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The Well Of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson

1/8/2010. Contributed by Ewan Angus

Buy The Well Of Ascension in the USA - or Buy The Well Of Ascension in the UK

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pub: TOR/Forge. 590 page hardback. Price: $27.95 (US), $34.95 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-7653-1688-2. pub: TOR/Forge. 781 page paperback. Price: $ 7.99 (US), $ 9.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-7653-5610-0)

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Brandon Sanderson turned fantasy conventions on their head with 'The Final Empire', the first book in the 'Mistborn' series by having his dark lord win at the beginning and then having his group of heroes defeat him one thousand years later. 'The Well Of Ascension follows this up as Vin and Elend try to create a new, democratic society following the dictatorship everyone was used to under the Lord Ruler. So whilst the first book had echoes of communism and the rising of the proletariat, this book to a certain extent mocks this, as it shows the problems with having a king along with a democratic system. It also shows how weak democracy can be through the egotistical behaviour of those who have been elected to govern.

Of course, if it was just politics then everyone would be fine. Well, the poor would still be poor and the rich would still covet more but that's not the case.

If that wasn't bad enough, Elend Venture, who was crowned king at the end of the first novel, has to contend with his father's army laying siege to his city, his best friend laying siege to his city and an assassin in his household.

This is offset by Vin's own issues. As a Mistborn, a mage with the ability to swallow metals and use them for magnetic magic like purposes, she feels alienated. Her upbringing as a homeless orphan didn't exactly lead to a strong mind for her, as she is plagued with self-doubt and as she was the one to finally kill the Lord Ruler, she has a feeling that something is wrong. By wrong, I mean there is an evil non-entity feeling going about. Like something really evil is out there waiting, biding its time to make life worse for everyone.

Written in a strong way, the novel with its political theories, love triangle and violence has a firm grasp of realism as it takes the fantasy aspects and gives them a gritty, realistic feel. If someone laid siege to your city, murdered thousands, then begged your forgiveness as your friend, would you forgive them? Yes, but at the same time you would feel that justice is needed, if you are a fair kind of person.

That's what Elend is and I love how Sanderson shows this. I won't give it away but it's brutal and brilliant.

So whilst there is the fear of an overwhelmingly powerful bad guy that subtly plays out throughout the novel, there's also a huge amount of, as if I haven't said this enough already, politics.

There is a reason why Sanderson was chosen for the completion of the late Robert Jordan's 'The Wheel Of Time'. His handling of numerous characters is deft, all of them are strong and none of them suffer due to the vast cast. He deals with the intrigue and petty politics like a literary juggler and his handling of relationships, namely friendship, makes this an excellent read.

'The Final Empire' with its schemes, plans and dreams, felt like a brilliant stand-alone novel and this sequel to the trilogy strongly carries on from it and makes you want to learn more about this bleak but beautifully realised world. The magic system is fantastic, the characters are believable and emotional and the society is dark and hopeless, but not in an uninteresting way. It is a great sequel to a powerful narrative and the cliff-hanger ending is intriguing, if not a little predictable, especially following the death of a certain character in the first novel, as it makes sense to replace him. A plot point that is noted and exaggerated by the characters throughout.

I will admit that I was a little bit sceptical in my approach to these novels in case I found myself hating them, as it would tarnish 'The Wheel Of Time' novels for me. Rest assured, my fear was ill-founded. Sanderson is an great writer with a great ability to multi-layer his novels with themes, plots and characters in a way that in no way leaves you confused or lost. A brilliant sequel to a brilliant narrative.

Ewan Angus

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