With Mistborn: The Well of Ascension Brandon Sanderson has written the perfect sequel. Sanderson builds on the strengths of the first book of the trilogy, Mistborn: The Final Empire, adding increased depth to the world and story, while at the same addressing the weak characterisation and lack of emotional depth that had previously been an issue in his writing.
The plot of The Well of Ascension picks up where book one left off: SPOILERS! The Lord Ruler is dead and Vin and co. have to cope with running their new kingdom in the aftermath. END SPOILERS! The arrival of three different armies at Luthadel doesn’t help matters much either. The plot is much slower than that of The Final Empire and this actually turns out to be a good thing. There are still plenty of surprises and revelations to keep things interesting. Sanderson’s ingenious twists amazed me in the first book and he does so again here.
The characters are by far the most impressive element of this novel. The somewhat flat characterization of The Final Empire is gone: in fact, the characterization in The Well of Ascension is quite strong. The slower plot finally gives Sanderson’s characters room to breath, and they reveal themselves as being unique, deep and complex individuals.
Vin, Elend, and Sazed are the three main characters here and they are all fleshed out brilliantly. The Well of Ascension is a perfect example of good character development: it’s not a simple case of a linear change from A to B; these characters go through multiple stages of growth and develop in many different directions simultaneously. They change like real people change, growing in a very believable way. Sanderson masterfully takes us inside their heads, and the characters all have a distinct emotional and intellectual feel. They’re easy to identify with and I found myself building up a strong emotional connection with them; you feel for these characters when they suffer. There’s plenty of inner turmoil here and it makes for a very dark and introspective read.
Sanderson has plenty more tricks up his sleeve when it comes to the world and the magic system too, and both of these introduce some really cool new ideass which help keep things fresh and exciting (hint: new metal). There are several new characters as well: OreSeur and Zane are both stand-outs who quickly became two of my favourites. Sanderson’s portrayals of faith, religion and the challenges of serious relationships are particularly unique and insightful – something not often seen in fantasy. My one criticism of the book is that the Koloss aren’t half as interesting as they could have been.
Overall, this is a great book. It does everything right that the second instalment of a series should. If you liked the first book then you definitely have to check this one out too: it’s even better. If you’re looking for top class action-based fantasy, then this is the series for you.