Like I warned in my review for The Well of Ascension, I do not recommend reading this review before reading Final Empire and The Well of Ascension. While I will be avoiding spoilers for Hero of Ages in this review, I cannot promise avoiding spoilers for the previous two books. As another note, I will not be doing a series review for the Mistborn trilogy after this – instead, I will be waiting until all eras of Mistborn are complete and reviewed on the site, which should be sometime in the next few decades. Who knows if this website will survive that long?
Going into this third and final installment in the first Mistborn era, we finally know what the series is all about: it is about the end of the world. Of the three Mistborn books, this one is the most intellectually and philosophically interesting, exploring ideas of human and divine morality, the inimicability and miscibility of opposed forces, the nature and purpose of religion, the difference between religion and faith, the limits of skepticism…you can see why I would find it so interesting from a thought perspective, and it is a prime example of why I keep returning to Sanderson’s writing; I might come for the interesting magic systems and the creative world-building, but I stay because of his compelling insights into human nature and philosophy framed within the context of a fantasy story.
For all of its intellectual strengths, I think it is weaker than the other two books in terms of character and plotting. Vin and Elend, arguably the main characters, have already been through their main arcs, and their additional challenges in Hero of Ages fall a little flat – instead, they are mostly there to drive the plot, and they’re a little slow at doing that. Maybe it’s because this is not my first time reading the book, but it seemed to take a very long time for Vin and Elend to start solving the puzzles and problems they needed to be solving.
With Vin and Elend having already gone through their arcs, Sanderson gives us arcs for a couple of side characters: Spook and Sazed. Spook’s arc tries very hard to be a tragedy, and Sanderson does a thorough job with it – so thorough that it can be a little difficult to read, but it also works very well for the story. As for Sazed’s arc…well, I think it’s a strong one, and it has a fantastic twist at the end, but I can’t say too much here without spoiling the ending. And I really don’t want to spoil the ending, because Sanderson throws a couple of additional twists that conclude his efforts to defy and subvert fantasy tropes in spectacular fashion.
As with the other two books in the trilogy, Sanderson gives us a complete set of chapter-by-chapter annotations for Hero of Ages, which I will again recommend, especially if you are at all interested in writing, whether in understanding the authorial process, or in improving your own writing.
If you’ve read the other two books in the trilogy, and gotten to the point of reading this review, I’m not sure how much I can really say to convince you to read this book. Even though it is not my favorite of the first Mistborn era, it is still a fantastic novel, and it fulfils the promises Sanderson made us in the first and second books. There is a second era, and those reviews should start showing up in a few weeks, but in the meantime, I hope that you read Hero of Ages soon.