Picking apart Mistborn

So, it feels strange picking this book apart, because it’s written by someone I consider a mentor. This is all one-sided. I’ve literally never met the man, and probably never will. (But if I do, you’ll know. Boy will you know!) But I see so much of myself in him. We were both raised Mormon, both write fantasy with modern dialog. We both write series that are slightly interconnected with previous ones but aren’t directly related. We both have fantasy idols. (Though he got to finish his idol’s series. I would say that I’d die for that chance, but if anything ever happens to Tamora Pierce I will break into a hundred little tiny pieces.

Brandon is one of the hosts of a podcast called Writing Excuses. I’ve mentioned it a lot, and if you’re a writer you should be listening to it.

Of course, reading his book was an educational experience. There were so many lessons from Mistborn, and I can’t encourage you enough to read it. As such, I will try not to spoil the ending for you.

Here’s what I learned worked really well in Mistborn.

The magic structure seems plausible

Magic in Mistborn relies on metal. Allomancers burn metal to interact with the world. This makes total sense to my scientific brain. It’s similar to Tamora Pierce’s magical structure in the Circle of Magic series, where magic is tied to physical things like thread, stones or plants. Obviously, this was inspirational to me when writing Woven.

The characters were engaging, right from the start

When you read the first chapter of Mistborn, you instantly love the main character, Kelsier. You love him because he’s a brave man among so many broken down slaves. You love him because you can tell that he’s smiling through his pain. You can tell that he’s smart and arrogant. But in a lovable way. You also love Vin, right from the start. She’s broken, but clever. She’s quick and smart, but quiet. She’s in a bad situation, but she’s fighting. So right away, the characters are competent and likable.

The enemy was hateful, right from the start

As I mentioned, Kelsier was a brave man among many broken down slaves. The slaves are a people known as skaa. The skaa are enslaved in their country, treated as disposable creatures. Noblemen will rape the skaa women, then have them killed so that they can’t bare half-noble half skaa children. They do this because the skaa cannot become allomancers. And the Lord Ruler will never let them have power. Of course, the book is full of half noble bastard allomancers.

The cruelty of how the skaa are treated makes you hate the Lord Ruler right off. You really want him to die.

The ending had enough twists to satisfy me

Now, you know if you’ve been around awhile that I am cursed. I was cursed by an old English teacher, who said that I would eventually know the ending of all books, tv shows, and movies. He was right, and his curse has haunted me ever since.

The ending of Mistborn had many twists. So many, that while I was still feeling smug from calling one twist, I was blindsided with another. Then, there were a few more. One I ruined for myself by listening to Writing Excuses. But the actual ending.

Man, I did not see that coming.

Here’s the takeaway from Mistborn. If you want to see fantasy done right, read it.


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