‘The Hero of Ages’ is the brilliant conclusion to Mistborn Era 1, and the first book to start to explore the mythos of the Cosmere as a whole. It introduces some of the concepts which underpin the Cosmere whilst telling a tight, twisting tale with a shocking – yet incredible – ending.
Whilst ‘The Final Empire’ was a heist novel and ‘The Well of Ascension’ political fantasy, ‘The Hero of Ages’ shifts focus again to predominantly military or quest fantasy. The various political factions have gained power and followers, and now a struggle ensues for who will take control. Alongside this, Vin is struggling with the aftermath of a massive mistake, and Sazed is going through something of an existential crisis – why does he care so much about religion when he doesn’t know or believe in his own?
Alongside Vin, Elend, and Sazed, there are some new POV characters in ‘The Hero of Ages’ – Marsh and Spook. Both have been prominent characters since ‘The Final Empire’, but here they step up and play even bigger roles. Marsh has always been a peripheral character, very different to the others, and his perspective and struggles are both fascinating and tragic. In ‘The Final Empire’ he was Kelsier’s slightly estranger brother – now he’s far more than that, and the tribulations he goes through could be considered the worst of any character in the trilogy.
Spook’s role, on the other hand, is not immediately clear – he’s not as directly involved in the main plotline, and his direction is very different to the other protagonists. However, his character provides a brilliant example of what prolonged war and turmoil can do to a person’s psyche. Sanderson depicts this sensitively, and Spook becomes a beloved character integral to the overall feel and impact of the book.
‘The Final Empire’ will always be my favourite Mistborn book, but this is probably the cleverest and most essential. The tone is much darker, the story much bleaker. The very world is breaking apart and a few mere humans are fighting to keep it together. It’s the relationships between characters which provide essential moments of light and warmth. Elend remains one of the best intentioned characters in fantasy, and Vin, ruthless as she is, seems far more human when up against such insurmountable odds.
The best part of this novel is how seamlessly Sanderson introduces the seminal concepts the Cosmere is founded on without info-dumping or detracting from the pace of the plot. Readers are introduced to Preservation and Ruin, two of the sixteen shards of Adonalsium – the power of creation. I won’t go into detail here, as that could be considered a spoiler, but it’s one of the reasons I think Mistborn Era 1 is one of the ideal places in the Cosmere to start.
It’s very difficult to write three such different books in a trilogy and keep every one gripping, yet Sanderson manages it. The ending is both heartbreaking and perfect. I’d recommend the trilogy to all fans of epic fantasy, and this book in particular to fans of intricate, unique worldbuilding and quests for answers.
Originally published in the US October 14th 2008
UK Publication February 11th 2010