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Title: The Well of Ascension
Series: Mistborn #2
Authors: Brandon Sanderson
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Epic Fantasy
The Final Empire is in turmoil as various regions descend into anarchy following the Lord Ruler’s death and the disappearance of the Steel Ministry. Elend Venture has claimed the crown of the capital city, Luthadel, and attempts to restore order, but various hostile forces converge on the city. Three armies lay siege to Luthadel because of its rumored wealth of Atium and political influence. The first army is led by Straff Venture – head of House Venture, and Elend’s father. The second army is led by Ashweather Cett, self-declared king of the Western Dominance. The third army consists of Koloss, massive, brutish blue creatures once controlled by the Lord Ruler, and is led by Elend’s former friend Jastes, who is buying the Koloss’ obedience with counterfeit coins.
Vin and Elend discover a set of discarded bones in their keep, and with help from Vin’s shapeshifting Kandra, OreSeur, realize that another Kandra has taken the form and identity of one of Kelsier’s crew to spy on them. Vin becomes increasingly suspicious of everyone around her. At night, she begins sparring with Zane, Straff’s Mistborn son and Elend’s half brother. In the South, Sazed has come across suspicious deaths that appear to be caused by the mists. Marsh – Kelsier’s brother and a Steel Inquisitor – leads Sazed to a Ministry stronghold called “The Conventical of Seran,” the former base of the Inquisitors. They discover an engraving that was authored by the Terrisman who once claimed to have found the Hero of Ages, which begins “I write these words in steel, for anything not set in metal cannot be trusted.” They leave quickly, Sazed taking a charcoal rubbing.
The Terris keeper Tindwyl arrives at Luthadel to train Elend to be a better king. Despite his personal improvements, the Assembly votes to depose Elend, using the very laws written by Elend, and elect Lord Penrod as their new king. Zane pressures Vin to kill her enemies and flee with him, abandoning the city. Misting assassins attack Elend at an Assembly meeting, and when Vin kills them in front of Elend, their relationship deteriorates. At Zane’s urging, Vin lashes out, slaughtering hundreds of Cett’s soldiers at his temporary Luthadel mansion. She becomes disturbed by her actions and flees without killing Cett, who decides to leave the city and abandon his siege. Vin decides to choose Elend over Zane and refuses him. He tries to kill her, and reveals that the real OreSeur is dead, having been replaced by Zane’s kandra, TenSoon. TenSoon has grown to like Vin, however, and he helps her kill Zane before returning to the kandra homeland. Feeling liberated, Vin accepts Elend’s longstanding marriage proposal. Sazed and the rest of the crew scheme to get Elend and Vin out of the city before it falls, and Sazed creates a false map to the Well of Ascension, which Vin is convinced may be able to save them.
Straff withdraws his forces, allowing the koloss army to attack Luthadel, planning to rescue the city after the koloss have destroyed most of it and suffered casualties. Jastes loses control of his army; he flees and is killed. Vin returns to Luthadel just in time to save Sazed and most of the city’s civilians, though Dockson, Tindwyl and Clubs are killed. She discovers that she can control the koloss using her Allomancy; she stops their slaughtering and turns them and Luthadel’s army against Straff’s army. Vin kills Straff and his generals as Cett decides to ally himself with Luthadel. Vin forces Cett, Penrod, and Straff’s last general to swear allegiance as kings under Elend, whom she names emperor.
Vin realizes that the Well of Ascension is in Luthadel itself, and finds a hidden doorway in the Lord Ruler’s castle that leads down to the underground Well of Ascension, where a man made of mist stabs Elend. Vin is tempted to use the power in the Well to heal him, but ultimately follows the instruction of Sazed’s rubbing, releasing the power for the good of the world rather than seizing it for herself. The moment she releases it, a powerful entity escapes, shouting out that it is now free. The Mist figure encourages Vin to feed Elend a bead of metal she finds in the room, which makes him a Mistborn; his life is saved through Allomancy by burning Pewter. Sazed travels back to The Conventical of Seran and inspects the engraving. He discovers that the words of the rubbing have been changed, presumably by the mysterious entity working to secure its own release.
I can imagine Sanderson chortling to himself as he wrote this book. He had already turned the Epic Fantasy world on its head by having the badguy turn out to be the hero but who really wasn’t and in this, he turns prophecy on its head as the hero of prophecy actually hasn’t come yet and it’s a woman, ie, Vin the Mistborn of the series. Of course, right at the very end of the book you find out that even the Prophecy turned on its head was just a fake out. I also happen to remember vague details from book 3 that makes it all even more inverted. Like I said, I bet he was chortling away as he wrote this. I think the impact of all that twisty inversion has the greatest punch upon the initial read but upon a re-read you pick up on the foreshadowing that he includes.
When I read this back in ’07 I was in my late 20’s and still single. What I was looking for in books was that sense of fantastic adventure coupled with a slight bit of romance and boy howdy, it delivered all of that back then. It still does this time around too. The problem is, I have changed quite a bit in the last 14 years and unlike some books (Way-Farer, Galactic Odyssey, The Hobbit, etc), this book has not weathered those changes as seamlessly. The angst of the love me/love me not has zero appeal, the uncertainty of youth and inexperience isn’t comforting but annoying and I’ve read a lot of Fantasy, epic or otherwise, since then. While Sanderson has reset Epic Fantasy, much like Tolkien did back in his day, that has spawned so much copycat and wannabes that it makes finding an original story that much harder. That’s not directly relevant to this story, but I see the effects this series has had and I have to admit that I don’t like that effect, not at all. So it colors my enjoyment here and now.
The story itself is just great though. Multiple armies and monsters and Mistborns all flying around and killing. And the world going crazy with mists starting to kill people. It is good stuff!
I don’t like the cover for this edition. While pretty accurate (Vin carrying a big ass koloss sword) it just screams Young Adult. Plus, it’s not the one that was originally released and that’s what I read and so obviously that is the best one. Duh! I’ve included a small picture of the original. If you’re really curious, just use Tineye.com to do a reverse image search for a big copy.
I don’t regret selling my hardcovers for this series though. Which tells me the raw and gritty truth, that I’ve moved on and these books haven’t. Now, where’s my cane? And someone tell those bleeping kids to get off my lawn too! Kids, no respect these days. Back in MY day…..