Saturday, April 19, 2014

Well of Ascension

The Well of Ascension
By: Brandon Sanderson
The Well of Ascension (Mistborn, #2)
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. But Kelsier, the hero who masterminded that triumph, is dead too, and now the awesome task of building a new world has been left to his 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.
HOLY WOW. I loved The Final Empire (and wrote a glowing review for it here). But Sanderson has outdone even that beautiful monster of a book. This book surpassed my highest expectations for this series.

So here's how this review/discussion is going to work. The sections before the quotes are going to be strictly review with absolutely no spoilers for this book. But after the quotes will be the discussion section chock full of spoilers for both books in the series (because no one in my real life has read these books and I HAVE A LOT OF WORDS.)

I'll go more into each individual character in the spoilery section down below, but for now I'll say that these characters were so well developed. The honest characterization in this series is so wonderful. I feel like I understand every character, minor or not, every protagonist, every antagonist. You get a sense of who they are and why they are.
Vin became one of my favorite heroines in the last book, but in this one she solidly cemented her place there. Her struggles are so real, so grounded in realistic emotion. Her insecurities, her fears, her faults, I feel them all when she does.
Elend has also become an absolute favorite of mine. His character development in these two books have been off the charts, each page he's on making me appreciate his character even more. I'm dying to know what happens to him and to Vin and Sazed in the third book. I just hope it doesn't crush me.

That's all the characters that I can talk about without getting all spoilery, but know that The Well of Ascension expanded and built on every character established in The Final Empire in brilliant and mind-blowing ways. You see from so many perspectives, so many characters, and each one is unique and serves the plot in magnificent ways.

OH GOSH. THIS BOOK. This book sticks to its strengths. I mean, this is a ginormous book, reaching almost 800 pages. Yet never once was the story boring. There are slow bits, but never the kind of slow plot that you want to avoid. No, this is the kind of slow-burning plot in which you can feel the rising action in your bones and it is glorious.
Then, when crap happens (as it always must) the world implodes from insanity. Seriously, SO much happens and it's all shocking and brilliant and heartbreaking. This. Freaking. Book.

What was one of the crowning jewels of The Final Empire, became an entire jewel-covered throne in this book. One that I'm pretty sure Sanderson deserves in his home for creating this masterpiece of a world. The kandra, the koloss, the terris, the other dominances. They all became real, unavoidable things in this book. Rather than being explained, you saw them in action, you learned to understand them as the characters did, without the Lord Ruler to keep them in check. And it was terrifying. And it was wonderful.

I can't even explain how brilliant this book is, this series is. Some of the best works of fantasy that I have ever encountered. Some of the best world building I've ever experienced. I don't care who you are, or if you even like High Fantasy. Go into this series with an open mind, and you will be completely enthralled and engaged in this story. I promise.


"When you struggle so hard for life, you grow strong - but you can grow harsh, too."

"Good men don't become legends," he said quietly.
"Good men don't need to become legends...They just do what's right anyway."
"You would be surprised, I think, at what men can forget."
"She had lived with fear for so long that she had once seen it as something natural, like the ash, the sun, or the ground itself."
"My experience has been that the man is usually made by the situation."
"I don't know," Elend finally said, sitting back in his chair, sighing. "Vin isn' other women." Tindwyl raised an eyebrow, her voice softening slightly. "I think that the more women you come to know...the more you'll find that statement applies to all of them."

"They hate you," Vin said quietly. "They hate you because of your powers, because they can't make you break your word, or because they worry that you are too strong to control."
"They become afraid of you," Oreseur said. "They grow paranoid - terrified, even as they use you, that you will take their place. Despite the Contract, despite knowing that no kandra would break their sacred vow, they fear you. And men hate what they fear."
"And so," Vin said, "they find excuses to beat you. Sometimes, even your efforts to remain harmless seem to provoke them. They hate your skill, they hate the fact that they don't have more reasons to beat you, so they beat you."

"Good men can make terrible kings," Tindwyl noted. "But bad men cannot make good kings," Sazed said. "It is better to start with a good man and work on the rest, I think."

"He could accept people failings - even forgive them - but if he glossed over the problems, then they would never change."

"You understand very little about women, Elend Venture - especially young woman. To them, their competence has a surprisingly small amount to do with how they feel about themselves."

"You must love him enough to trust his wishes, even if you disagree with them. You must respect him - no matter how wrong you think he may be, no matter how poor you think his decisions, you must respect his desire to make them. Even if one of them includes loving you."

"At first glance, the key and the lock it fits may seem very different," Sazed said. "Different in shape, different in function, different in design. The man who looks at them without knowledge of their true nature might think them opposites, for one is meant to open, and the other to keep closed. Yet, upon closer examination, he might see that without one, the other becomes useless. The wise man then sees that both lock and key were created for the same purpose."

"Yes," Vin said. "But it doesn't matter - not the way you made it seem. Elend uses me. Kelsier used me. We use each other, for love, for support, for trust."
"Trust will kill you," he said.
"Then it is better to die."

"Which was more potent? The pain of memory, or the pain of forgetting? He was a Keeper - it was his life's work to remember. Forgetting, even in the name of personal peace, was not something that appealed to him."


Okay, guys, okay. OH MY FREAKING GOSH. I have so many feelings. So many reactions. AHHHHH.
Sorry, I'm going to try and compose myself. Let's start with characters. This will be much more in depth than anything I did up there ^^^ and with more rambling. If you're interested in cohesive words, then this probably isn't the best place to look. I have a feeling this will just be my thoughts and reactions to each character and the plot.

Oreseur/TenSoon: I didn't want to like him at the beginning, just like Vin didn't. But I couldn't help it. The kandra are so mysterious, but he really grew on me. He legitimately made me laugh out loud a couple of times. His and Vin's friendship hurt because it was so based on their troubled pasts, on the way people took advantage of them.
Time he made me laugh:
"I could always eat one of them, if you wish," Oreseur said. "That might speed things up."
Vin paused.
Oreseur, however, had a strange little smile on his lips. "Kandra humor, Mistress. I apologize. We can be a bit grim."
Vin smiled. "They probably wouldn't taste very good anyway. Ham's far too stringy, and you don't want to know the kinds of things that Breeze spends his time eating..."
"I'm not sure," Oreseur said. "One is, after all, named 'Ham.' As for the other..." He nodded to the cup of wine in Breeze's hand. "He does seem quite fond of marinating himself."

Time he hurt my heart:
"They hate you," Vin said quietly. "They hate you because of your powers, because they can't make you break your word, or because they worry that you are too strong to control."
"They become afraid of you," Oreseur said. "They grow paranoid - terrified, even as they use you, that you will take their place. Despite the Contract, despite knowing that no kandra would break their sacred vow, they fear you. And men hate what they fear."
"And so," Vin said, "they find excuses to beat you. Sometimes, even your efforts to remain harmless seem to provoke them. They hate your skill, they hate the fact that they don't have more reasons to beat you, so they beat you."

I am so excited to see what role he plays in The Hero of Ages.

Sazed: He's been a favorite of mine since the first book. But now he's going through so much, so many struggles with belief and faith and whether his life is meaningful or not. Then with losing Tindwyl... My soul hurts for him. I love that we saw more from his perspective in this book. I'm hoping for even more of that to come. His inner turmoil is the heart of this story. Faith, hope, and meaning in resisting. It's all found in Sazed.

Elend: Hold up now. Elend Venture is a FREAKING MISTBORN? AND THE NEW EMPEROR?  Ahhhhh. I don't... I just... AHHH. Does this mean we're going to see some battles fought couple-style? Elend and Vin against all sorts of crazy enemies? SOMEONE SAY YES.

Also, I'd like to say that Vin and Elend's relationship is one of my favorite literary relationships ever. They are so wonderful to each other because they are willing to try to support and trust one another. They don't often let themselves get complacent. Their interactions make my heart inexplicably happy.
I love how Elend doesn't push down Vin's feelings of paranoia, and he doesn't dismiss them easily. He tries to see what she sees and have open discussions about them. And I love how Vin loves Elend's morals, his principles, even if she occasionally thinks things could be handled in a better way. She understands that he is a good man, a great man.
"Don't feel bad, Vin," Elend said. "You lived a long time on your own, without anyone to trust. Nobody expects you to change overnight."
"It hasn't been one night, Elend," she said. "It's been two years."
Elend laid a hand on her knee, "You're getting better. The others talk about how much you've changed."
Vin nodded. Another man would be afraid I'm keeping secrets from him, too. Elend just tries to make me feel less guilty. He was a better man than she deserved."

"Elend paused just briefly. "You're always free to do what you want, Vin. But, I kind of think it's pretty longer."
It stays then."

"Tindwyl paused, looking at Vin. "And you. You are so much more than you are willing to accept, child. Why look at only one side of yourself, when your Elend sees so much more?"

Besides that, Elend himself is a brilliant character. He's idealistic, but he learns to be a ruler as well as a good man. I loved watching his evolution, his moves away from timid and toward being assured and strong. I also loved how that didn't change every aspect of who he is. He was still himself, just a more kingly version of himself. It's a miracle that Elend turned out like he did, especially now that we've seen Straff and Zane so extensively and how messed up they are.

Favorite Elend Moments:
"I can be foolhardy as any man, Elend thought indignantly, then paused. Did he really want to follow that line of thought?"
"I... I want to be more than my ideas..."
"The difference was surprising. All his life, he'd seen himself as a scholar and socialite, but also as just a bit of a fool. He was Elend - the friendly, comfortable man with the funny ideas. Easy to dismiss, perhaps, but difficult to hate."

Marsh: I don't know about Marsh. I know he's going to be super important in the next book and most likely in the resolution of the story. But I have no idea how the Inquisitors play into it. What are they doing in Terris? What is their purpose? What do they know about the world that we don't?

Koloss: Now that Vin can control them, what part will they have in the action? And how many can one Mistborn control at once? SO MANY QUESTIONS.

I am so sad. I love this crew, every member. Clubs was a favorite, but now he and Dockson are dead. I'm going to admit something. I cried so hard when the crew were facing down the Koloss, when Clubs died, when Breeze went into shock.
I loved Clubs and Breeze's burgeoning friendship. How they were so different, but they found a way to understand each other. How they knew who they were and who they weren't.
"But we aren't that kind of people," Breeze said. "We're thieves and scammers. We shouldn't care. I mean...I've gotten so bad that I Soothe scullery maids so that they'll have a happier time at work! I might as well start dressing in pink and carrying around flowers. I could probably make quite a bundle at weddings."
Clubs snorted. Then he raised his cup. "To the Survivor," he said. "May he be damned for knowing us better than we know ourselves."

The way the prophecy is worked in this book, through the end of it, is completely brilliant. It completely turns the series on its head, subverting one of the biggest tropes in fantasy. That's a pretty ambitious thing to do 2/3rds of the way through the series, but I'm more than positive that Sanderson can pull it off.

So, something I wasn't expecting, but I really appreciate Allriane as a character. She isn't a simple one-sided character, even though she's only in a few scenes. She's complex and pretty dang awesome. The opposite of Vin on the outside, but in reality, I think the two would get along if there were less pretense.  
I mean, THIS:
"If you want to protect me, Father," she yelled, "you'd better charge!" With that, she turned and started galloping again, her horse throwing up puffs of snow."

I'm going to miss Tindwyl, too. I thought she was a fantastic character. She understood him like so few do, even Vin most of the time.
"Other men are strong like bricks - firm, unyielding, but if you pound on them long enough, they crack. You... you're strong like the wind. Always there, so willing to bend, but never apologetic for the times when you must be firm. I don't think any of your friends understand what a power they had in you."

Now I have to decide if I'm going to read The Hero of Ages right away, like my brain is begging me to. Or if I'm going to wait and draw out this beautiful series for as long as I can.

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