Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson – Book Review [Bane of Kings]


Bane of Kings reviews the jaw-dropping first novel in the Mistborn series, The Final Empire, written by Brandon Sanderson, and published in the UK by Gollancz, and in the US by Del Ray.

“A spellbinding novel, brilliant depth and a wonderful imagination. A fantastic book that is not to be missed by any fan of epic fantasy, for it is one of the best on the market today. BUY THIS NOVEL NOW.” ~The Founding Fields

Have you ever wondered what Lord of the Rings would have been like if Frodo had failed in his quest to destroy the One Ring? Well, this is in a nutshell, what The Final Empire is about. The hero prophecised to destroy evil has failed, and now, because of this, the world is a much bleaker place. This is the first thing that drew me into The Final Empire, followed shortly by the amazing UK Cover Art, and I was not dissapointed. I’d heard about Sanderson for ages, but I kept putting off getting this novel. I don’t know why I did, but a few weeks ago, I decided that I’d take the plunge and pick up not just The Final Empire, but the entirety of the Mistborn series, (the trilogy, and The Alloy of Law) and aim to do all of that by the end of the year. So, The Final Empire is naturally my starting point. And was I impressed? Well, with such an awesome novel like this, how could I not have been?

Brandon Sanderson, fantasy’s newest master tale spinner, author of the acclaimed debut Elantris, dares to turn a genre on its head by asking a simple question: What if the hero of prophecy fails? What kind of world results when the Dark Lord is in charge? The answer will be found in the Mistborn Trilogy, a saga of surprises and magical martial-arts action that begins in Mistborn.

For a thousand years the ash fell and no flowers bloomed. For a thousand years the Skaa slaved in misery and lived in fear. For a thousand years the Lord Ruler, the “Sliver of Infinity,” reigned with absolute power and ultimate terror, divinely invincible. Then, when hope was so long lost that not even its memory remained, a terribly scarred, heart-broken half-Skaa rediscovered it in the depths of the Lord Ruler’s most hellish prison. Kelsier “snapped” and found in himself the powers of a Mistborn. A brilliant thief and natural leader, he turned his talents to the ultimate caper, with the Lord Ruler himself as the mark.

Kelsier recruited the underworld’s elite, the smartest and most trustworthy allomancers, each of whom shares one of his many powers, and all of whom relish a high-stakes challenge. Only then does he reveal his ultimate dream, not just the greatest heist in history, but the downfall of the divine despot.

But even with the best criminal crew ever assembled, Kel’s plan looks more like the ultimate long shot, until luck brings a ragged girl named Vin into his life. Like him, she’s a half-Skaa orphan, but she’s lived a much harsher life. Vin has learned to expect betrayal from everyone she meets, and gotten it. She will have to learn to trust, if Kel is to help her master powers of which she never dreamed.

Readers of Elantris thought they’d discovered someone special in Brandon Sanderson. Mistborn proves they were.

As mentioned earlier, I haven’t read anything by Sanderson before, including stuff like The Way of Kings and Elantris, but now I am really liking his work, and I’m going to try and read as much by him as possible. Although The Final Empire is not perfect, for I felt that it may have been too long in places, it was almost the perfect read. It’s certainly, in my opinion at least, up there with A Song of Ice and Fire and The Lord of the Rings anyway, and hopefully, we’ll see if it remains up there with book two of the series, entitled The Well of Ascencion.

Even though there is a large host of protagonists, the third person POV sticks mainly with our lead characters, the female street urchin Vin and the engimatic Kelsier, and what is so brilliant about this novel, is that nobody is safe. You don’t want to be attached to any particular character, however likeable they may be. Sanderson shows us that he isn’t afraid to make bad things happen to key characters, including a main one whose death I never expected to see coming. But, as they say, Spoilers.

The characters are each not only unique in their own way, so we don’t have carbon-copies of Vins and Kelsiers running around the place, and the majority of them are well developed. Even The Lord Ruler is well developed, and Sanderson manages to work within the cliche title of his name to the point where we don’t even notice that it’s a cliche anymore. Sanderson and Michael J. Sullivan are two of my favourite fantasy authors who have proved that there is still life to epic fantasy, and no matter how many cliches they contain, both authors make the novels enjoyable enough to keep us interested.

Sanderson doesn’t just make it enjoyable though. He steps up, and knocks the ball out of the park. The Final Empire is truly amazing, and whilst there are of course going to be mixed reactions on this title, I for one – loved it. This would be getting Book of the Year for 2012 if it was released this year. However, I’m late to the party, so sadly it doesn’t count.

The whole world of the Final Empire, which is the name of not only the title of the first novel but also of the world itself, is wonderfully created. Everything about the world is expanded upon with ease, and it doesn’t slow down the pace at all. The magic system in this novel as well is not only extremely original, but also well developed. Although Sanderson may spend a little too much time going into detail about the magic, that’s the only thing that this novel is let down by. That all said, The Final Empire is easily one of my favourite epic fantasy novels ever. The only reason why Sanderson doesn’t gain top spot is because of Brent Weeks’ Night Angel Trilogy, George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, and JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

However, The Final Empire is one of the most jaw-dropping series openers that I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading, and the only question is really – where can Sanderson go from here? He’s set the expectations impossibly high for the next novel, which I am probably going to try and get, and read – as soon as I can now, after this masterpiece. If you haven’t read this, you don’t know what you’re missing.

Although the plot may seem a little predictable at first, it’s far from it, with twists and turns to keep the reader guessing, and to keep the novel as entertaining as can be.  The Final Empire is awesome, and Vin is now one of my favourite heroines in Fantasy. In fact, I think she might just be my favourite of the lot, standing up there with Arya and Sansa from A Song of Ice and Fire, as well as Ulrika the Vampire, the titular character of Nathan Long’s series, and Maximum Ride (Only the first three books), who is also the titular character of James Patterson’s series.

Verdict: 4.9/5 

The Mistborn Series by Brandon Sanderson: The Final Empire, The Well of Ascension, The Hero of Ages, The Alloy of Law.

More by Brandon Sanderson: Elantris, Warbreaker, The Way of Kings 


Bane of Kings is one our most senior book reviewers here at The Founding Fields, based in England. He’s a prolific reviewer that has contributed to many things here and around the internet.


  • abhinavjain87 Abhinav Jain

    Damn, that’s high praise indeed! Guess I’ll have to come around to these novels myself then!

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