Mistborn: The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson – Book Review [Bane of Kings]


Bane of Kings reviews the second book in the epic Mistborn series, published by Gollancz, written by Brandon Sanderson and titled The Well of Ascension, published by Gollancz in the UK.

“A wonderful, richly crafted read that sees Sanderson keep up there with the likes of GRRM and Tolkien. Jaw-dropping, enjoyable and amazing. A must buy.” ~The Founding Fields

Note, this is the second book in the Mistborn series, and there are huge, unavoidable spoilers for the outcome of the first novel, The Final Empire, so I suggest you read that book first if you haven’t already. If you have already read The Final Empire or don’t care about spoilers, then feel free to continue.  

For those of you who have been reading my writing blog, you’re probably going to be aware that I’m setting myself a challenge of reading a certain amount of novels this year, and novels from certain series. For example, I’ve set myself a task of reading all of the currently released novels in A Song of Ice and Fire (I will be starting A Feast for Crows soon),and re-reading all of the currently released Horus Heresy novels, of which I have finished The Flight of the Eisenstien by James Swallow. One of these challenges was reading all of Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn novels. As I’ve already read and reviewed The Final Empire, it seemed only logical to continue onto the next novel in the thrilling Mistborn series, The Well of Ascension.

 The impossible has been accomplished. The Lord Ruler – the man who claimed to be god incarnate and brutally ruled the world for a thousand years – has been vanquished. The awesome task of building a new world has been left to Kelsier’s young protégé, Vin, the former street urchin who is now the most powerful Mistborn in the land, and to the idealistic young nobleman she loves. 

As Kelsier’s protégé and slayer of the Lord Ruler she is now venerated by a budding new religion, a distinction that makes her intensely uncomfortable. Even more worrying, the mists have begun behaving strangely since the Lord Ruler died, and seem to harbor a strange vaporous entity that haunts her.

Stopping assassins may keep Vin’s Mistborn skills sharp, but it’s the least of her problems. Luthadel, the largest city of the former empire, doesn’t run itself, and Vin and the other members of Kelsier’s crew, who lead the revolution, must learn a whole new set of practical and political skills to help. It certainly won’t get easier with three armies – one of them composed of ferocious giants – now vying to conquer the city, and no sign of the Lord Ruler’s hidden cache of atium, the rarest and most powerful allomantic metal. 

As the siege of Luthadel tightens, an ancient legend seems to offer a glimmer of hope. But even if it really exists, no one knows where to find the Well of Ascension or what manner of power it bestows.

Picking up from where the last book left off, The Well of Ascension shows that just because you managed to end what some authors take a trilogy (or more) to accomplish on one novel, doesn’t mean that you can’t go further. This is Elend Venture, the main male protagonist’s, trial by fire as King/Emperor, and let me say this, there are some awesome moments and I never thought that I would love politics as much as I did. The Well of Ascension is captivating, more unpredictable than the last book, and with compelling characters and fascinating storylines,  it was almost as good as The Final Empire.  But why wasn’t The Well of Ascension as good? Sure, it was epic, really enjoyable and a delight to read, but I don’t think it matched the brilliance of The Final Empire, which is a shame, even if the only reason why it didn’t was because I felt that it took a while to get going.

It’s a change of pace from The Final Empire, and is more dark and gritty than the heroic fantasy that I found the first novel in the series to be. It concentrates more on the realities of politics and what goes on behind the battlelines than the actual battles themselves. However that said though, when there is a battle, there is a battle! The Well of Ascension delivers an epic, well-written, well-thought out battle that leaves the reader only wanting more, and shows that even Vin, the protagonist of Sanderson’s first three novels, is not invincible.

One of Sanderson’s many strengths is his characters. He manages to develop the characters so that each of them have changed in many ways since we were first introduced to them in The Well of Ascension. He even manages to make us, the reader, feel sympathy for Zane, one of the antagonists in this novel, which is a good accomplishment as I’ve read too many fantasy novels, where the villains are all one-dimensional and you feel little or no sympathy for them at all. They’re just evil to the core, but if you want a change from that, look to The Well of Ascension. Although some may not like the follow up to The Final Empire, I adored it. Sure, it may have been a bit long and there were some unnecessary subplots, but apart from that – it was fantastic. I couldn’t put it down once it got going, even if it actually took a while to get going in the first place.

Sanderson continues his fantastic world building that he started with in The Final Empire, and when coupled with the introduction-bit of text that’s written at the beginning of each text, we continue to learn more about the days before the coming of the Lord Ruler, and although it is still info-dumping, Sanderson has managed to do it in such a way that after a particularly interesting introduction-bit (anybody who’s read The Final Empire will know what I mean when I mention this), and if the Chapter was a bit dull, I sometimes found myself wanting to skip forward a couple of pages just to read more.

Vin continues to be one of the strongest female characters in any fantasy novel that I’ve read. She’s got flaws, like all of Sanderson’s characters, but shows that she can become a strong, butt-kicking character without feeling Mary-Sueish. Other characters such as Elend and Sazed are back, as well as most of the original cast (barring Kelsier, for reasons that you should know of if you’ve read The Final Empire), and they’re each as compelling as they were in the first novel, and you will root for them in their struggles over the enemy.

Verdict: 4.5/5 

More Mistborn: The Final Empire, The Well of Ascension, Hero of Ages, The Alloy of Law.

More Sanderson: Elantris, Warbreaker, The Way of Kings. 


Milo, aka Bane of Kings, is a SFF/Comic reader, and watches a lot of TV. His favourite authors are Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, Jim Butcher, Brandon Sanderson & Iain M. Banks, whilst his favourite TV shows are Battlestar Galactica (2003), Person Of Interest, Firefly, Game of Thrones, & Buffy the Vampire Slayer