The Final Empire is the first instalment in the Mistborn trilogy by Brandon Sanderson. It follows a thieving crew on their most dangerous heist yet. Led by the charismatic and always smiling Kelsier, they begin planning to overthrow The Final Empire ruled by the oppressive dictator, the Lord Ruler. The Final Empire has its people divided into two categories; the noblemen which are preferred by the Lord Ruler that carry out the oppression of the skaa that are slaves, workers, and the poor people within the Empire. The two can never mix and you can’t go from being skaa to nobleman or the other way around. The reason for the strict segregation being the Allomantic powers that the Lord Ruler has granted the noblemen. Allomancy is the ability to burn different sorts of metals to produce powers. Controlling one power makes you a Misting, controlling all metals makes you a Mistborn. Kelsier, the main protagonist is a rare exception, he is a skaa Mistborn making him half nobleman and half skaa that are hunted by the Canton of Inquisitors.
Kelsier is very powerful Mistborn and incredibly fascinating and credulous despite all the responsibility he has taken on. He is the main protagonist in the book and travels amongst the skaa plantations to riot and recruit rebels for his cause. His moral compass is stubbornly and sometimes questionably due north. Despite being a good man he is a ruthless fighter and assassin. For example, he finds the second main character of the book, Vin, in the hands of an abusive thieving crew leader and kills him off. He is heroic, but the line between heroic and vengeful is thin.
Vin is small in figure and in presence due to the harsh conditions which she had been forced to grow up under. She begins the story as a scared and young female survivor and finishes the book a strong and powerful warrior, both parts making her an amazing and well rounded character. He character development is one of my favourite of all time. If there is one thing Brandon Sanderson has done right, it is to write an abused female survivor. He pens an incredibly clever and dynamic figure that manages to stretch herself every which way to survive. Unfortunately, other female characters placed in similar situations as Vin in other fiction books, are always handed a male character that will save them. Although Kelsier is the one to physically remove her from the abusive situation she is in, her survival is never undermined. And another thing I just cannot thank Sanderson enough for is the lack of her sexualisation! Can fantasy writers – ehm, ehm, GRRM, ehm – take notes? Having suffered fear of rape, Vin is never treated or viewed as a sexual object by the mainly male cast in the series. The crew tease her for not being a proper lady, because she is made to imitate one, but there is an understanding by the crew why it is safer for her to act boyish amongst thieving crews. They all take her under their wing and treat her so good, my fucking baby deserves it! I’m gonna cry.
Another interesting aspect of Vin’s character is how Sanderson utilises her perspective to introduce us to the world that The Final Empire exists within. We learn about Allomancy, the noblemen and skaa, all from her perspective. In this way, the complexity of the world was made incredibly easy to envision and understand.
Sanderson is an accomplished author and he writes fight scenes so perfectly it’s like having them played out in front of me. But I’m sorry and saddened to say, he can’t write dialogue for shit, which comprises most of Vin’s interaction with her love interest. For example, Vin’s relationship with Kelsier feels more genuine and still throbs inside my brain because of how deep and special it is. Their interaction is subtle, never that much dialogue passes between them, and Sanderson grips and twists us into them by his descriptions. His writing, pure description and story telling, is so fucking good that it almost makes it okay that his dialogues are shit. But since the main romantic relationship is built on dialogue it kind of makes me reluctant to give it 5/5.