Well I have to say this book was a really pleasant read (not that I'd have expected anything else by Sanderson).
It's a pretty typical fantasy book with a couple of twists that at least I did not see coming which makes it interesting and hard to put down. There are plenty of lovable characters with enough depth to make them believable (though they could have been equipped with a couple more quirks to make them work perfectly for me), leaving us with a book that is hard to put down.
If you liked other Sanderson books you will probably enjoy this one as well. Same is true for readers new to fantasy. Those who are hoping for something on the scale of [b:The Malazan Book of the Fallen|55401|Deadhouse Gates (The Malazan Book of the Fallen, #2)|Steven Erikson|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1316126263s/55401.jpg|3898716], however, will probably be disappointed.
Bear with me this is one of my first attempt of writing a critique, might not be perfectly coherent.
There are many things about this book that make it special and others that are unfortunately quite generic for a fantasy book or just not as well crafted as the rest of the story. I'll start with latter:
- Vin: well here we have the street urchin (fantasy authors just love them, don't they?), who later turns out to have some great amount of power. I don't really like this stereotype of a hero who doesn't only have more power than the normal, boring person but no exceeds every one else (many of them having superpowers already) again. But yeah I can live with that after all we don't want our hero to die (at least not right away). What also bothers me about her is that she changes so quickly. One week she's the girl from the street, hiding in corners, and speaking to no-one and almost in record time she comes to enjoy her fancy dress parties, while at the same time becoming an expert in high politics, fooling people who've been playing this game all their lives. But yeah... she's just special.
Bothering me even a bit more was that the only critical voice within her was that of her brother. For a girl that seems to be really intelligent (in addition to being very powerful), she does rely a bit to heavily on his commentary from beyond the grave but who am I to judge what a decade of being abused does to you. Still I think Sanderson could have found a more elegant way to represent her conscious, old brother whispering in ears seems just a bit too much of the easy way for me.
- Elend: First of all I have to say I love his name (Elend = misery in German), seems to be fitting especially in the beginning when he's being negative all the time. But by the end of the book he turns out to be too bright a noble hearted hero. I don't really buy that you can grow up in a completely corrupted environment without gaining at least some traits. But this is just the first book, who knows what will happen to him later on.
- Introduction of the mist wraith: while the first encounter with them seems a bit forced on the side of the author I liked the idea of them being able to "age" and become more self conscious and even intelligent. That they will be important is pretty straight forward when we first hear of them. After all: why else introduce them? The implementation of kandra worked better for me as it was just dropped into the context and nobody comments on it. Made me wonder what the heck Renoux is!
Moving on to the things I really like (yeah I know my dislike list isn't particularly extensive, I'm easily pleased).
- The magic system! I mean seriously it is very innovative. I've read quite a bit of fantasy and I have to say this is different.
- Mist and ashes: really they are just cool. I don't know why I like the idea (well at least the mist, I wouldn't like ash raining down on you but the concept is pretty cool). It's probably because it makes everything even more mystical. Imagine all the stuff that could be hidden!
- The ashes bring me right to the next point, which is why this world works even though there's nothing in it. I mean besides mist, ash, people and the occasional mist wraith. Well I guess a world that has ash raining down on it every second day can't have a healthy wildlife population. So while in the beginning I felt it was a bit too barren it did make sense when I started using my brain.
- The continuous theme of a power struggle: I like how this is present throughout the book. We seem to have it in the "Hero of the ages" or at least it's that's what one is lead to believe almost the entire book, updating his journal while trying to fulfill all the hopes the people of the world seem to have in him. And in the end he fails and becomes the evil "Lord Ruler" - which of course he doesn't but it seemed plausible. People do bad things when they have too much power. And the same problem seems to be affecting Kelsier:
"You fight for what is just, men! You fight for me."
"No, Ham [...] I lied to my army."
and also other instances but I'm too lazy to write them all down. I have to say I was expecting this book to end with Kelsier as the new Lord Ruler.
Ham also seems to be struggling with the power invested in him as the leader as the army and is very reluctant to let go, when told so by Kelsier. And of course Vin who becomes quite attached to being a noble woman but of course never too much.
Anyway enough rambling - I liked this bit.
- Kelsier's death: okay I really didn't see this coming. The book progressed so nicely along how a typical fairytale with a bit of gore is supposed to be but I was expecting something more... conventional. The more Kelsier's death rattled me. In a good way. Main characters just sometimes have to die and this gave the plot a whole new twist. After all it was Kelsier who had done all the planning so far, it was nice to see the other characters taking some initiative (but not too much) themselves. (Except for when Vin heads into the Lord Ruler's lair. That was just the typical moment when I'd love to shake a character and smack him or her on the head for this foolishness. Luckily all went well in this case... kind of).
Aaand the ending before the epilogue. There's different ways of being slowly introduced to be expecting a second part of a story. Most of the times the villain walks away, badly hurt but you can just tell that he'll survive and our heroes have to fight him again. Not here though. We won! Oh no hang on did we? Or should we trust the last words of the Lord Ruler that "by killing him, we have doomed ourselves?" and what is this abyss (which's name I just forgot - it's late)?!
And who the heck is Bendal and what happened to him after he chased Vin's brother?
A couple of questions that hopefully will be answered in the next book but not so many to be left totally clueless.