Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Review: The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson

The end of a series is both a wonderful and terrible thing. The story is complete, the ending known, and another series is conquered. Yet the story is over, characters that you’ve come to love are finished and won’t be visited again. It really is bitter-sweet.

The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson (US, UK, Canada) completes the Mistborn Trilogy with a level of success that few conclusions provide. Essentially, every outstanding question gets answered, there are twists that are both easily anticipated and that come out of nowhere, bad things and death happen, yet the end is sufficiently happy to satisfy that innate need.

The Hero of Ages begins after a bit of time has passed since the events in The Well of Ascension. Without going into details that would spoil earlier books, things are bad – worse than they have ever been. Mists engulf the land, killing people, plants and animals. Volcanic ash covers the land deeper than ever before. The end of the very world is at hand and it looks like it cannot be stopped.

In my previous reviews of Mistborn: The Final Empire and The Well of Ascension I noted how interested I was in the religious aspect primarily present in the character of Sazad. I felt this plot was sadly underdeveloped. In The Hero of Ages, Sanderson finally lets loose and lets it dominate much of the book. Dead religions are re-visited, new religion questioned and Sazed searches for truth in religion and battles faith. While there are certainly strong Judeo-Christian aspects to the struggles of Sazad and the fate of the world, the real success comes with the universality of the human condition and the internal struggles of us all. What is explored lies at the root of humanity and all its religions, giving the exploration both depth and credibility.

As I indicated above, it’s not easy to end a series well, and The Hero of Ages ends better than most. Sanderson keeps it relatively simple with only 2 main story arcs – this brings about a strong focus that is lacking in many epic fantasy series these days. At the beginning of each chapter we see a short excerpt clearly written after events of the trilogy by an unnamed narrator – while the other two books of the series contained similar excerpts, these are more focused, more revealing and ultimately serve further closure of outstanding issues. In combination with the religious themes discussed above, the end of this series is as near to flawless as I’ve seen.

As with the previous books in the series, things like prose and characterization simply didn’t matter. I was totally sucked into the world and couldn’t put the book down. While The Hero of Ages started out a bit slowly, I had to keep going – as I read I would become totally oblivious to the world around me. This is what makes these books so good.

While part of me triumphs over completing another series, I also lament the passing of a great story. The Hero of Ages shows how well a series can end and has left me greatly satisfied. 9/10

Related Posts: Review of Mistborn: The Final Empire, Review of The Well of Ascension, Review of The Mistborn Trilogy

6 comments:

ediFanoB said...

The Mistborn Trilogy is on my list for 2009. So I look forward to read it.

Anyway I can understand your feelings concerning the end of a trilogy or a series. Mostly when I read the last volume of a series my reading gets slower and slower and my mood changes to melancholy.

I don't know whether you are interested in or not: I read your review because of your twitter.

Mulluane said...

Great review, I agree with every word!

Jeff C said...

I need to give the last 2 books a shot. I am in the minority in that I liked Elantris better than the first Mistborn book. But my issues are mostly due to the magic system feeling less like magic and more like science. Weird, I know.

Neth said...

ediFanoB - I think you'll like it. And thanks for following me here on Twitter - it's aways good to know bits like that.

Jeff - I haven't read Elantris - I'll get to it someday. I liked the magic system - as a geologist I like the more scientific feel of it, but it certainly still magic.

ThRiNiDiR said...

I forgot if you've reviewed Peter V.Brett's The Painted Man, but Sanderson's trilogy sounds something as tasty as The Painted Man is. I'm reading it now and recommend it heartily.

Ondrej from James Patterson Book List said...

Sanderson is my favorite author, you're right that it's about being sucked in and not paying attention to anything else.

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