As was the case for “Mistborn: The Well of Ascension”, much of my thoughts on the original Mistborn trilogy can be found in my review for the first book, “Mistborn: The Final Empire”, so this review is going to be substantially shorter than that one as I outlined my broader thoughts on the series there.
While I think The Final Empire is a tighter, learner, and perhaps ultimately better work in a lot of ways, The Hero of Ages is easily my favourite book in the trilogy. I absolutely loved the heightened focus on divinity and religion this book; Sanderson clearly is extremely passionate on this topic, and his fascination bleeds through. Sazed and Spook’s POVs are the highlight for me, as they both explore religion in very different ways that are more relatable than Vin’s more heightened dealings with religion in the book. The way religion factors into the ending of the book feels in many ways like Sanderson’s ultimate message, his defining thought on the matter, and I thought it was a nuanced and fascinating idea. I find the ending quite moving, personally.
Sanderson’s deconstruction of genre conventions continues, with the highlight now given to breaking down both the evil overlord archetype (through exploring the psychology and deeper meaning behind the Lord Ruler’s actions) and the “good monarch” archetype (through Elend becoming a self-aware tyrant). While the first book stands out for introducing the world and thus breaking down all sorts of tropes by virtue of introducing the worldbuilding elements, both “The Well of Ascension” and “The Hero of Ages” don’t let this focus fade into the background, by placing more specific focus on a small number of genre conventions.
This trilogy isn’t just subversive, it’s a legitimate deconstruction. It’s not just ignoring expectations of the genre, it’s breaking them. The stories don’t play out as typical fantasy tales but with a big twist at the end, they are holistically and cohesively breaking down various conventions at every level, in worldbuilding, character arcs, plot, everything.
Speaking of worldbuilding, the focus on hemalurgy, the shard-gods, and the kandra is very welcome here, as “The Well of Ascension” often suffered from not introducing many new worldbuilding elements in what is one of the most original and interesting fantasy settings I’ve ever read.
I give it four kandra blessings, and a forgotten earring.