Mistborn Group Read Week 1

I mentioned when I posted my review of the first Mistborn novel that I’m participating in a group read of the novel hosted by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings.  Over the course of the next five weeks I’ll be posting a list of questions presented by various readers of the books and giving my answers to them.

I do have to include just a quick note about my answers and why some of them might be very different to answers provided by other people to the same questions.  I read the book several years ago, and I’ve already completed my re-read of the book for the purpose of this group read.  (Actually, as I’m writing this post on a Monday afternoon I’m already over halfway through the second book in the trilogy.)  I’ll be using the annotations that Sanderson has his website to remind myself of what happened throughout the course of the chapters.

All that said, for those who have read the series or are considering reading the series, the annotations on Sanderson’s website are wonderful.  They’re essentially a behind the scenes look at his writing process and his thoughts about the book.  He comments on themes running throughout the book, chapter structure, and character arcs.  All of the annotations for the Mistborn trilogy are up on his website and they’re all fun to read.  Anyway, on with the questions!

1.  This first hundred or so pages was packed!  What things are standing out for you in the story thus far?

I really like the way Sanderson sets up his books.  He really does a good job here of showing that the book takes place in a very different world from the one we’re used to.  I also think he does an excellent job with making the characters feel very real, and it usually comes from very small details (such as Vin being unsure about whether or not she’s allowed to take the baywraps right after seeing Ham do so).

2.  What are your thoughts on the magic system that Sanderson is unveiling in this novel?

(Once again, I’ve read all of the Mistborn novels already.) I absolutely love allomancy as a magic system.  It allows the characters to do a wide variety of things, and it shows them all being clever by doing them.  It’s not a magic system based purely on power, but it relies more on skill and intelligence to use it properly.

3.  Kelsier and Vin have held most of the spotlight in these first 6 chapters.  As you compare/contrast the two characters, how do you feel about them? Likes? Dislikes?

They both have strengths, but they show them in very different ways.  Even though Vin has been constantly beaten down throughout her life, she has a keen eye for danger and quickly sees ways to turn the situation to her advantage.  She shows this very early by convincing Camon that his attendants are too fine at the meeting.  Even though Camon is definitely in charge, he is willing to listen to Vin because he can see her intelligence.  While Vin works quietly from the background, Kelsier is the exact opposite.  Kelsier is confident to the point of arrogance, and everyone around him knows it.  He is an incurable optimist, and the fact that he has the power to bring about what he wants definitely isn’t helping to curb his ego at all.  I really enjoy both of the characters, and they work well to highlight each other because of their differences.

4.  Finally, how would you assess Sanderson’s storytelling abilities to this point?

Anyone who has read my blog for a while knows that I am a huge Sanderson fan.  I love everything he’s written.  So for once I’m not going to go on about that here, instead I’m going to share a quick little story about Sanderson’s writing.

As many of you know, Sanderson was chosen to finish Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series.  Shortly after Jordan passed away, Tom Doherty (President of Tor Books, Sanderson and Jordan’s publisher) sent Harriet McDougal several books by authors that he felt could possibly finish The Wheel of Time.  (Harriet was Robert Jordan’s wife and editor for The Wheel of Time.)  One of the books that she was sent was Mistborn, after reading the first 50 pages of the book, she had already decided that she wanted Sanderson to finish The Wheel of Time.

And there we have the questions for week 1, for once I think I even managed to avoid rambling on as much as I normally do.

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17 Comments

  1. I think that Vin and Kelsier will do a good job of balancing each other out. Kelsier’s a continual optimist with ambitious plans, but Vin is more of a realist and could be the voice of caution to keep him from being too cocky.

    I like the way that Sanderson’s worldbuilding sets him apart from other fantasy authors. His books are very unique and don’t just rely on generic fantasy settings or characters. That being said, it’s very interesting to compare Mistborn to Way of Kings and Elantris and to see what kind of common threads unite them.

    Reply
    • I’m a nerd and I’ve listened to a lot of interviews and such from Sanderson. He’s said in several places that he thinks Fantasy as a genre needs to move away from Tolkien, that readers want something new. I’ve definitely seen quite a few books that are really going in this direction, and Sanderson does a wonderful job of creating new worlds that make sense without being Tolkien clones.

      Reply
      • That’s definitely a good thing. I like seeing fantasy that goes in different directions than the norm.

  2. I am turning into a Sanderson fan. I read The Way of Kings last year and now I’m enjoying Mistborn. He has a way of telling a story that is action-packed, but also develops slowly. I marvel over the worlds he creates and the political tension.

    You make a good point about his magic. It does require skill and intelligence. That makes it more enjoyable. Not everyone could handle such power. Intelligence is sexy and makes for a more thrilling read.

    I’m really curious to see how all of it works out, since right now, I only know the framework of their world.

    Reply
    • He really has a good balance of giving you information as you need it rather than throwing it all out at once and hoping you can keep up. I really enjoy the way he paces his novels, and it’s not uncommon to read 200+ plus pages in a single sitting with any of his books (even now when I’m re-reading the books I’m still reading them in large chunks).

      Reply
  3. I have to admit I’m not a typical “epic” fantasy person. I respect what Tolkien did but I don’t love it.

    That said, I’ve found I like and prefer what I call “well done” fantasy. For me, that definition includes George R.R. Martin, Charles De Lint and now, Sanderson is breaking into that area as well. Their books all feature characters who you can both love and hate–and that feeling can change over the course of the novel and/or series.

    Reply
    • Like any genre, there are quality Fantasy novels and there are some that just aren’t worth reading. Martin is very good, although I haven’t read any De Lint. Sanderson is easily my favorite author right now, all of his books are filled with unique settings, interesting characters, and creative magic systems. I highly suggest all of his novels.

      Reply
  4. I’m really enjoying this so far – it’s certainly not a slow-burner and I think the magic system Sanderston has come up with feels really unique and interesting to read about.
    I like both vin and Kelsier at the moment although I suppose it is easier to like Kelsier because he’s very flamboyant but like you mention Vin has an understated intelligence. She knew something was wrong when they were at the Ministry and she’s confident in her gut reactions. I’m looking forward to her character developing along with her magical abilities.
    Lynn 😀

    Reply
  5. nrlymrtl

     /  April 11, 2012

    Thanks for that little tidbit at the end. I haven’t read The Wheel of Time series – well I read the first book and found too many similarities with LoTR at the time. Sanderson’s writing is so good, it kind of makes me want to read Wheel of Time series just to see what he does with the ending.

    Reply
    • I first heard of Sanderson when he was picked to finish The Wheel of Time. He’s written two books in that series with the final book due out early next year, I really enjoy the series and he’s done well writing it.

      Reply
    • I remember starting the Wheel of Time series and then giving up after about the fourth or fifth one because each time he published a new one I had to go back to the beginning to understand what was going on. I am now waiting for the last one to be published before I finally tackle the whole lot. It is interesting that Jordan’s magic system also had people mostly split into specialities, in a similar way to the Mistings.

      Reply
      • Different Aes Sedai were better or worse at different aspects of using the power, but it wasn’t quite like the delineations in this book, where with rare exceptions the people can only use one power.

        I started reading WoT around 2004 or 2005, I bought the first 10 books in paperback before I caught up to the series and I have the 3 most recent in hardcover. I had about 3 years between books 11 and 12, so I reread the entire series before I started book 12. There were only a few months between the time I read book 12 and when book 13 came out, so I didn’t reread the series before that one.

        With the final book coming out next year, I’ve already planned my reread of the series to start sometime in October, which will give me about a week per book until A Memory of Light comes out. I can’t wait.

  6. Great stuff Adam, I appreciate the effort you are having to make to not get ahead of all of us with your comments given your knowledge of the story. That has to be hard! It will be enjoyable to get your insight as we go through this group read.

    I’m in full agreement about the characters. I think you describe them perfectly for what we’ve seen of them thus far. They are, and I imagine will be, a good study in opposites and might be a good pairing where they make up for each others’ weaknesses.

    I’ve only read one other Sanderson book and I totally consider myself a fanboy just because I couldn’t stop gushing about that book last year. The Way of Kings is easily one of the best things I’ve read in decades. Such an amazing book from an author who continues to amaze me. Can’t wait to get further into this series to see where things are going.

    Reply
    • I’ve read all of Sanderson’s adult novels, as well as the first book in his children’s series. He has a lot going for him as a writer, but I really think the best part of his writing is the strength of his characters. Even the characters that you’re not supposed to like all have deep stories and are more than simple copies of people we’ve seen in other books.

      Even though it’s just the first week, I’m enjoying the process of the group read, I’ve enjoyed seeing what everyone has to say about the book. I’m already eagerly looking forward to next week’s questions.

      Reply
      • I certainly found that to be true in The Way of Kings. I would think I liked or disliked certain characters (or had feelings across that spectrum) only to find them grow on me, or lessen in my estimation, depending on what Sanderson did with them. I thought his characterization was just brilliant in that book. Even characters that I was sure I had pegged as “baddies” I ended up having empathy for them that I hadn’t expected.

  7. I just read this book for the first time about a month ago, but decided to reread it for this group read (actually just decided today, so my answers are up a day late). I’m trying to confine my thoughts to how I felt the first time around, to avoid spoilers, but included some extras at the end of my reread thoughts of the section. I am enjoying it even more second time around.

    Reply
    • I’m about 2/3 of the way through my reread of the third book in the trilogy. They’re all quite good, and knowing what is going to happen throughout the book really helps you to see all of the subtle foreshadowing elements that Sanderson put into the books.

      Reply

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