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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Mistborn: The Final Empire, by Brandon Sanderson

I was looking for a new fantasy author to read, and decided to try a book by Brandon Sanderson. His official website is here, and the Wikipedia article on him is here. I read his Mistborn: The Final Empire (Tor, 2008), and I'm glad that I did. The link in the previous sentence is to the Wikipedia article on the book. This is the book's web page on the author's web site. Clearly, I'm not the only fan of this book, or the series of three books that it is part of. There is a Mistborn Wiki, with a number of articles on various aspects of the book(s).

I generally try to avoid giving away the plots of books that I read, and I will try to give away as little as possible in this post. I have three points to make.

First, there are interesting characters in the book. These characters have feelings, and flaws, and most of them are trying to do good. The good that they are trying to do is to overthrow the Lord Ruler, and the nobility, who hold most of the population, the skaa, of the unnamed planet (continent?) that is the setting in slavery. The leading character is a teenage girl, Vin. Most of the story is told from her standpoint. She has magical ability, and her mother was skaa. She decides to join Kelsier, an inspiring, if unpredictable leader, who also has magical ability, in his plot to overthrow the Lord Ruler.

Second, the nature of the magic in the book is intriguing, and, as far as I'm aware, unlike the magical powers of any other sub-creation. There are actually three kinds of magic in the book. The main kind is Allomancy, a hereditary gift that must be awakened, usually by a traumatic event. Most people aren't Allomancers at all. Some are Mistings -- they are able to somehow internally consume a particular metal or alloy, and, when they do, have temporary powers of one sort or another. There are several types of Mistings. There are also Mistborn, people like Vin and Kelsier, who can use several kinds of metals or alloys, and have all the powers. Such powers include heightened senses, increased strength, the ability to influence the emotions of others, or to hide from enemies using Allomancy, and the ability to move things rapidly against gravity, including the Allomancer herself. In other words, Mistborn are able to move rapidly like the characters in some recent Chinese Martial Arts movies, such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. There is another kind of magic, Ferruchemy, which a particular race, small in number, the Terris, can practice. There is a third kind of magic, practiced by a few powerful servants of the Lord Ruler. All three of these forms of magic utilize metals, by ingestion and burning (Oxidation?), or by physical contact.

The third aspect of the book that I wish to muse on is going to give away major portions of the plot.

Religion is mentioned several times. One of the characters, Sazed, is a Terris. He is able to access and retain information on many kinds of religions, using special memory storage provided through Ferruchemy. Occasionally, Sazed mentions some obscure, or at least extinct religion. He doesn't give much detail, but none of the religions he mentions seem to be closely related to any religion currently practiced in real life.

I was not clear on whether or not the skaa, or the other inhabitants of the land that the book is set in, have a religion. If they do, it seems to be worship of the Lord Ruler, who, himself, has powerful magical abilities, as he uses both Allomancy and Ferruchemy, and is, apparently, immortal. He says that he is, and even those who want to overthrow him believe that he is immortal.

Whether anyone else pays attention or not, one of the things I have tried to do, at least for my own satisfaction, in this blog is to consider questions of religion in fantastic literature. If you wish to know more about this, I recommend my "What Must Be Christian About a Christian Novel?" and "Paganism and Christianity in Juliet Marillier's Fiction." Both of these have links to related posts.

I was a little surprised to find, near the end of Mistborn, that there is a Christ-figure in the book. By this, I mean that there is a character who has some of the attributes of Jesus Christ, who suffered for the sins of others, died as a sacrifice for those sins, and rose again to prove His power. The character is Kelsier. Kelsier decides, when the rebellion looks like it won't actually succeed, to sabotage the only mine where the rarest of the metals used by Mistborn is found. The Lord Ruler, and the nobles, as well as other mistborn, like Kelsier and Vin, depend on this metal. His sabotage is successful. In retaliation, the Lord Ruler orders the execution of hundreds of skaa, who, of course, had nothing to do with the sabotage. Kelsier decides that he cannot allow this to happen. He begins freeing the prisoners, knowing that this will make the Lord Ruler, himself, act to try to stop Kelsier. The Lord Ruler does this. He kills Kelsier, in a public place, where many skaa, and many of the Lord Ruler's servants, as well as Vin, are witnesses. Kelsier's close associates, including Vin, discover that Kelsier planned to give himself up -- he knew that he would be killed.

A non-human creature, who has been successfully masquerading as a nobleman, apparently known to be an non-human only by himself and Kelsier, assumes Kelsier's bodily form, and appears, in this way, to some skaa, and this, as well as the revulsion caused by the death of Kelsier on their behalf, leads the skaa to overthrow the nobility. Eventually, they begin a religion, with Kelsier as its deity.

Thus, Kelsier sacrifices himself for others, and, in a sense, rises from the dead, which, as I see it, makes him a Christ-figure.

May I be clear -- this is not exactly a Christian book. It does reflect Christ, although fictionally and not completely.

Vin and Sazed are able to kill the Lord Ruler at the end. I expect to read the remaining books in this series, and will be interested to see where Sanderson takes Vin and the other characters. I'd also like to know why there are mists, why ash is continually falling from the sky, why Vin has difficulty imagining green-colored vegetation, and, as a biologist, how the people (and animals) get food, if there aren't any green-colored plants.

Thanks for reading.

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