For a thousand years the skaa slaved in misery and lived in fear. For a thousand years the Lord Ruler reigned with absolute power and ultimate terror, divinely invincible. Every attempted revolt has failed miserably.
Yet somehow hope survives.
A new kind of uprising is being planned, one that depends on the cunning of a brilliant criminal mastermind and the courage of an unlikely heroine, a skaa street urchin who must learn to master Allomancy: the power of a Mistborn.
(from the back cover)
The first time I read The Final Empire I sped through. This time I read more slowly, more actively. I considered the plot events and character growth, tried to form a logical progression of the story in my mind, dissected the theme. I saw more of the author’s skill reading this way. With my book review, I’ll be going through three layers: the Crust, the Mantle, and the Core.
The Crust: Prose, Grammar, Aesthetics
4/5: A few mistakes which distracted me, but nothing too serious.
I admit that The Final Empire could have done with a little more proofreading. In the prologue the POV character’s name is misspelled once; there are also a few random capitalisations and missing punctuation marks throughout the book. Nothing horrendous, but still mistakes I noticed. Beyond grammar, the author used a few adverbs (notably maladroitly) that I couldn’t visualise. When I read, a written story becomes a movie in my mind; this means that if an author uses a word I can’t visualise, the movie of my mind’s eye blacks out momentarily in the middle of a scene. Who wants that to happen during a movie?
The text was single-spaced. The Final Empire is a long book even with single spacing, but I would have liked to have seen a bit more white space. The font also seemed a bit mundane. I know, why am I criticising the aesthetics? The author didn’t lay out the book. Okay. I loved the Allomantic symbols on each chapter heading. And the epigrams. The epigrams were awesome. Dropping hints from page one, packed with feeling. But I’ll leave that for the Mantle.
The Mantle: Ideas, Worldbuilding, Character, Plot, Theme
5/5: I didn’t devour this story—it devoured me, kept me there until The End, and sent me out looking for more.
Aesthetics aside, I loved the story. The Final Empire had a real sense of logical progression—the plot flowed from the characters and their plans and goals. This time around I made an effort to understand the plot, and I really liked what I understood. I am a logical person. I am a writer myself. The Final Empire carried the plot forwards with each scene, juggling a wide variety of pieces and tying them up well at the end. There is a strong sense of closure at the end of the story, which I found very appropriate, but also several unanswered questions, hints of approaching doom, and implications for the rest of the world because of the actions of the characters.
The magic system of Allomancy is unique and well thought out, and it’s not just a big chunk of otherness dropped on this world—Allomancy has affected the world and culture in deep and meaningful ways. Some Allomancers can Push or Pull on metals, which means the ruling class rarely wear metals on their person in case they’re attacked by Allomancers. This and many other cultural effects of Allomancy show how much time and thought the author has invested into his world.
I really enjoyed the characters, especially Kelsier. Marsh, Sazed and Spook are three others I really enjoyed this time around. Kelsier, one of the two POV characters, is arrogant and sometimes psychopathic but passionate and compassionate nonetheless. Marsh is stern. Very stern, but you see his heart throughout the book. I like him. Sazed’s humility and sacrifice are inspiring. Spook amuses me, especially during his interactions with Vin, the main POV character. Speaking of Vin…I never really got a sense of who she was as a person. Maybe it’s because she herself was trying to figure out who she really was, as she played opposing roles as skaa thief and ball-going noblewoman over the course of the book, but I found her a bit lacking. I look forward to seeing her improve in future books in this series.
The Lord Ruler was the antagonist of this book. The most powerful Allomancer in all history, the Lord Ruler is worshipped as the god of the Final Empire, having lived for a thousand years after facing and defeating the Deepness, a force of ruin that ravaged the world before the Lord Ruler rose. He can do things with Allomancy no one else could ever dream of doing. (At one point in the book, someone impales him with two spears. He doesn’t even react.) How do you beat an immortal, invincible being more powerful than anyone else in all history? The characters ask that question, and so does the reader. The reasons for the Lord Ruler’s power are hinted at and slowly revealed near the end of the book, which I thought the author did very well.
A few notes of warning: In this world, there are less than noble things mentioned and discussed. The ruling class makes frequent use of brothels. One ethnicity of people is enslaved to breeding programs and emasculation because of the Lord Ruler’s secret fears. Members of the oppressed class are treated like animals; in one scene, a boy is murdered just for begging. The Lord Ruler holds mass executions and forces people to watch. Creatures known as Inquisitors go around with metal spikes pounded through their eyes and poking out the back of their skulls. The most disturbing scene to me was in the Lord Ruler’s prisons where a non-POV character was imprisoned without his clothes, but that is the only example where something like this occurred. Violence is shown on-screen; promiscuity is not, and for that I respect the author’s self-restraint.
The Core: Meaning, Theme, Truth
4/5: A good message but lacking a bit.
The first time reading The Final Empire, I found no strong theme. This time I paid more attention and gave more thought, and I found the author’s theme. “Love even when betrayed.” Vin’s character arc demonstrates the theme very well. At the beginning of the book, she trusts nothing and no one, especially not the smiling, seemingly insane Kelsier. Over time, she accepts her place in Kelsier’s crew and grows to trust her friends. Vin eventually masquerades as a noblewoman to listen for rumours about Kelsier’s rebellion and meets at a ball a nobleman named Elend, who she feels an odd connection to. The relationship between Vin and Elend grows into trust…until even Elend betrays Vin by admitting that his house is more important to him than his relationship with her. This betrayal shakes Vin’s belief in trust. Shortly afterwards, Vin learns that Elend is being hunted by assassins, and despite her pain she realises that her love for Elend is stronger than the pain of his betrayal. This and her efforts to save him are the climax of her character arc.
I admit I would have liked Vin’s character arc to climax in the plot climax as she fights the Lord Ruler. In the end it’s not her love that wins the battle; it’s her intelligence and Allomantic strength. I can’t help but feel that if intelligence and strength are the attributes that win the battle, why was the theme love?
Summary: Enjoyed the book, but saw untapped potential.
Overall Rating: 4.3 out of 5
Age Range: 15 and up