I was dearly hoping that the final volume in the Mistborn trilogy would be as entertaining as the first one, The Final Empire. Yet to my dismay, it was more akin to The Well of Ascension, which was a major letdown for me. Indeed, The Hero of Ages suffers from the same shortcomings which made its predecessor such a difficult read for me.
Let's begin by focusing on the positive characteristics of this novel. The worldbuilding is the most interesting aspect of this one. Sanderson's revelations regarding his universe, the Ashmounts and their functions, the Lord Ruler, Allomancy and Allomantic metals, the Deepness, the Mist, the Inquisitors, the Kandra, the Koloss, the Terris Keepers, etc, truly demonstrate just how compelling a story he can tell. There are several surprises in The Hero of Ages, surprises that will shine some light on many plotlines, and many things from previous volumes will suddenly make sense.
Allomancy is doubtless the most interesting magical system to see the light in many years. Kudos to Sanderson for coming up with such an intriguing system. The action scenes are once again quite a thrill, though they no longer have the sort of impact that made them such an integral part of the reading experience in The Final Empire.
The main problem with The Hero of Ages is that the characterization is at best simply passable, and at worst close to mediocre. Which is surprising, given the fact that early in his career Brandon Sanderson seemed to possess quite a gift for creating engaging characters. The narrative is often made sluggish because the author interrupts the flow of the tale with a never-ending stream of unnecessary thoughts and feelings in every single POV. Once more, there are "inner monologues" going on in everyone's head, which more or less makes you want to throttle the character whose POV you are reading. Even worse, these inner dialogues alternate between self-righteousness and whining, which I found off-putting to say the least.
Elend Venture is now emperor, yet he remains the same bookworm he used to be. Oddly enough, he is mostly a crying pussy, but he sometimes develops a backbone to do what needs to be accomplished for the greater good of all. All that's missing is a Che flag or T-Shirt. The love story and the interaction between Elend and Vin continue to be corny as hell. Spook's storyline started off as very interesting, but soon took a bizarre turn as the boy became a know-it-all messiah figure. And Sazed, who has remained what is probably the most fascinating character in this series, whines to such a degree that one wishes someone would just kill him and put him out of his misery.
In the end, it makes for an extremely uneven read. There are a lot of cool concepts and unanticipated plot twists in The Hero of Ages. Good characterization would likely have made this novel one of the fantasy books to read this year. Alas, we end up with a work that, although original in most aspects, leaves a lot to be desired.
On the upside, the ending is unpreditable and satisfying. Sadly, you have to wade through 500+ pages before reaching the grand finale.
Stylistically, I've always maintained that Brandon Sanderson might not be a good fit to replace Robert Jordan to complete A Memory of Light. And with subpar characterization like this, I'm concerned that he won't be able to do justice to characters such as Rand, Mat, Lan, Moiraine, Moridin, Galas, Thom, the Forsaken as a whole, Asha'man like Logain and Mazrim Taim, most Aiel, etc. I'm not worried about battle scenes and anything action-related, as Sanderson has proven that he can swing with the best of them. But as far as the characterization element is concerned, I'm more than a little worried. Hope I'm wrong. . .
The final verdict: 7/10