Review: The Well of Ascension

Posted 8 January, 2012 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

The Well of Ascension
By: Brandon Sanderson

They did the impossible, deposing the godlike being whose brutal rule had lasted a thousand years. Now Vin, the street urchin who has grown into the most powerful Mistborn in the land, and Elend Venture, the idealistic young nobleman who loves her, must build a healthy new society in the ashes of an empire.

They have barely begun when three separate armies attack. AS the siege tightens, an ancient legend seems to offer a glimmer of hope. But even if it really exists, no one knows where to find the Well of Ascension or what manner of power it bestows.

It may just be that killing the Lord Ruler was the easy part. Surviving the aftermath of his fall is going to be the real challenge.

The wastings, the wearings, the comings, the goings. (Yeah, I would stick out like a sore thumb in the Eastern Dominance) If I thought the last third of Mistborn (my review) was intense, the anxiety I felt in this novel lasted from start to the very last page. It was that intense, I could not put it down. Contains some spoilers ahead!

It’s interesting to see the aftermath of the Lord Ruler and how defeating him was really only a microcosm to a larger issue. You don’t see the full consequences of overthrowing an enemy in the fantasy genre (I find) beyond the immediate aftermath. On the small scale, the defeat of the Lord Ruler and the loss of Kelsier in the process fundamentally shook up the rest of the crew in a variety of ways. Although Kelsier had set his friends and colleagues up to bring about a new society, no one could replace what he brought to the table. Although Elend becomes a new member of the crew–albeit as member of the new government and relatively green in certain aspects of their specialisation–he doesn’t have the same presence (craziness, shall we say?) as Kelsier did. Not to mention the fact that some members of the crew were not warming up to Elend as well as others. As they deal with the continuing problems of Luthadel, they also find themselves changing at a personal level, something that they notice in each other. Ham is still thoughtful and easy-going but also more reserved in some ways while Dockson is at a loss without his best friend and unfortunately did not assume command of the crew after his death. The reader learns more about Breeze’s inner thoughts and who he is as a person and his curious dynamic with Clubs, a development that was hinted back in Mistborn.

Vin and Elend also underwent profound changes as people over the course of the novel as they struggle to overcome the problems facing them while keeping their relationship intact. As fully-realised characters with their own sets of strengths and flaws, the reader can see where the questions are coming from concerning themselves (Elend and becoming the leader he should be, Vin and wanting to protect Elend from harm) and their relationship (the fact that they come from different segments of society, Vin’s ability as a Mistborn, etc, etc). Doubt played a heavy role in their character development, which is a natural outcome after coming into the positions of king and Mistborn in the first book. I thought their inner thoughts and POVs spoke volumes of where their characters were heading and what they had to tackle with inside so I never felt bored or anything. For a while a love triangle was being teased at with Zane’s arrival, causing trouble and seeding doubt in Vin, a fellow Mistborn. But having been heavily invested in these characters thanks to the first installment, I’m glad they pulled through at the end.

Of course, on a grand scale things just seem to be falling apart. With the overthrow of the Lord Ruler, various warlord factions are fighting each other for territory, power and stability and Elend, the scholar, is at the middle of it all at the capital. To add to this problem, they cannot find the so-called hidden stash of atium anywhere in the capital, the economy is collapsing, supplies are scarce, the weather and overall environment is changing at a rapid rate and the government that Elend set up is causing more problems to the overall stability of the city in such times. And just when you think that things can’t get any worse, they do–hence the intensity of the novel. Kudos to Sanderson for juggling all of these issues without faltering; I’ve always been amazed at his imagination and creativity (and speed in writing novels) but this trilogy certainly showcases his ability in handling complex and interconnected issues with such fluidity.

The Well of Ascension is certainly a different novel than Mistborn on a number of levels, but the extension is natural. It makes sense to explore all of the consequences of their actions from the first novel, even if it made for slow reading at times (I personally felt that siege of Luthadel went on for a tad bit too long). You get to learn more about the characters that you’ve grown to care about and root for them as they face their challenges head-on and overcome their own personal demons. The book also expands on the world that Vin and her friends live in, and delves into more background about the different creatures that populate it. It also goes back to the original prophecy of the Hero of the Ages and what was intended to happen before the individual who became the Lord Ruler intervened in his plans.

Overall, the novel was a complex, sprawling one, dealing with a number of different issues both internal and external. I did not mention a few things that came out of this novel because they cross over and play a major role in the third book. As much as I missed the dynamic in the first novel, it’s understandable that the overall tone and set-up of this novel is different because all of the characters are dealing with the after-effects of their actions, both the good and not-so-good. The Well of Ascension was a highly enjoyable novel despite throwing an even bigger mystery than wrapping up loose threads at the end. But it did leave me pumped up for the last novel (as an aside, I seem to be reading this trilogy at a break-neck pace because I just cannot put it down!), so that’s always a plus!

Rating: ★★★★★

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