We need to talk about Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn. If you have read fantasy for any significant amount of time, then mentions of Mistborn could not have escaped you.
As successful as Sanderson’s Stormlight Archives novels have been, even that series pales in comparison to the hype that surrounds Mistborn. But that can prove problematic.
The more hype any particular novel or series of novels attracts, the more fervently people avoid it. This is especially true for avid readers that think very highly of their own tastes in literature and who do not appreciate being drawn into the drivel that mainstream audiences often flock to.
So, does Mistborn deserve the hype? Yes.
First of all, Mistborn has amazing world building. The series takes place on Scadrial, a world where ash falls perpetually from the sky, the sun is a crimson color, and a mysterious mist hovers over the land on most days.
The peoples of Scadrial are governed by the Final Empire, a monolithic entity led by the Lord-ruler, a god-emperor of sorts that came to power millennia ago when he defeated the hero of ages, a prophesized messiah of sorts.
High fantasy can only succeed by completely immersing its readers in alien worlds and making them feel as authentic and accessible as the real world.
Scadrial is a living, breathing society that is made all the more tangible by one of the most impressively designed magic systems fantasy fiction has ever seen.
Sanderson’s protagonists and antagonists are Allomancers: noblemen and women, and their progeny who have the capacity to access incredible yet somewhat grounded powers by consuming and burning metals.
Mistborn’s magical system not only makes for inventive battles, but there are layers to it that drive the character arcs whilst also feeding the conspiracies and mysteries at the center of the story.
Though, you cannot properly explore a Sanderson book series without talking about his greatest strength: the characters.
Mistborn is recommended so frequently today because it is a series of high fantasy novels that would feel perfectly at home in the Young Adult genre.
It is driven more by its love story than anything else. I hate romance in fantasy. I don’t hate romance as a genre, but I find that fantasy that focuses on romance always loses its way.
In that regard, Sanderson deserves twice as much praise for delivering a trilogy of novels that not only feature a quirky cast of vibrant characters but which also create a charming endearing love story between a self-hating street urchin with abandonment issues and a pampered self-entitled prince with a heart for the poor.
Nothing is ever as it seems in Mistborn. The rogues are never just rogues. The thieves always have a righteous cause. And the heroes, even those with the best of intentions, can be as nasty and unforgiving as the worst villain.
Mistborn is not quite grimdark but the series does not pull its punches. Every mistake has a consequence and failure is often paid for in blood. The whole series is like a puzzle.
Every question matters, and so does every character, and only those that stick with the story until the very end will get to drop their jaws in shock and awe as the world of Scadrial, which seemed so random and scattered, begins to make sense.
Honestly, you owe it to yourself to, at the very least, read The Final Empire, the first novel in the series. Mistborn is not perfect, but it deserves every bit of praise it gets because the story is a work of art.