Audiobook review: The Final Empire (Mistborn Book 1) by Brandon Sanderson


Length of audiobook: 24 hours 40mins
Narrator: Michael Kramer (American accent)
Genre: Fantasy
Audiobook description on iTunes: A thousand years ago evil came to the land and has ruled with an iron hand ever since. The sun shines fitfully under clouds of ash that float down endlessly from the constant eruption of volcanoes. A dark lord rules through the aristocratic families and ordinary folk are condemned to lives in servitude, sold as goods, labouring in the ash fields. But now a troublemaker has arrived and there is rumour of revolt. A revolt that depends on a criminal that no-one can trust and a young girl who must master Allomancy – the magic that lies in all metals.

My thoughts:

This book started slowly and for the first third of the audiobook (the audiobook is divided into 3 parts), it felt like nothing much happened. I don’t know whether I only got this impression because I was acclimatising to the slow pace of audiobooks. I’m not used to listening to audio without a visual; maybe TV shows and films have spoiled me with their easy-viewing, instant gratification and excitement. So initially, I found it hard to get into this book or be interested in it. The only reason that I didn’t stop listening was because I had paid for it and audiobooks are very expensive.

During this first third, I didn’t warm to Kelsier (one of the main characters) at all but I don’t know how much of this was due to how the narrator did his voice, which made him sound full of himself. His casual attitude to killing people was unsettling. Both Kelsier and Vin (the other main character) felt quite bland and uninteresting, just bog-standard characters that I’d seen so many times before in fantasy books. Thankfully, this did change and I felt very differently by the end of the book. Both Vin’s and Kelsier’s characters grew and developed well.

I’m so very glad that I slogged through the first third. It then suddenly became very exciting and all-consuming. The parts I liked most were the bits when Vin was learning to fine-tune her Allomancy (magic using metals) with different members of the crew who specialised in their different metals, especially when she was learning the subtler ways of using brass with Breeze, and bronze with Marsh. I also enjoyed Vin infiltrating the nobility’s balls; those parts were very fun to hear. It also opened the world up beyond the crew and their plans. I loved the way the crew engineered the House war.

My favourite character was the gentle Sazed (although from the way the narrator spoke, I thought the spelling of the name was ‘Seyzit’), a Terrisman Keeper, who preserves knowledge. I enjoyed every minute with him in it. Each member of Kelsier’s crew though was interesting and I grew to love them.

This is a book that very gradually reveals its secrets (‘There’s always another secret’). I loved that, in the end, you learn that there was much more going on than what met the eye, especially with regard to what Kelsier was really planning. Everything was wrapped up masterfully and excitingly, while leaving a few mysteries for the next two books in the trilogy.

It’s strange because the characters whom I thought were going to die, didn’t. And a character whom I didn’t even consider would be killed off, was. So that was interesting and the latter, shocking. Also, I partly guessed something correctly about the mystery of the Lord Ruler but I was surprised about another part. I don’t want to give away any spoilers though because I ended up loving this book and thoroughly recommend that you read/listen to it yourself.

Overall mark out of 10:

Putting on my feminist hat:
I was disappointed about the lack of female characters. I reckon that the author could have easily swapped the gender of several characters to make the story less man-heavy. Where were all the women? The imbalance was very noticeable. Also, it was always men who were teaching Vin (a 16 year old girl) Allomancy, which grated. The men were the ones with the knowledge and Vin wasn’t. It would have enriched the story if half the crew had been female instead of all male, thus giving Vin some female mentors too. The only women that Vin encounters at all are the awful noblewomen at the balls. I don’t like the trope of ‘this woman is only ok because she’s not like other women’, which was applied to Vin. Not cool, Brandon Sanderson.

The narrator:
Not the best but not, by far, the worst I’ve heard. You get used to him in the end. Bearable.