Ossus Library Index
Fantasy Index


A novel by Brandon Sanderson
(2007, TOR Books)

Strategizing while besieged by three armies, Vin and Elend confront a city council, two kings, and the power of the mists, while trying to figure out if they fit well together.


-- First reading (ebook)
September 3rd to October 3rd, 2023


I struggled with a lot of this book, while I adored other parts, which make the story as a whole a mixed bag. So much of it was so very slow, with either Vin or Elend struggling internally but doing effectively nothing. The politics could have been interesting, but it wasn’t. The siege could have been interesting, but it wasn’t. The internal conflict, wondering if they were right for each other could never have been made interesting, I think. My favorite parts were anything to do with Sazed, as well as two fights –not to mention when Sazed gets to fight! When Vin fends off the allomancers at the Council meeting, the writing suddenly improved tremendously, and everything shifted into a focus that the book lacked up to that moment. The ending battle, similarly to the previous book, was also very exciting. Unfortunately, everything that came in between was glacially slow. At a certain point, I realized I was disliking Vin as a character, and the writing in those parts didn’t help, as it was simplistic and the dialog was cheezy. But when either of them decide to make a decision, things read a lot more smoothly.

Spoiler review:

For almost half the book, I was wondering if I oversold the first book in this series. At one point, I was ready to give this book a failing grade, but it improved enough in several places that I can say it’s a book that I can take or leave.

I recall scenes in the first book, especially at the balls, where the writing and dialog became sappy, and I felt like I was reading something out of Bridgerton. A lot of this book felt that way. As I turned the pages of the book, I grew to like Vin as a character less and less, until I was ready to skip some of the stuff she was part of –basically soul searching and coming up empty, full of doubts about herself and her relationship with Elend (I can’t figure out if they’re sleeping together at the beginning, either).

The situation should have held a lot of tension, but somehow it didn’t. Luthadel is under siege by Elend’s father, who is there for the rumored Atium, the element that can show mistborns the immediate future, and which is worth a fortune –and which Elend and his army couldn’t find.

Not long after, a second army arrives, apparently tricked into going for the atium also –Breeze started rumors of its existence to bring a counter-army into play and stop Straff from attacking for fear of reprisal from Cett’s army. Finally, a third army arrives, this one worse than either, as it’s full of kolos, a mysterious race that was apparently created by the Lord Ruler to fight for him. They grow uncontrollably and exist only to kill.

Meanwhile, Elend is having political troubles. He has created a democracy, something the people are not sure how to apply properly. With three armies at their door, they use a clause that Elend created allowing them to oust him as king. He’s so honest that he gives his enemies more fuel that prevents him from regaining the kingship. But of course, that’s part of the story. Elend trusts that people will do the right thing. With Vin, it’s a trust that doesn’t waver, and she wonders about that. With the Council, they know he’ll honor his word, so they don’t worry about him being duplicitous.

There are many breaks from the monotony of the watch over the three armies, the soul searching and the barely-there political stuff. Unfortunately, they don’t break it up enough. I liked Vin’s tussles with Zane, Elend’s half-brother and Straff’s mistborn son. I liked her discovery of duralumin, which accelerates the burning of any metal she’s already burning, giving her, for example, excessive strength or speed. I also liked her conversations with the kandra, Oreseur, who can imitate anybody by swallowing their bones. While in the last book he was a lord, in this book he spends most of it as a wolfhound.

Elend goes to visit his father, to try and play one army off the other, and the result is intentionally squirm-worthy. Straff thinks he’s playing Elend, but Vin riots his emotions so much, leaving him deathly afraid of her. Cett, meanwhile, gets himself nominated to become king of Luthadel, and tries to bribe every council member to vote for him. Elend also visits the kolos army, finding one of his best friends in charge of it, at least for the time being.

My favorite allomantic fight in this book comes when the Council is supposed to vote for a new king. Elend has prepared a nice speech, as usual, and the other contenders are ready, too, all with ulterior motives. But Zane is testing Vin, and sends a dozen allomancers against her. The action and the fight, the use of metals and other items, are all exquisitely described, along with Vin’s worry about hurting other people, especially Elend. She ends up in a coma because of it, but she wins. It was an amazing fight sequence.

Zane himself could have been an interesting character, if he wasn’t insane –but the author throws a twist in that the allomancer might not have actually been insane, that the voice in his head was coming from somewhere else. In any case, his whole mission in this book was to recruit Vin into changing her loyalties, from the lowest skaa, who she always tries to protect, to Zane’s idea of an elite allomantic or mistborn ruling class. It’s unfortunate that Vin is so busy questioning herself that she couldn’t get into a proper argument with Zane and his ideas of the powerful ruling those without power. In any event, Vin kills him, taking over the kandra’s dog body in a moment of realization, as Zane was about to kill her.

Vin’s reasoning, as she was about to go with him, was that Zane lacked trust, while Elend’s whole persona is built around trusting, even though he shouldn’t because of the way he’s been treated all his life. When Zane flinches, Vin chooses trust.

Sazed is the most interesting character in this book, and I loved every page he was on, from the discovery that the mists were killing people, his capture by the kolos army, and his intense discussions with Tyndwyl about the history of the Lord Ruler, transcribing a rubbing from an ancient steel etching. The history is very interesting in itself, and I’m glad the opening sentences of each chapter, taken from the etching, were repeated later on.

Sazed marries Elend and Vin when the Council elects a new king, and they head off in search of the titular Well of Ascension, fabled to be in the northern Terris mountains. Sazed sent them there to get them out of Luthadel, knowing that an attack was imminent, as both Straff and Cett withdrew their armies, and the kolos are ready to take the city.

The finale fight was tremendous in its scope and detail. The gates are held by nobleman as officers, except where one of Kelsier’s former crew is manning it. Even Sazed gets to control a gate. I loved the way he tried to hold the kolos back, but then fought to stay alive, bolstered by the faith the common people had in Vin, as their religious icon. He used his feruchemical metals to see better, hear better, fight better, and even grow to the size of a kolos for a time. Of all the gates, his held the longest. But eventually the kolos do break through, and they rampage through the city, killing indiscriminantly, barely even pausing to loot.

It’s at this time that Vin has arrived back in the city, realizing that the thumping of the Well in her mind was growing fainter, and that Sazed lied, probably to get her to safety. She travelled for the better part of a day to get back, using almost all of her metals, from speed, which was used up quickly, to pushing steel of horseshoes to leap impossibly large distances.

When she arrives, exhausted, she joins the fight at Sazed’s gate, though it’s not enough to turn the tide. It’s only when she gets desperate that she tries the same trick she did on the kandra, since he’d hinted that the two races were cousins, allowing her to take control of the thousands of kolos in the city, stopping their rampage. As a final act, she kills Straff, and has his army surrender to Elend. She also forces Cett to surrender his army to Elend.

Then she promptly falls asleep, and wakes up more than a week later.

While the battle for Luthadel is over, she knows that there’s still one thing left to do. She finds the Well of Ascension in the Lord Keeper’s former palace, It’s unclear to me why the mist creature guided her to the well, when it didn’t want her to release the thing inside. I suppose it know she would find the well eventually, and so forced the choice.

At this point, Sazed realizes that something is wrong with his histories, and the way the Lord Ruler gained his power at the well. He goes to stop Vin, but is delayed by Kelsier’s brother, a Steel Enforcer who is apparently under the control of the Thing in the well. By the time he wins the fight, Vin has already released the power, and the thing has been unleashed on the world. I assume the next book will deal with the creature, because there is no history of it, no knowledge, since apparently the Lord Ruler tried to destroy all history. He even reshaped the world, turning mountains into plains, and hiding the well in the city. The mist creature tried to force Vin to hold onto the power, fatally wounding Elend, but she chooses the altruistic path instead, letting go of the power.

What Sazed realizes afterwards was that all the warnings that told them the Hero of Ages had to release the power instead of using it were changed from the truth, probably by the subtlety and influence of the creature in the well. Even Sazed’s rubbing no longer matches the steel etching he took it from. All the Prophecies written down were changed, including those in his own metalminds. Suddenly this series is about something bigger than just Luthadel and a rebellion. I hope we get to understand where the menace came from, and why the Lord Ruler thought his only choice was to subjugate the whole world.

As for this book, the end was worth reading, but I’m not sure the rest was. I felt like I was plodding through it, where I should have been racing. So much happened, but it was dull, rather than exciting. I hope the third book can pick up the interest level again, because my interest in piqued. I just hope the writing can grab me like the end of this book did.


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