and Vin and the other members of Kelsier’s crew, who lead the revolution, must learn a whole new set of practical and political skills to help. It certainly won’t get easier with three armies – one of them composed of ferocious giants – now vying to conquer the city, and no sign of the Lord Ruler’s hidden cache of atium, the rarest and most powerful allomantic metal.
As the siege of Luthadel tightens, an ancient legend seems to offer a glimmer of hope. But even if it really exists, no one knows where to find the Well of Ascension or what manner of power it bestows.
Anytime I’m reading fantasy for review, I take copious notes. In fact, most of the time, my review is pretty much written by the time I finish the book, I just need to make slight alterations to account for any last minute goings on.
And I like that, b/c your average fantasy is 2 – 3x longer than any other book. Trying to go back after the fact and recall all the key details would be a nightmare.
Brandon Sanderson has consistently thwarted me in this area. And by consistently, I mean every, single time.
Why do you hate me, Mr. Sanderson? WHY?!
If I were to rate a Sanderson book—any Sanderson book—prior to the last 20%, almost all of them would hover around the 3.0 star range.
But unlike most books that benefit from higher ratings b/c OMG, THAT ENDING!, my experience with Sanderson has been very different.
Yes, there is definitely an element of OMG and FEELS overwhelming your brain stem, making you instantly forget whatever had you feeling so MEH for the majority of the book, but that’s only one small aspect of the turnaround. I’ll get to the greater part in a minute.
I’ve called Sanderson a master of misdirection several times, but I’m finding it to be especially true in this first MISTBORN trilogy.
You know what happened last time . . . This time . . . it wasn’t quite as drastic, but it had a greater impact on my overall reaction to the book.
B/c initially, I didn’t much like this one.
We know from THE FINAL EMPIRE that the Well of Ascension is where the shit went down. The Lord Ruler traveled to the mountains of Terris as prophecy dictated to seize its power and defeat the Deepness . . .
A power that wasn’t meant to be contained but released, and in selfishly keeping that power to serve his own purposes, the Lord Ruler became the new Evil.
With his death, the Deepness is returning.
His ominous last words proved truthful, and whatever had been holding it back is now absent. Strange shapes take insubstantial form and stalk the Mist by night, and by day . . . no longer banished by light, the Mist attacks and kills defenseless villagers.
And Vin is drawn by a distant thrumming, a constant drum beat in the distance that only she can hear . . . calling her to the Well.
You’d think that a journey across a land filled with various and dangerous threats would make for an excellent second installment, and it would have . . . if the book had been about a journey across a land filled with various and dangerous threats.
But it wasn’t.
It was about about a city besieged by not one, not two, but THREE armies, one full of the remnants of one of the Lord Ruler’s monstrous creations.
It was about a naive manboy who needed to lose the boy and become a king. It was about a insecure girl who loves Manboy, but thinks he deserves far better than she. It was about grasping factions in a fledgling government and political scheming and backstabbing, and while that may sound marvelous in theory . . .
After roughly 600 pages, it’s dreadfully dull.
Especially after an action-packed first installment, which brings up another complaint . . .
This is the second time I’ve encountered a lackluster sequel in a Sanderson series, so while I’m not 100% that it’s a pattern, it is 2:2 which dramatically increases the likelihood . . .
It goes like this:
Book 1 – first 80% can be slow and consists primarily of misdirection, false trails, etc. leading to the brilliant chaos of the last 20%. World-building and character development are typically enough to keep you engaged.
Book 2 – favors political scheming over action, lots of agonizing(ly boring) soul searching, angst-fueled love triangle, and above all else, miscommunication and refusal to confront emotional problems directly.
If this is a pattern, Mr. Sanderson, you need to break it.
Sooners rather than laters, baby.
But despite my annoyance with the lack of progress towards the ultimate goal being somewhat neutralized by last minute revelations (which, by the way, is as frustrating as it is gratifying), those revelations cannot mitigate how completely over I was the Vin/Elend relationship drama.
Part of me feels like it would’ve been more honest to call this book: I’M NOT GOOD ENOUGH, HE’S GOING TO LEAVE ME, WHEN WILL HE LEAVE ME?, HE’S GOING TO LEAVE ME.
Long, I know. Probably one of the many reasons they went with something else. But it would have been more accurate than THE WELL OF ASCENSION.
And as I said, this is the second time Sanderson has done this to us.
I’m baffled. This kind of teen-angsty melodrama has no place in adult high fantasy.
But, also again, a handful of new characters (Zane and Tindwyl) and careful threading of impossible-to-detect-foundations for later plot twists kept it from being a total loss. View Spoiler »Kind of difficult to stay angry about the lack of journey, when a journey isn’t actually necessary. Not to mention that whatever Vin let loose from the Well apparently manipulated the whole prophecy into existence to orchestrate its release . . . Seriously, where does he come up with this stuff? « Hide Spoiler <—–If there had been just slightly less drama, those things alone would have made this a strong 4.0 star read for me. BUT. Drama.
Recommended with qualifications. Book 3 is up next, so I’ll let you know how it goes.
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