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“Year of Sanderson” is an on-going, monthly series that will post on the last Friday of each month in which I will cover various Brandon Sanderson-related things. This will largely be comprised of book reviews (some from his back catalog and some from the books being released this year), as well as assorted other topics like reviews of the items in the swag boxes that will be coming out as part of Sanderson’s Kickstarted campaign. Frankly, we’ll just have to see what we get from this series, very much like the Kickstarter itself!
Book: “The Well of Ascension” by Brandon Sanderson
Publishing Info: Tor Fantasy, August 2007
Where Did I Get this Book: own it!
Where Can You Get this Book: Amazon | IndieBound | WorldCat
Book Description: 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.
Previously Reviewed: “Mistborn”
Review: I have a very vivid memory of picking up this second book in the Mistborn trilogy. It was the second book I read by Brandon Sanderson, so I went into it with concerns that it would fall into the usual “second book syndrome” trap that so many books in series like these do. Of course, now, years (decades…oof) later, Sanderson has proven himself to be one of those few authors who really doesn’t often suffer from this sort of pacing problem over a long-running series. But at the time I didn’t know that.
While they have accomplished what many said was impossible, beating the Lord Ruler, Vin and her crew of rebels are discovering that running a city is an entirely different beast than organizing a revolution. So, too, while Elend has read about the ins ands outs of politics and religion, he suddenly feels out of his depth when asked to put these policies into play. What’s more, many others are seeing this time of instability as rife for their own accumulation of power. But Vin’s eyes are on something even more worrisome: the Mists are behaving strangely and powerful secrets are pointing towards a dark fate that she barely understands.
One thing I remember clearly about reading this trilogy the first time was just how out of my depth I felt with every additional book. In particular, I remember finishing up the second and then the third book and each time looking at the one that came before and thinking “Oh how quaint and simple that story was!” Indeed, each book built on the other in ways that are hard to describe. The first book really is a fairly straight forward adventure fantasy story. You have the big bad. You have the rebellion leader. You have the magical protégé. And yes, while there are several surprises in store (the death of said rebel leader), things play out in a fairly straightforward manner.
But then comes this book and with it a much more complicated tale. Not only do you have the realities of the aftereffects of a successful rebellion, but the world, history, and even biology itself are suddenly being given depths you’d never has expected from the first book. I really liked the former in particular, the exploration of the challenges that face those trying to rebuild government and society after the removal of a leader who had ruled for such a long time that the world itself seemed to turn around them. Sanderson grapples with the fact that often the very traits that would lead certain people to success with heading up this sort of revolution would not necessarily translate to the very different type of person needed to rebuild a world. Vin’s struggles with her changing role are very relatable, and the way that she uses the Mist and her abilities to both run away from these challenges but also explore mysteries that others don’t see were all intriguing. I also liked Elend’s story and how, even though he has his own struggles, without him Vin and her crew would have been really up a creek when dealing with this restructuring.
But beyond this, Sanderson goes into all of the increased world-building around the state of the world, the Mist, and the role the Lord Ruler played in it all. Like I said, the first book was very straightforward with how it presented all of this. But this book begins to peal back those layers and really dig into how society had come to be what it was. Not only the history of the the world itself, but how certain creatures, religions, and aspects of society were all built around these shifting norms. The last one hundred pages or so are really impressive with the sheer number of reveals and twists and turns.
I will say that the pacing is the one area where this book can feel a bit as if it’s brushing up against the dreaded “second book syndrome” thing. The first half, especially, really takes its time establishing where all are characters currently are, mentally, emotionally, and even physically, and then needs to spend a decent amount of page time getting them to where they need to be by the final climax of the story.
Rating 8: This book takes the promises given in the first book and then turns them on their head and inside out. And then ends with such a bang that it’s hard to imagine how I managed to survive the wait between book two and three way back when I read them originally!
“The Well of Ascension” is on these Goodreads lists: New Speculative Fiction Stars and SF/F Assassins!