CRUISING THE COSMERE: The Hero of Ages (BOOK REVIEW)
This review will contain spoilers for The Final Empire, The Well of Ascension and mild spoilers for The Hero of Ages.
“In the end, they will kill us,” Elend said, voice loud, ringing in the cavern. “But first, they shall fear us!”
The Final Empire is dying, the mists are ever more perilous, now covering the land most of the day as well as night. Ash falls relentlessly, dwindling the sun’s light. The people are either falling to mist sickness or to starvation. This is the end of days, Ruin has come. Our band of heroes teeter on the edges of despair, yet their hope to save the world still holds. Emperor Elend must quell rebellions and bring the entire nation under his rule, if not to create an ultimate fighting force, then to uncover perhaps their only chance of winning. For the Lord Ruler left secrets hidden within each city, secrets that could hold the key to their salvation. As Empress Vin desperately tries to discover what is causing the mists to kill, the ash to fall more heavily and how to stop the evil she unleashed in the Well of Ascension, she is pushed to her absolute limit. Can she truly be The Hero of Ages?
Then there are those who have been left scarred by war. Both Spook and Sazed have lost loved ones, and now both are put to the test one final time. As Sazed loses his faith and searches for answers within the religions of old, he must also step up to aid Elend in bringing peace to this war-torn nation. Sazed is the diplomat, the philosopher, perhaps the only one of them who could bring people hope and courage, if only he could find it within himself. Spook, on the other hand, feels remorse for running away when his uncle had needed him the most. Wracked with guilt, Spook learns that spying in the shadows, being just the informant, is no longer his role, now is the time for action. As a skaa rebellion takes hold, threatening the lives of an entire city, Spook discovers his inner strength and will stop at nothing to save them all.
Fan Art by Gis Almeida. Website
Where do I even start with this review?! The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson is the 700 pages plus conclusion to era one of the Mistborn trilogy, and every chapter packs such a punch. For this is a book of revelations, many mysteries throughout the trilogy are uncovered, questions I had are finally answered, and each one left me awestruck.
Immediately the darker, more somber tone of this novel shows the character’s progression throughout the trilogy. Although there are moments of humour, it is a far cry from the carefree humour found amongst the crew of The Final Empire. Our characters have seen war, violence, devastation and loss. A sense of grief and the weight of their responsibilities has befallen them all, not only have they lost loved ones but they have lost parts of themselves, parts of their former lives that were filled with grand ideals and heroic acts. In perhaps one of the most beautiful scenes within this novel, Elend and Vin finally have their first dance during a ball in Fadrex, and for a brief spell as they enjoy the moment and reminisce of days long past, they realise that their lives will never be as they once were. In this final instalment Sanderson clearly illustrates that in their final acts they must succeed, because the fate of the world and the lives of an entire nation is at stake.
”He fought on. And, as he did, the prevalence of death around him seemed a metaphor for all he had done over the last three years, He should have been able to protect the people. he’d tried so hard to protect the people. He’d stopped armies, overthrown tyrants, reworked laws, and scavenged supplies. And yet, all of that was a tiny drop of salvation in a vast ocean of death, chaos, and pain.”
Elend now stands on the precipice of either defender or aggressor, protector or conqueror, a democratic ruler or an all-powerful emperor. Bringing each city under his rule has been a struggle he has fought since the Lord Ruler was overthrown and he was made leader, but now more than ever it truly mattered that they face the end of the world head on and fight Ruin as one. All around him he faces the death of his people, the poverty, the despair. He knows of The Lord Ruler’s hidden caches which must be found and its resources distributed to all, but at every turn there are those who stand in his path, refusing his council, his leadership. Yet a large part of the novel Elend remains indecisive, he still wants to hold to his diplomatic ideals but he realises the time has come to rule with a firmer hand and a sword pointed at those who oppose him. Let us not forget that Elend is also a Mistborn now, changed by the events at the Well of Ascension, he has more power than ever before. Though even with this power, Elend feels he will fail. My heart truly felt for him.
Fan art by: Shinobi2u Website
What I have always loved about Sanderson’s writing is that he always shows you two sides to a coin, you always gain understanding of two opposing views. Villains are never evil for the sake of evil, and heroes are never ultimately heroic. Once again, they are people with reasons. The Hero of Ages explores the price of “freedom” and change – overthrowing The Lord Ruler may have brought liberation to the skaa people but with it also came a great amount of turmoil. Therefore when obligator Yomen restores the skaa people to slavery within the city of Fadrex, and they willing accept this, we may not agree with it but we do understand. People need stability, even if that means going back to a life of oppression. Or once free, they seek to oppress others, as portrayed in the city of Urteau where Citizen Quellion leads a skaa rebellion and is mercilessly executing those with noble blood. Which is right and which is wrong? Sanderson shows us there is no clear-cut answer to this. People survive any way they can, and unfortunately that may require them to go back to old habits or act in the same cruel way as they have been treated. Of course there are other reasons at play here, as Sanderson says: “there’s always another secret.”
“People with passion are people who will destroy—for a man’s passion is not true until he proves how much he’s willing to sacrifice for it. Will he kill? Will he go to war? Will he break and discard that which he has, all in the name of what he needs?”
Even before anything sad had occurred I felt a deep melancholy from the dark atmosphere which hung heavy in the air. At every turn we are reminded of the dying world and Sanderson certainly makes you feel a sense of hopelessness. I have always given the highest of praise to Sanderson’s phenomenal character growth, his ability to shape character’s from weak and inconsequential to shining with strength and valour. In this last instalment I loved seeing Vin and Spook push through their sense of hopelessness, refusing to give up. In the most epic conclusion, Vin’s one woman battle against a host of Inquisitor’s was phenomenal, her last fight at Kredik Shaw was an absolute magical cinematic experience. She fought for not only her own life, but the lives of everyone. As did Spook when the flames of the skaa rebellion threatened to burn all in its wake.
Fan Art found on Pinterest
My heart broke most of all for Sazed. The one character who on countless occasions gave hope to so many others, particularly to Vin, had become lost and most tragic of all, faithless—a broken shell who stood on the brink of despair. And who could blame him? Sazed against the Terris’ people’s wishes had played a hand in destroying The Lord Ruler’s tyranny, yet instead of freedom all it had bought his people was ruin, all it had done to his beloved Tindwyl was to see her dead. Throughout this book Sazed became a character who searched for meaning in all the religions he had recorded, yet none brought him the answers he so desperately sought.
The Hero of Ages was most definitely a book where all could so easily be shattered to pieces. With every book I read by Sanderson my awe for the magnitude of his worldbuilding, his magic system and his character’s growth, always deepens. This conclusion was equal parts soul-destroying and mind-blowing.
“She was a knife—Elend’s knife, the Final Empire’s knife. She didn’t fight to protect one man, but to protect the way of life he had created, and the people he struggled so hard to defend.
Peace gave her strength.”
Although I have now reached the conclusion of Mistborn era one, my journey of cruising through the Cosmere doesn’t end here. I will now move on to Mistborn era two, and beyond that there is so much more to come.