Friday, January 21, 2011

The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson

The Well of Ascension (Mistborn, Book 2)This book is the second in his Mistborn trilogy, and remains a bit dark and, well, misty. Elend has been elected as king of Luthandel, and has been trying to restore order while ensuring that the skaa now have the same rights as all others. He and Vin are still not quite sure where they're going in their relationship, so their discoveries and growth in that area make a nice counterpoint to the suspense of the main plot.

As the novel begins, Elend's father's army has arrived at the city, demanding his surrender. Elend's half-brother Zane, whom he has never heard of, is a Mistborn, like Vin. He is also quite mad, and begins to play cat-and-mouse games with Vin in and around the city, sparring with her with their allomantic talents, and playing games of betrayal with his father, Straff, as well.

A second army also arrives to besiege the city, which belongs to Lord Cett. Lord Cett's daughter, Allriane, appears in the city, appearing to be a young woman infatuated with former Crew member, Breeze, but perhaps she's more devious and intelligent than she lets on, and she could be a spy for her father.

Finally, a third army arrives, composed of ruthless and barbaric koloss, loosely controlled by Elend's old friend, Jastes. With all three of these armies in place, Elend and his advisors attempt to play them off against each other and delay the inevitable invasion and sacking of the city. When the Assembly decides to depose Elend in the middle of the crisis, things get really complicated.

So, there's plenty of interesting things going on in this novel. One of the minor plot lines which actually may be more important than it first appears is that of Sazed, the Terrisman ferruchemist and his countrywoman, Tindwyl's search for answers as to the true location of the Well of Ascension and the origin and nature of The Deepness which threatened the land before the Lord Ruler's rise to power. They fear that killing the Lord Ruler has released this menace once again.

Vin, throughout the novel, learns more about allomancy, and picks up some skills, quite by accident, that she hadn't possessed before, and starts to understand quite a bit more about the miscellaneous powers the Lord Ruler held before she killed him. Tindwyl takes charge of Elend's kingly education, and he learns how to be more assertive, more confident and more the type of king that he believes that Luthandel needs in these perilous times.

There's a writing technicque I don't know the name of, where each chapter or section in a book is headed with an aphorism, or contains a snippet of a diary, or a bit of fictional history. Sanderson has used this tactic in both of the Mistborn novels so far, and I'm sad to say I just blew past those tidbits in the first novel. In this one, I noticed fairly rapidly that they contained "clues" to some of the mysteries that Sazed, Tindwyl, and Vin are trying to unravel throughout the book, and actually paid attention this time.

I noticed another interesting bit in the book. Sanderson comes up with a very nice way to describe a scene, untraditionally, when he has Sazed exploring a building where the Steel Inquisitors gathered. Instead of using the third person, he has Sazed narrating his discoveries as he goes along, dictating them to be recorded by one of his metalminds, for posterity. A nice little twist.

There was a point early in the book when Vin was thinking about members of Kelsier's crew, and she muses, "People were just too complex to reduce to single personality traits." I think Sanderson takes this dictum to heart, or begins to, in this novel, as he works to create more depth for the characters he created in Mistborn. Very nice.

One interesting political statement from Tindwyl, "...I still do not believe that your duty is to do as the people wish. Your duty is to lead as best you can, following the dictates of your conscience." At first, it would appear to be a warning against mob rule and unfettered democracy, but it also might encourage, in the wrong sort of leader, a dangerous arrogance. Talk amongst yourselves.

This trilogy is definitely growing more interesting, and I look forward to digging into the final volume. However, I'm holding off for a bit. This one was a bit like a really good meal, it takes a bit of time to digest before you're hungry for another.

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