The Well of Ascension is the second book in Brandon Sanderson’s bestselling fantasy series, the Mistborn trilogy. The books are set in the Final Empire: populated by nobles, magic users called Allomancers (many of whom are Mistings – only able to use one Allomantic power – some of whom are Mistborn – able to use all the Allomantic powers – but all of whom have noble blood), and the low-class skaa; led by the immortal, godlike, and oppressive Lord Ruler. The first book, The Final Empire, followed powerful Mistborn Kelsier, the leader of a thieving crew, and newest recruit Vin, an untrained Mistborn, as the crew take on their most ambitious project yet: killing the Lord Ruler. Unsurprisingly, The Well Of Ascension chronicles the aftermath of the crew’s attempts: Vin, now even more powerful than Kelsier, and the remainder of the crew must deal not only with chaos, but also the return of forces a thousand years gone.
After finishing The Final Empire, I couldn’t wait to jump back into the Mistborn world, but when I did, I found it slow going. I felt that it took a while for me to get into The Well Of Ascension – perhaps because the tension didn’t seem to kick in very quickly; perhaps because of the multiple threads of the story being established; but also because there were sections that I felt needn’t have been as long as they were. And this continued throughout: even once the book had me thoroughly gripped, some sections still had me thinking “get on with it, then” or “are all these little monologues really necessary?”.
Another pacing issue I had was that it can be a bit unclear how much time passed in between scenes. So sometimes the pacing seemed fast, days or even weeks going by quite quickly, and sometimes it seemed slow, as little or no time passed between scenes, and numerous paragraphs were spent explaining or discussing characters’ actions, thoughts, and feelings during a short space of time. This was not ideal, as some areas of the story did not need extra reason to be found confusing.
Now I’ve got that out of the way, let’s discuss the positives!
We got some really interesting new characters in The Well of Ascension, such as Terris Keeper Tindwyl, unpredictable Mistborn Zane, and surly kandra OreSeur. I really loved getting to know these characters, and watching their relationships with previously-introduced characters unfold.
Another thing I really loved was the focus on mythology in this book: in The Final Empire, Vin found a logbook written by the prophesised Hero of Ages shortly before the rise of the Lord Ruler, and passages of this begin each chapter. I’d really enjoyed these snippets, so I’m glad we got something similar in The Well of Ascension with snippets of an account of the Hero’s proceedings written by the man who discovered him. The importance of these legends becomes apparent towards the end of the book, but I found it really fascinating to try and piece them together and work out how they are relevant to Vin and the crew’s current situation while I was reading.
The legends also gave us more of an insight into the Mistborn world, but this wasn’t the only insight we got: we got to learn more about creatures such as koloss and kandra, and Vin also got to learn more about Allomancy. I love that no matter how much the characters think they know about their own world, there’s always more to be discovered – in particular, things that the Lord Ruler has been keeping secret for the last millennium.
Oh, and I finally figured out what it is I like about Sanderson’s writing style! If I didn’t mention this in my review of The Final Empire, then I definitely mentioned it in my review of Sanderson’s debut Elantris: the writing style is very simple – even unrefined, one might say. While this makes it very easy to follow and understand, what actually appeals to me is that it’s written as if Sanderson is telling you the story aloud, which I find quite comforting.
And the ending – don’t get me started on the ending. Somehow, Sanderson manages to write incredibly dramatic, action-filled endings that push the characters to their limits without making them over-the-top and unbelievable. Exciting is an understatement, and character deaths were inevitable (though I wish we’d have seen more of the other characters’ reactions to these deaths). The ending of The Final Empire didn’t make me feel like I had to read on, however, this one did, so I’m gonna wrap this review up really quickly and dive straight into the third book, The Hero of Ages!
Overall, despite the slow start, The Well of Ascension is an exciting and intense book which is definitely worth the effort of reading over 700 pages! So if you’ve read The Final Empire and are wondering whether to continue with the series: I’d say do it.
What are your thoughts on The Well of Ascension and the Mistborn series? Let me know in the comments!