I picked up the Mistborn trilogy over the holidays in anticipation of reading Oathbringer. The bad news is that Mistborn isn’t the Cosmere book tied in most closely to Oathbringer (that, apparently, is Warbreaker). The good news is that the Mistborn trilogy is the best thing by Sanderson I’ve ever read, and Mistborn itself (also known as The Final Empire) is a damn fine opening salvo that stands on its own better than The Way of Kings. I also look forward to returning to the later Mistborn books after deciding post-Shadows of Self that I needed to table them until I read the original trilogy.
Mistborn is famously based on the premise, “what if the bad guy won?” The world has been a dystopia for centuries after the Lord Ruler assumed power. It makes for a nice twist on the more typical fantasy setting. Or the more typical dystopian setting, for that matter. And it tempers Sanderson’s annoying tendency towards goofiness.
I have also seen Mistborn repeatedly described as a heist story, which would also be a twist on the more typical fantasy story. It isn’t a typical fantasy story, but it isn’t quite a heist story either. Is insurgency a story type? There is lot of SF about rebellions and revolts, but those stories usually don’t lean this hard into the insurgency aspect. When you’re trying to overthrow a demigod, you don’t risk open confrontation lightly.
The other big aspect of Mistborn, but one that I haven’t really seen brought up, is the way Sanderson plays with prophecy and the tropes that go with it. A lot of the payoff doesn’t come until books two and three, though, so I will set that aspect aside for now.
Sanderson is best known for his intricate, well developed magic systems, and Mistborn does a lot to earn that reputation. There are three separate, complete systems of magic, but only Allomancy is heavily featured in book 1. Allomancy is a metals-based magic. Allomancers ingest metals and then “burn” them to use the associated powers. Most allomancers only have the ability to harness the power associated with one metal. Coinshots burn steel and can push on nearby metals, and they most often use that to, well, you can guess from the name. Thugs burn pewter and have increased physical abilities (speed, toughness, and especially strength), and you can guess from the name how they’re used by their employers. Only very few allomancers, known as mistborns, have the ability to burn every metal, and thus have access to every power. Kelsier is one. Vin, the main character, is another, and Kelsier pulls her away from her petty gang to join his insurgency at the beginning of the book.
The Mistborn books are set in Sanderson’s broader Cosmere world. They aren’t tied tightly to the Stormlight Archive books, as I mentioned, but they helped me learn a lot about how the Cosmere works, which helped me keep up with the very dense worldbuilding in Oathbringer.
5 of 5 Stars.