By Lisa Nault
Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series is one that people did not know they needed but are incredibly glad they have.
The Mistborn series is split into two smaller series: the original Mistborn trilogy and the Wax & Wayne series consisting of four novels.
The Mistborn trilogy follows a variety of characters but focuses on the stories of a young charismatic street thief named Vin, Kelsier the rebel leader, an affluent but defiant heir named Elend, and Sazed the wise and religious steward. These characters are intriguing, likeable, complex, and beautifully flawed.
Their flaws are not half heartedly written but instead are intricate aspects of their identities that cause immense internal conflicts. For example, Vin has severe anxiety and trust issues because her brother used to beat her in order to teach her how to survive on the street. He told her that the world was out to get everyone and the only hope of surviving was to be invisible.
Throughout the series, she distrusts people and is constantly on guard because sleep allows for vulnerability. Her paranoia is a serious problem and the readers get to see how she attempts to cope and grow as a person with everything else going on.
In the world that Sanderson has created, some people have supernatural abilities known as allomancy and feruchemy. Allomancy allows people to harness energy from metals they ingest. Certain metals cause the allomancer to possess different powers. For example, if an allomancer consumes brass then they are able to dampen someone’s emotions but if an allomancer consumes tin their senses are amplified.
The majority of people in the world do not have these abilities and most of the ones who do can only obtain power from one metal (they are called Mistings). However, there are a small group of individuals who can use any metal and harness their power––these people are called Mistborns. Feruchemy allows people to use metals to store particular attributes inside them. For example, iron allows a person to store the weight of the heavy metal which they can access whenever they have the metal.
This allows for a person to become extremely light or heavy by choice. Similar to allomancy, different metals offer different abilities in feruchemy. Brass can store a person’s warmth so if they find themselves in a tundra-like environment they can use their stored heat to become warm. Feruchemy is rarer than allomancy. These two magical abilities are significant throughout the entire Mistborn series.
The plot of the Mistborn trilogy revolves around a prophecy, a dystopian world, and a god-like tyrant who has been ruling for a thousand years. The prophecy foretold of a hero who would save the world from the “Deepness.”
The prophecy foretold of a hero, but the hero failed. In a society where the nobles attend lavish parties and gourmet foods, the skaa people are obedient slaves who have been broken down for the past thousand years.
One man wants to demolish this societal construct and end the Lord Ruler’s reign. He gathers a small and reluctant group of con-artists and thieves to help spark a rebellion. The series follows this decision and the repercussions of their actions.
Fast forward hundreds of years into the future after the last Mistborn novel to where the Wax & Wayne series takes place. The world is the same but the people, technology, and allomancy have evolved. Sanderson has done something few authors have done before.
He explores the possibilities of how the world he created will advance over time. How are the characters in the original trilogy seen by people who are hundreds of years past their time? How advanced has their technology become? What does society look like?
Wax & Wayne novels, while remaining in the Mistborn world, are vastly different from the original trilogy. For starters, there are some characters who possess both allomancy and feruchemy capabilities. They can use metals for storage and for additional powers. Also, in the Wax & Wayne series, the genre becomes a fantasy steampunk western adventure.
The main character, Waxillium, is a rogue sheriff who uses his allomancy and feruchemy powers to bring justice to exceptionally powerful criminals. His partner Wayne also helps keep the peace but is more likely to do so by making the best drinks to quell riots then fire a gun at a perp on the run.
This series also contains three extraordinary women: Marasi the intelligent law student who can handle her rifles; a talented gunsmith named Ranette; and an extremely organized and overly logical woman named Steris.
One aspect that makes Steris such a great and unique character is that she is actually on the autism spectrum. Brandon Sanderson confirmed that she would have been diagnosed as having Asperger Syndrome in the old DSM. Not only are there few characters in fantasy novels/movies who are on the autism spectrum, but the character is treated with respect in the story.
Nobody feels superior to Steris and nobody wants her to be “more normal.” Wayne does not like her as a person because he thinks she is boring. Wax sometimes finds her odd but he loves how passionate she is. He sees a side of her that not everyone gets to see because he gets to know her. The novel does not state outright that she is on the spectrum which allows her to define herself as a character; she is never referenced by the readers as “the autistic one.”
Ranette is another great character, but unfortunately she shows up less frequently than everyone else. However, she leaves an impression on readers as a person whom you would never want to mess with in real life because she could destroy you.
She is confirmed in the novel to be a lesbian, which is great because there always needs to be more LGBTQ representation. Unfortunately, since she only shows up a few times, the fact that she is a lesbian can be a defining feature for some people. Some readers would refer to her as “the lesbian who makes guns.”
The good news is that her sexual orientation was not confirmed in the story until the third book, so the readers got to know her outside of her sexuality first. Many of them see her sexual orientation as just being a part of who she is and not necessarily a defining feature. Ranette is a tough, intense, and incredible character who also happens to like women.
Brandon Sanderson has an incredible cast of characters in all of these books. His writing is beautiful and immersive. The stories are unique and creative.
They are not only full of fantasy and adventure, but also fascinating views on how religions develop, the different psychological impacts traumas can make, and various revolutionary/military strategies. Sanderson is currently working on the last novel in the Wax & Wayne series, so there is plenty of time to read the entire series before the book is released.