As promised, I'm reviewing Mistborn today. This book is still pretty fresh in my mind. For those of you who have never read my reviews, I try not to put spoilers in, so no worries. I start with about the same sort of synopsis you would find on the back of the book (with a little more pertinent information) and go from there. I will have to detail the magic system in this review though, since it's one of the things that sets this series apart.
This book is about a young girl named Vin who started life as a criminal on the streets of the city of Luthadel. Vin never got a chance to improve her situation because she was one of the skaa, a race of people that once defied the "Lord Ruler." The Lord Ruler is the ruler of the realm who is worshiped as a god. Meanwhile, a thief named Kelsier is on his own mission to overthrow the Lord Ruler and to incite rebellion from the skaa that have been oppressed for so long.
When their paths cross, Vin becomes involved with the rebellion and learns that she, like Kelsier, is a "Mistborn." By swallowing metals she harnesses the power within them. This is called "allomancy." There are ten basic metals they can use, but they must be of a pure alloy. Iron pulls on metals, Steel pushes on them, Tin enhances senses, Pewter enhances physical abilities, Brass soothes emotions, Zinc riots emotions, Copper hides allomancy, Bronze reveals allomancy, and Gold lets a person see what would have happened in the past if things had remained unchanged, while Atium (a rare, valuable metal) allows one to see a few seconds into the future. There supposedly is also an eleventh metal with mysterious properties. Still, Vin has to keep her abilities secret. Nobles can be Mistborn and are considered valuable if they are, but skaa are hunted down and killed for that ability. It means they have noble blood in their heritage, which is against the law.
Vin impersonates a noble to incite a riot among the noble houses, and becomes caught between the worlds of the skaa and the nobility. She learns the dark secrets of the nobility, and secrets hidden about Lord Ruler himself, and eventually overcomes her distrust and learns what it's like to feel loyalty and love.
Character development was excellent. This is one of the best examples of good character development that I've seen. Each of the main characters undergoes a very drastic change throughout the course of the book. Vin is entirely different by the end of the book than she was at the beginning, and the change is definitely for the better. Each of the main characters are likeable in their own way and you do become attached to them.
There is an interesting use of religious symbolism in the book, which actually is mostly non-offensive. It's not preachy about the points being made, but the symbolism is there. I won't give away much about the plot, but you'll know what I'm talking about when you get to it. Still, it wasn't a predictable element and I also liked the way it was executed.
The setting was interesting and felt very fleshed out. (The book also included map at the beginning, which I liked.) The creatures relevant to the plot, such as the mist wraiths, were very original and well described. I really liked the concept behind mist wraiths because the creatures were scary but somehow seemed natural. The setting is captivating because it feels as though each city and place has a history. The different factions of the government, the nobles, obligaters, and inquisitors, are all very distinct and hold intriguing secrets. City districts are described and very distinct from one another, as are the keeps of the nobles. The description of the Lord Ruler's castle is very intriguing as well. One thing that you'll notice as you read is that Sanderson is very descriptive and you can literally picture the places and things he describes perfectly.
The magic system was original and very interesting. I mentioned the way it works in the plot synopsis above, but it's a little more complex than that. Most characters can only burn one of the various types of metals, only the most powerfully gifted can burn more than one. The metals are related to one another (which you probably noticed from the description). Some work externally by affecting the world around them, while some work internally by improving one's own abilities. The characters can practically fly when they burn Steel and Iron, pushing and pulling themselves along windowsills, fire escapes, etc. Also, when they burn Pewter, they can push their bodies well past their limits and run at super human speeds. Still, tricking the opponent and using the abilities in creative ways is often what saves Vin throughout the book. It's great that the magic system is simplistic enough to follow but there are other tricks to using it that allow a the characters to hold their own against obviously more powerful foes.
The only real drawback to this book is it was a very long novel at over six hundred pages. Be sure to read it when you have the time because you won't want to put it down. (It's killing me too, because I want to read the other two books of the series, but I don't have the money to buy them currently and I also don't have time to read them before the convention. I was hoping to read them all in case I get to meet Brandon Sanderson, but I can still gush over this one.) Anyway, this was an excellent read. Pick it up if you like fantasy, intriguing political rebellions, or good, realistic characters.