The Well of Ascension


Brandon Sanderson


Science Fiction / Fantasy


Date Reviewed:

January 16, 2010

he Well of Ascension is the second book in the Mistborn Trilogy. Like many books that are the middle book in a trilogy the plot is advanced, but no climax is reached - there are some plot threads resolved, but the when the reader turns the last page our heroes are in as much peril (if not worse!) as when the book started.

The Well of Ascension picks up a year after the first novel, Mistborn: The Final Empire, left off. The Lord Ruler is dead and Elend Venture's has assumed control of the city of Luthadel. All of the Kelsier's old gang are still around - and this leads to many subplots. There are so many characters and subplots, that the story moves slowly for a while. But because Sanderson is an excellent writer, these subplots did not seem like he was padding the story or disrupting the pace.

The city of Luthadel is beseiged by two armies, led by ruthless men who were formerly aristocrats under the Lord Ruler. Both want to rule the kingdom, plus they wish to capture the Lord Ruler's storehouse of atium, the magic metal used by Mistborn. The only reason neither army attacks immediately is that when it had finished storming the walls of Luthadel, the other army would then attack from the rear and win the whole prize. The result is a tense standoff.

Inside the city walls, Elend Venture is trying to lead the citizens during a dark time of starvation and fear. He is attacked by assassins and political opponents. Vin uses her Mistborn skills to defend him.

Two of Sanderson's plot threads are pretty good here - one involves a shape shifter that has infiltrated Venture's team. It has murdered someone in Kelsier's gang and assumed its place, but who is it? Ham? Sazed? Spook? Breeze? The other plot thread that I liked involves Zane, the Mistborn in the service of Straff Venture. Zane is Vin's enemy, and he is at least as powerful as Vin, but he is also fascinated by her - is it possible that as Mistborns they ought to be more loyal to each other than to their particular lieges? Zane is a villain with complex personality.

One plot idea that I found implausible was the army leaders all scheming to get their hands on the Lord Ruler's supply of atium. It turns out that the population of Mistborn is much smaller than it seemed in the first book (perhaps there are only two or three in the world?), and since atium can only be used by the Mistborn, it wouldn't be valuable to any one else. As an analogy, how valuable would gold be if only a few merchants in the world were willing to accept it for products or services?

I was a bit skeptical that Vin was experimenting with "burning" other metal alloys to see if she could find ways to enhance her powers. In the thousand years under the Lord Ruler, this line of research hadn't already been tried? And what exactly is an alloy of aluminum?

Unlike the first book, which seemed to answer a lot of questions, the end of this book leaves many things unanswered. How did the Lord Ruler control the Koloss? Why does ash fall from the sky? Where was Marsh through the story? Doesn't Vin feel any remorse for all the slaughter? I would think she would be effected by all death she metes out, there ought to be residual shock from the violence she is involved in. Hopefully, Sanderson addresses all these points in the final novel. So far he has proven to be a good writer, so I trust that all will resolved in the final novel. I enjoyed this big book, the Mistborn world is a unique and interesting addition to the ranks of fantasy novels.