As if I didn’t already know, the ending to The Final Empire confirmed that one can never rate a Brandon Sanderson title before the last page is turned.
Mistborn is one of the most oft-recommended series in the Fantasy genre, but it’s taken me some time to get around to reading it. Deeply flawed but full of positives, it may stand out as one of the most uneven, yet satisfying reads I’ve had in some time.
Perhaps the most celebrated aspect of Sanderson’s work in Mistborn—and in his writing on the whole—is his ability to weave complex, yet accessible magic systems. This holds true for The Final Empire. Allomancy, the chief, metal-based magic utilized by the major protagonists and antagonists of the story, is well-realized and incredibly versatile, making for some fantastic and easty-to-follow action scenes throughout.
Still, having such a deep magic system creates instances of on-the-nose info dumping, one of Sanderson’s biggest flaws that is, unfortunately, all too apparent throughout the first half of the novel. A necessary evil, perhaps, but one that is impossible to overlook, given the amount of time devoted to it.
In this way, I often compare Sanderson’s work to anime action series, which focus on unique, complex set pieces as opposed to thematic depth.
That said, I had little trouble understanding what was going on in said scenes, which—though few and far between in the middle portion of the novel—kick into high gear in the final act and don’t let up until the epilogue is upon us.
The prose, as usual for a Sanderson tome, was one of the weaker parts of the novel, with too many words devoted to telling the reader exactly what to think and feel where some added nuance would have made the themes, motifs and character motivations stand out more firmly.
As for the characters, they’re mostly serviceable, with only a pair of standouts, including Kelsier—a fan favorite—and his trusty servant, a mysterious, calm figure known as Sazed. Vin, the chief POV of the work, was grating at times, often settling firmly into the realm of tired cliché. That said, her arc improved considerably in the final act to the point that I’m looking forward to seeing what choices she makes in the second and third entries in the trilogy.
As for that final act, it rolls along at such a roaring pace that I had no choice but to burn through it like one of the Allomancers themselves in a single sitting. There are high-flying (literally) duels, heartbreaking losses and a series of deft and genuinely surprising reveals that elevate the whole despite the relative strength or weakness of its constituent parts.
Despite its flaws, The Final Empire was a fun ride that boasts one of the more exciting, page-turning endings in the genre’s recent history.