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  • ★★★★-4

Review: The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson (Spoiler-Alert)

The coins stopped. Silence in the air. Men lay dying or groaning at his feet. Then they came. Two dark shadows of death in the night. Ravens in the mist.

I took a solid five days to digest the ending of this book before attempting to review it. The Well of Ascension is a 640 page beast, but I flew through the final two thirds like I was using a duralumin-boosted Steelpush. Absolutely thrilling.

Before I talk about the epicness though, I want to point out the storylines in this installment that didn't quite click for me. The first book, Mistborn, felt almost perfectly layered and paced. I had a harder time getting on board for a couple of the threads in this one.

✣ Politics ✣

Sanderson has gone on record saying he wrote the first book in this series to set up for the second, which is the real story he wanted to tell. He was interested in examining what it truly takes to build a government from the ground up. And it shows.

I'm not gonna sit here and say that none of the politics were interesting, but I will claim that they often felt like an exercise rather than a story element. I think if they had been scaled down just a bit, maybe 30%, the beginning would have dragged far less. I appreciate what he was going for, and I loved the war elements, but the countless assembly meetings... I'm sorry no one wants to read about that (except a few of the more tension-filled ones. iykyk).

✣ Zane ✣

I have a feeling that elements of this character are going to matter more in the next book, but I found his arc in this one (and the arc he gave Vin) utterly unconvincing. I simply did not believe that his insecurity about being a Mistborn used by his father would have any affect on Vin. It was hammered home countless times that they are both just "knives being held to the throats of their enemies" but it never clicked for me why that was so bad. (To an extent, I understand why Zane would feel that way— created by his father for labor purposes alone and hidden from society unlike his brother—but I saw no way that Vin would share the same sentiment.)

Zane asking Vin to leave with him rather than save the city creates one of my favorite moments, but I still struggle to understand the relevance of Zane's Mistborn argument in all of it.

'When I attacked Cett,' Vin said, 'the others thought I was acting irrationally—and they were right. But Elend told them I had a good reason, even if he didn't know what it was.'

'So he's a fool,' Zane said.

'When we spoke later,' Vin continued, not looking at Zane, 'I was cold to him. I think he knew that I was trying to decide whether to stay with him. And... he told me that he trusted my judgment. He'd support me if I chose to leave him.'

'So he's also unappreciative,' Zane said.

Vin shook her head. 'No. He simply loves me.'

I love how Vin realizes she does fully trust Elend after the insecurity that comes with entering your first serious relationship (especially one to a king when you yourself are a peasant), but I don't see the correlation between Zane's internal struggle and hers. I feel like any character could have challenged her trust like this and created the same arc.

I do have predictions about Zane though. The rogue mention of the "small point of a spike that stuck out of his back" has me speculating that he was a failed convert to an Inquisitor. This may or may not have something to do with the God voice he couldn't shake from his head, and I also wonder if it somehow connects to Vin's mother who "heard voices" that drove her to kill Vin's sister. Also Marsh seemed to have gone through something similar?? I sincerely hope we get some answers to these questions in book three! Although I do have a feeling that the mysterious force of evil that was now released into the world might have something to do with it... lol.

✣ Vin Cannot Communicate ✣

I mentioned that I liked the final realization for Vin in regards to her relationship, but boy did it take a minute to get there. The characters are young, 18 and 22ish, so I can understand some of their frustrating immaturity, but it was still annoying. Vin keeps sooooo many secrets that are downright dangerous. Like by the end of the book she still hasn't told ANYONE about duralumin. She also didn't tell anyone that she could hear the Well of Ascension until the very end (that seems quite important!!!!), that Straff was using Elend's secret brother as a weapon, AND WAS ALSO WAY TOO CHILL ABOUT THE FACT THAT THERE WAS A SPY IN THEIR CREW. Like there was about one minute of urgency about that and then she and Elend just decided to ignore the problem for 400 pages before obviously being betrayed by said spy (who then LUCKILY she had built a rapport with that worked to her advantage, but like, what are the odds of that??).

Main gripes aside, now let's talk about what I'm obsessed with.

✣ A Game of Thrones ✣

I haven't read or watched A Song of Ice & Fire/Game of Thrones but the title evokes exactly what happens in this book. I said before how the political theory was a little too heavy-handed, but the political chessboard maneuvers were iconic. There are three different armies marching on the city of Luthadel (and the third comes as a surprise) and not for one second can you rest in juggling them. I don't have enough mental capacity to properly describe the intricacies of each encroaching military, but just know they the leaders all come with different intentions and motivations, the armies come with unique challenges (one of creatures, not even men), personal histories, etc. It creates a dizzying web of anxious anticipation and an overwhelming sense of impending doom. The perfect storm for an incredibly satisfying final battle.

✣ Kandra, Terrismen, & Allrianne ✣

I won't spend too much time on this, but the other smaller threads I really enjoyed in this installment involved OreSeur, Sazed (and Tindwyl), and Allrianne.

Learning more about the kandra was very interesting, and I liked that Vin learned to empathize with the creature.

Sazed's work unraveling the grand msytery of the Well of Ascension was definitely what intrigued me the most out of the whole book, because I knew it would lead to something huge. And it certainly did. I also quite liked Tindwyl's role as the force that made a leader out of Elend, but was less into her romance with Sazed. His existential crisis after her death fell flat to me (he's experienced death of loved ones before—why is hers the only one that made her question his life's devotion to religion?).

I wasn't crazy about Allrianne, but I'm curious to see her role in the final installment because she's left as a loose thread.

✣ The Well of Ascension ✣

Well, well, well. The titular Well. I expected it to be the most exciting part of this novel, and that turned out to be a gross understatement. Just like with book one, Sanderson manages to turn the prophecy trope onto its head and form a twist of epic proportions. And he ties it into the grander themes of trust yet again. But this time, Vin's trust—instead of distrust—is what betrays her. And despite that, she does not shrivel back into who she used to be. She truly is a changed person. And she will fix this.

Also, Elend is a Mistborn now. Part of me is a little mad that he had to get magical powers instead of learning that he can become just as powerful without them, but also it will be cool to see him grapple with this new reality.

Anyway, this book is epic. Onto the next one.


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