The Hero of Ages


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

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21 commentaires:

Anonymous said...

If he ruins Mat for me, there'll be hell to pay!

Dream Girlzzz said...

Borrowed this one from my brother, and fuck was I happy not to have paid good money for this book. Saying I was underwhelmed would be an understatement.

Like you said, it's full of cool stuff, but you just want to kill every damn character!

MrMathMan said...

While the introspection of the characters did get a bit old, I didn't find it as annoying as the rest of you. I'm surprised no one commented on how amazing his planning was: he pulled out some details from book 1 that proved crucial, but you'd never have guessed! I actually think this strengthens his case as Jordan's heir: he loves detail, he plans carefully, and he repeats himself. "She tugged angrily on her braid..." If I had a nickel for every time I've read THAT phrase!

Kyle said...

Weird that everywhere you only read gushing praise about this book. Then again, it was the same with Well of Ascension and it was quite a crapfest.

Thanks for sticking to your guns and being honest with these reviews Pat. I'm worried that Sanderson will botch the WoT series...

Daniel said...

I'd give this book a 5/10. Sadly, it was another series that hit it's peak in the first volume.

Sanderson is just....too goody two-shoes for me. I don't think he'll be able to accurately depict the Shadow in WoT to satisfy me...but who knows....

By the way...Elantris was the most overhyped fantasy novel I've ever read....total crap.

Larry said...

As I've said before, Pat, sometimes evidence can only help support someone's conclusions; I'm beginning to wonder if we've read the same story! :P

First off, nothing at all about the story itself? What was transpiring, how it was transpiring, the rate at which it was transpiring?

As for the characterization issue - was there or was there not movement/development in any of the character arcs? I seem to recall there being quite a bit of that. Whether or not it was handled adroitly is another matter, since Sanderson still has a tendency to write rather clunky sentences. I seem to recall you enjoyed Elantris the most, which is odd to me, since I found it to contain the most egregious examples of such haphazard character/dialogue construction.

But to each his own, I suppose...

Anonymous said...

"But as far as the characterization element is concerned, I'm more than a little worried. Hope I'm wrong. . ."

Pat, read only the chapter summaries :)

(I hope that Tor will publish the fragments + the outline in 2012-2013.)

cseresz

Casey said...

As someone who really couldn't care less about WoT, reading this for its own merit and not as some dark omen, I enjoyed it quite a bit but definitely agree with a lot of the criticism about character....but I do think he justified those decisions well enough for them not to break the book for me, I'm in it to take the ride the author designed not say, "I would have done this instead."

Despite my enjoyment of this and the last book, I fully agree that the series high note was the first book.

Timon said...

This book and the one before it stands as more proof that it takes quite a bit of talent to pull off "darker and edger" and make it fun (like Martin does).

I reallt like and respect Sanderson and I think he pulled off a good book, but holy hell the characters needed to a little less emo.

I personally think his style is maturing since he quit using such adverbs like "maladroitly" and "dexteriously"(however you spell that bullshit word). But that's just me.

Anonymous said...

The main problem with The Hero of Ages is that the characterization is at best simply passable, and at worst close to mediocre.

Passable and mediocre mean the same thing.

Anonymous said...

Mediocre is worst than passable. In this house anyway...

Annie

Jeff C said...

I just posted my thoughts on the first book, and while I thought it was well-written, I just didn't get emotionally involved. While I wasn't excited to jump to book 2, now I am even more unsure of when to attempt it (since many here liked book 1 the best). Oddly enough, I loved Elantris.

Cecrow said...

That's what has me concerned; I really liked Elantris, but I'm trying to look before I leap with the Mistborn trilogy. With all these conflicing opinions, the water's pretty murky.

Tomas said...

Whoa, I agree with the criticisms of this book but quite a few people seem to think Elantris was crap?!!
Please tell me what you've been reading (don't say Martin or Erikson or any of the other popular guys) so I can step my game up.

RobB said...

Pat I've got to wonder the same thing as Larry:

"I'm beginning to wonder if we've read the same story"

Especially in regard to the comment about flat characterization. If anything, I thought the gradual and subtle evolution of both Vin and Elend's character were handled pretty well. I'd even go so far as to say it was comparable (though to lesser extent) to what Robin Hobb did with Malta Vestrit.

Larry said...

Tomas,

While I do list the books I've read every so often on my blog (address in my Profile, if you're so inclined), the type of books I prefer some might label as being "literary fantasies," when talking about spec fic books (I read more outside the genre aisles than within it). So if I were to compare the characterization and dialogue found in Elantris with say that found in Steve Erickson's Arc d'X, I certainly would find Sanderson's prose to be wanting. That being said, he's improved in that department over the past three years.

Dwayne said...

@Larry and Rob: Funny how people react differently to this one. I agree 100% with Pat wrote in his review, especially regarding the characterization. I totally hated both Vin and Elend and I barely got to the ending because I couldn't stand the characters.

Different strokes for different folks I guess!

Anonymous said...

I'm trying not to read too many comments as I do not know how spoiler-aware other ppl might be so sorry if this has been mentioned already. So far I kind of agree with Pat. Though I think the damage was done in book 2 and Sanderson is traying to fix it a bit here (I am still reading it though). As for MoL, Sanderson other recent project (Warbreaker digital book) is a bliss. Intriging magic system, which I love, and the characterization is wonderful, once again back to Mistborn 1. And he's is getting only better (if you can be bother to read all his beta versions of the book, you'll see just how good he is getting -- the whole project was to show all fans a book from beginning to almost end, its been interesting to follow up that project)

Tesse said...

I have to say that my feelings about the Mistborn series are very mixed. While I almost couldn't get through the 1st half of book 2, I got through book 3 pretty quick.

Pat has mentioned it, but I'd like to note it again. Sanderson does a great job in relating details from the first books to revelations in this last book. He's very good in introducing aspects of his world slowly, keeping mysteries and leaving hints about these mysteries so that the reader can actually solve them themselves. Even if you don't solve them yourself it's fun to constantly find new revelations that explain past things.

However. The depth in which Sanderson builds his world doesn't translate to the characters, and the interaction between them. It's not that Sanderson's characters don't change, it just that they don't feel very interesting to me. Also as I said the relations between characters are often very simple, people like each other, don't like each other or like each other a little. But there's no intrigue or interaction between them as there is in f.e. Martin's books. I should mention that for some reason the side-characters like TenSoon and Spook were more interesting to read.

In the end the book was still enjoyable thanks to the interesting world, the hints and the revelations. Which makes it deserve the 7/10 it has gotten from Pat.

If you got through the first 2 books I'd definitely advise reading it. If you found the 1st hard to get through, you might want to stop there.

Anonymous said...

I just finished reading this trilogy recently and I think that while not as profund as other authors in regard of the characters personalities, the world, the message, easy reading and the battle scenes, makes up for any shortcomings in my opinion.
The low moments of introspection like Sazed's or spook's storyline, while not my favorite moments, to me they sounded mostly genuine and human. To me it was the most refreshing reading in a long time.

It seems you don't like Sanderson writing the final part of WOT, maybe he won't be the right choice, because of all the expectations and all the work left by Jordan, but considering how long the story was taking to finish (come on, some of the books had just too many fillers), he might have the oportunity to accelerate the pace (even considering the three books that it would take now).

You may disagree but after reading, all of the
"Wheel of time" series to date, "The sword of truth" series, all of the "Shannara" series and all of the "Midkemia" novels to date, I found myself enjoying the "Mistborn" series very much. Althougt I was a little disappointed with "Elantris" because of the similarities (I finished it last night).

You have a nice blog, bye.

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