I dove right into book two of Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy right after I finished #1. At first it was great, and then it was a bit sloggy, and then it went back to being great. Pretty par for the course in a second book, really. In fact, as a second book, I’d say The Well of Ascension is near the top of the bell curve. (Please note, the following review is chock full of spoilers for book one, Mistborn.)
The Well of Ascension picks up a year after the events of Mistborn. It’s central premise is that even though our characters purportedly reached their happy ending in book one by defeating the Lord Ruler, all that happy ending has really done is cause more problems in the form of civil unrest, anarchy, and collapsiing governmental infrastructure. Vin and Elend and the remains of Kelsier’s crew (so: everyone except Kelsier, then) have to uphold the constitutional monarchy poor naive Elend so dearly believes in while enemies descend upon them from all sides, including Elend’s tyrant of a father. Oh, and there also seems to be mystical and magical unrest of some kind happening as well, and Vin begins to believe that killing the Lord Ruler put into motion events they will not be able to stop. Like, world-destroying, apocalypse type events.
As most of the novel focuses on our characters facing the emotionally and physically draining prospect of surviving a siege, maintaining a government, and living in constant fear of assassination, it’s no surprise that the story starts to wear emotionally on us as readers, as well. Near the middle, as the worst of the drudgery was happening, I literally closed my book and screamed into my cat’s face (she was sitting in my lap being soft) ‘I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE.’ I’d have to spend some time with it to be certain, but I’m pretty sure a large chunk of the flab in middle of this novel could have been cut out.
It was a bit jarring at first to have the tone of this one and overall structure be so different from number one, but I’d been warned ahead of time that each book in the trilogy has a very different feel. The first one was all and fun and games (well, mostly) and bringing down the Evil Empire, and this one by necessity is less fun. It’s about cleaning up messes and dealing with consequences. For all of the characters, it’s about figuring out what’s next. Sanderson also continues the emotional arcs each character began in book one as well. Vin, Elend, and Sazed are the main focus, but even the supporting characters grow and change.
All in all, a good second book, but books one and three are a bit more solid (and a lot more affecting).