I read The Final Empire out of challenge. I may have mentioned that my experience with Tolkien’s LOTR was quite traumatic and left me a prejudiced reader. Let me clear things first. LOTR was not a bad book but Tolkien’s antiquated prose and verbose descriptions of even the mundane things have made me wary around epic fantasy stories. It didn’t help that after LOTR’s popularity, a lot of LOTR copy cat books have gradually saturated the market. Hence, I found myself avoiding the genre more. It’s only in 2013, after 7 years of ignoring EFs, that I finally took the courage to try again. For my first attempt, I read His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman and it was a success. So I decided to pick up another one and this was it.
The Final Empire, with its 1800s era setting, one of a kind and intricate magic system and a plot that seamlessly fuses the epic fantasy with the heist aspect proved to be a challenging and refreshing read.
Basically, The Final Empire’s story spins around a group of highly skilled skaa (slaves) thieves who attempt to overthrow the dictatorship of the immortal god, the Lord Ruler. While this summary doesn’t look very promising, The Final Empire was able to demonstrate the truth behind the saying, “don’t judge a book by its synopsis.”
Told from two POVs, Vin and Kelsier’s, one of the strongest points of The Final Empire was the characterization. It showcases a large cast of fleshed out, lovable, interesting and flawed characters. Vin, who had been a slave since time immemorial, is a cynic badass heroine. Despite her being a slave for almost 17 years, she’s not the type who wallows on self-pity and helplessness. She’s realistic, blunt and has accepted that her life would always be riddled with betrayal and misery. Meanwhile, Kelsier is an enigma that needed to be cracked. On one hand, he’s this vengeful, ruthless criminal mastermind who wouldn’t hesitate to murder people in cold blood. On the other, he’s just so cuddly, carefree and so full of himself.
The antagonist, though he only appeared near the end, accomplished to weave a suspenseful air into the whole story. In this book, we would only get to know the Lord Ruler through the accounts of our protagonists but that didn’t prevent the tyrant to show how powerful he is.
Another reason that made this monster of a novel a worthy read was its very unique and complex magical system. Instead of wizardry/sorcery and other hocus pocus, Sanderson went for Allomancy. In the world that he created, few individuals are born either a Misting or a Mistborn. These individuals, collectively known as Allomancers, are granted the ability to consume metals and transform it to magical powers. To me, understanding the allomancy business was confusing at first but good gracious, Sanderson explained it well to the point that I am saying to myself, “this is gonna be the new trend in magic.” And I suppose that Allomancers will give Magneto a run for his money. But I wouldn’t deny the fact that eating coins, drinking alloy flakes and burning them afterwards are not something that would make a delicious read. It’s really gross.
The Final Empire’s world building was also given a lot of effort. It was rich, conceivable and nicely fitted the era from whence the story took place.
The plot was also thickly woven that it was hard to guess what would happen in the end. In the Final Empire, it’s not just about mindless hack and slash. It wonderfully tackled the politics, intrigues and corruptions, misery and economy of the Final Empire. Interspersed into these elements are the inner struggles of our protagonists that the whole story felt tangible. Also add the fact that Sanderson made awesome battle scenes that would really make your blood pump.
At the beginning, Mistborn might appear like a young adult novel. But as you delve deeper into it, its depth will just overwhelm anyone not mature enough to comprehend a crisis of faith and heartbreaking martyrdom. The Final Empire is not something to be considered as a happy adventure to a world where people upholds the good over evil. It is more than that. This book is just…EPIC!
All in all, do yourself a favor and read this book.