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 criminal that no-one can trust and a young girl who must master Allomancy – the magic that lies in all metals.
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Narrator: Michael Kramer
Running Time: 24 hours 39 minutes
Publisher: Orion Publishing Group Limited
Audio Release Date: 21/03/2011
My rating of ‘The Final Empire’: 4.5 out of 5
On the face of it, the cover for the audio version of ‘The Final Empire’ is quite bland and simplistic … but my tastes for covers are just that. I don’t like it when there is too much going on, so this suits me just fine. Has quite a stylish look to it with the black and gold colour design. The blurb does a good job of giving you a bit of info whilst, at the same time, leaving you with the feeling that you haven’t been told much at all. This kind of makes me think of what one of the character might say in reply to this complaint ‘there is always another secret’.
I have struggled getting into Sanderson’s books in the past. The one I tried felt a little slow and, because of this, I really had an aversion to his work. I decided that, because I managed to get through (and thoroughly enjoy) the first book in Robin Hobb’s ‘Rain Wilds’ series (the first book being 100% character and world building, thus quite slow) I should give Sanderson’s work another try. I am VERY glad that I did.
I always have one audio book on the go when at work and a different one for when I am at home; The Final Empire was my work book and it has served me well. The exciting story and high quality writing helped my days go by very quickly! The characters, admittedly, are a tad underdeveloped. This is a point raised by many reviewers, but I don’t find it too much of a setback. There is plenty of depth in the main characters to allow for the 2nd-tier characters to be lacking in some ways. The interactions between characters, however, quickly makes you forget any underdevelopment due to how natural they seem to fit together. You get a genuine feel of comradery (especially with Breeze, as his haughty complaints just add a delightful sarcastic note to the piece).
The magic system in ‘The Final Empire’ is fairly unique. Allomancy is the practice of gaining powers by consuming and ‘burning’ metal (in the form of shavings or small beads). The vast majority of those born with the ability to do this are known as ‘Mistings’ and are only capable of ‘burning’ one metal. A very slim percentage of these people have the ability to ‘burn’ all ten metals rather than just one. These are, obviously, the most powerful and are known as ‘Mistborns’.
The plot is your basic ‘oppressed people trying to overthrow the aristocracy and, in turn, the government.’ The twist with the Mistborn trilogy is that the government is presided over by an immortal being claiming to be a god, and his Inquisitors. The Inquisitors, in my mind, were like Death Eaters from Harry Potter. Except they had huge spikes driven through their eyes which gave them the skill to detect and hunt those with the skill of Allomancy. Another aspect of the plot that adds a new level of difficulty is that the rebellion is comprised of skaa (essentially slaves/lower class of people). The skaa have been oppressed by the government for a millennia. They are owned by the Lord Ruler and rented to the Aristocrats as slave labour. A lord is free to beat or even kill a skaa as the mood takes him. There are far more heinous things inflicted upon the skaa, but I shan’t spoil those for you.
Ordinarily, anything that features any kind of ‘court intrigue’ normally has me yawning and wondering why I bothered. I normally find it to be boring politics of a fictional world (which always makes it hard for me to care). ‘The Final Empire’ was different. Where the aristocratic courtly intrigue parts were concerned, they were done as part of a larger scheme that the reader/listener already has a vested interest in. Sanderson must be doing great things if he can get past my prejudged hatred of any form of court intrigue. Just writing the words ‘court intrigue’ makes me angry.
Considering this is the first book in a trilogy, Sanderson ends it as though it is almost a stand alone. It isn’t one of those books where you are forced, by some kind of cliff-hanger, to buy the next in the series. I was wholly satisfied after finishing ‘The Final Empire’ and, if I didn’t want to buy the next book, I wouldn’t feel like I had missed out by not doing so. As it is, the incredibly epic nature of the plot and the equally epic show downs in ‘The Final Empire’ had me wanting more … so I already downloaded it and started to listen to the sequel.
All in all, this was a far better listen than I dared hope. I shall be seeking out more of Brandon Sanderson’s epic fantasy when I have finished with the Mistborn trilogy.