The Well of Ascension Review *Spoilers for Mistborn: The Final Empire*

The Well of Ascension Review *Spoilers for Mistborn: The Final Empire*The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson
Series: Mistborn #2
Published by Tor Books on August 21, 2007
Genres: Action & Adventure, Fantasy & Magic
Pages: 784
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#1 New York Times bestselling author Brandon Sanderson’s epic Mistborn Trilogy continues with The Well of Ascension.

They did the impossible, deposing the godlike being whose brutal rule had lasted a thousand years. Now Vin, the street urchin who has grown into the most powerful Mistborn in the land, and Elend Venture, the idealistic young nobleman who loves her, must build a healthy new society in the ashes of an empire.

They have barely begun when three separate armies attack. As the siege tightens, an ancient legend seems to offer a glimmer of hope. But even if it really exists, no one knows where to find the Well of Ascension or what manner of power it bestows.

It may just be that killing the Lord Ruler was the easy part. Surviving the aftermath of his fall is going to be the real challenge.

The Well of Ascension takes place one year after the events of Mistborn: The Final Empire, when the lands of the Final Empire are still in chaos after the end of the revolution. The mists are behaving strangely, appearing in daylight and murdering people in the countryside. And the city of Luthadel stands as a solitary beacon of stability in a world of anarchy and death. Until it is besieged by three different armies, bent on conquest and destruction… The Lord Ruler is dead and that has left a whole slew of problems that Kelsier and his crew could not have anticipated. What happens now? Who is going to lead the people? Do you elect a new dictator or do you try to develop a new form of government?

I’m not going to go into the events of this book because I feel like it’s better to go into this one without knowing what’s going on. I will say that I loved this book for the political intrigue and for the character development of all the characters. We got to learn more about the other crew members besides Vin. The Final Empire mainly focused on Vin’s character development and personal problems, while this book expands upon the psyches of the entire cast. Part of the way it does this is through shifting the focus of the third-person limited point of view, so at some point the reader gets to see the thoughts of almost every character. The other part is by showing Vin getting to know the other crew members and gaining insights into their personalities. We see the soft heart beneath Clubs’ tough exterior, the insecure young man that Spook has become despite his bravado, Ham’s pain at being separated from his family, Breeze’s devotion to the crew underneath his mercenary attitude. But most of all, we see the troubles of Vin, Elend, and Sazed.

Vin has always been a complex character. The abuse she suffered from her brother, Reen, made it so difficult for her to learn to trust, and even learning that Reen protected her with his last breath hasn’t done much for her standoffishness. She still has her fear of abandonment in all of her relationships and so her emotional state is very, very fragile. One of the things I love about her is that she isn’t a confident heroine. Indeed, her insecurities and doubts are some of what make her so easy to identify with. For a male author, Sanderson does an incredible job portraying what it’s like to be a young woman. He hit that balance between wanting to seem self-assured and wanting to be reassured which is highlighted beautifully in Vin’s struggles in this book. Her doubts about her relationship with Elend could have seemed superficial. Instead, they sprang from very reasonable places, and best of all… they weren’t isolated. Like all the characters in this book, Vin interacts with her world, and so her insecurities come not just from the fact that she doesn’t know her place in it but also from the fact that others think they do. Zane thinks she’s a tool and an unwitting captive of Elend’s. The skaa think she’s something close to a goddess, their holy protector. Ironically, Elend is one of the few people who doesn’t seem to have any ideas about what Vin should be or is. He accepts her for who she is and not what she can or should be.

Speaking of Elend… He is dealing with the same sort of problems as Vin along with some completely different ones. The Elend we knew in the last book was a young, bookish idealist, which was what made him so endearing. The first time he met Vin he complained about her stealing his reading light. He was a completely loveable bookworm. I wanted to believe that his idealism and intelligence would serve him well in creating a utopia after the fall of the Lord Ruler, but that’s not the case at all. The same things that were strengths in the first book and that set Elend apart from the rest of the corrupt nobility, are weaknesses here. He lacks social skills, self-confidence, assertiveness. He is not conniving or commanding. He believes so deeply in the innate goodness of people that it makes him blind to deceit and scheming. And while he is a very good legislator, he isn’t really a leader.

Elend’s evolution from the young man who doesn’t really know what to do with his role in life to responsible adult willing to make hard choices and a few necessary sacrifices is one of the best parts of this book. This is where we really get into his character. When Elend is under pressure, he really shines. With a little help from a Keeper named Tindwyl, he transforms into the king he needs to be just in time to have his kingdom pulled out from underneath him by various political forces. As a direct result, he becomes in a way just as insecure as Vin. These two are so similar at their cores that watching them dance carefully around each other is both beautiful and painful. Their relationship is not the most passionate one ever written, but it is sweet and strong, and they’re a couple to root for. This is partly because Sanderson doesn’t skimp on telling the readers what they admire and love about each other and partly because of the irony, that two such intelligent people should be so clueless about themselves. That, too, is another part of being young, I think.

Also, they’re sensible about their feelings for one another. One line that made me want to cheer:

And a kiss is supposed to make it all right? she thought sullenly, sitting back on a stack of books.

Oh Vin, I love you! How many books have I read where a simple kiss can take the heroine’s breath away and make her forget her troubles and make everything alright? Thank you, Brandon Sanderson, for writing about a couple who love each other but don’t think what they have is the Be-All and End-All. Have I mentioned that Vin and Elend are one of my favorite couples ever? Well, they are for all of these reasons and more.

The shifting narration told the story so well. I particularly liked the sections from Breeze’s point of view. Since he’s a Soother, he has a good understanding of people and emotions, and the subtle way he manipulates situations to go the way he wants is very interesting. Also compelling is the loyalty he feels to the crew, which I hadn’t really expected from him but which makes a lot of sense in hindsight. His viewpoint is the one Sanderson calls on when he needs to show emotions of someone other than the POV character, and it works beautifully. With other authors and other series, this might seem like stepping out of the form of third-person limited narration; here it’s perfectly logical.

Again I loved all the side characters. Sazed is always a favorite but Oresuer really surprised me in this book. I loved learning more about the Kandra and the budding friendship between him and Vin. Breeze was wonderful, he is such a breath of fresh air whenever he is on the page and his POVs were enlightening. Straff is a wonderful bad guy who you root against the whole time. I’m still not sure what to think about Zane. He’s one of those characters that I both love and hate in equal measure. In this book, there were things I saw coming and others I didn’t. Sanderson does always do such a good job of keeping me guessing. Even when one thing goes right others go completely wrong and it all gets deliciously messy at times.

Just because there wasn’t as much action as in The Final Empire doesn’t mean it wasn’t just as interesting. There was more magic to learn about and in true Sanderson fashion the last 20% is just packed full of suspense and action. The feelings I had were so intense. Not everyone lives, the spy was not who I thought it was and the Well of Ascension, that was a complete surprise. I totally loved the world and characters built here. I love that Sanderson has a way of telling a great story with fantastic characters and even when you are sure you know what will happen next….you are blissfully wrong and the story is all the better for it. It is a great achievement for any author and it is why he is one of my favorites.

Overall: five-stars

Jessie H.

Coblogger at Spines & Covers
Jessie is a book nerd who will inevitably be crushed by her TBR pile. When she's not reading, she's a grad student trying to add the three letters PhD to the end of her name in the name of science. The rest of her free time is usually spent watching Marvel movies and Doctor Who episodes. Follow Jessie on Goodreads.
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