Shadows Beneath The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson

This is the fourth time I’ve read this book. There’s a reason I keep coming back to it. In some ways, it’s a really simple book. But in other ways, it’s super complex. Is it a mystery like I proposed in my last blog post? Some may say that it isn’t. At least not in the traditional “murder mystery” kind of way. But mystery and intrigue is sprinkled throughout the book. And even though I knew all its secrets, I still cried. And if you’ve read it, you know exactly which part(s) made me cry. The cool thing about this latest read of The Final Empire is that this is the first time I’ve read it since becoming a writer. (Disclaimer: there may be some spoilers in this post.)

The first time I read it, I loved it! Loved it as a good book to curl up with and read on an any kind of day that you like to curl up with a book and read kind of book. I may not have realized the complexity of all the pieces in the puzzle that first time through, but I still recognized it as brilliantly written. I think it was the characters that drew me into the story. If the characters are done right, who cares about the rest, right? Well, I take that back. I have read a story where the characters, no half the characters were done right and it kept me reading but I hated the book. So, let me know if you’ve found a book where all the characters were awesome but the story didn’t work for you. As a side note, I think Kelsier was my favorite character the first time through.

The second time I read it was right after I had finished reading several other Brandon Sanderson books and to be honest, I wasn’t as taken with it as I was the first time. I attribute this feeling about the book to the fact that Sanderson tends to find a formula that works and uses it over and over again. Take for instance, his boy meets girl or girl meets boy scenario. The fact that Vin and Elend would end up together was quite obvious. And for a mystery, I suppose it’s okay to have some things not a mystery. Their relationship was the classic, you annoy me, I annoy you but there’s just something I can’t put my finger on about you and I think I want to know you better until it’s too late, there’s no turning back kind of relationship. Not to mention all the other tropes he uses throughout the book. I know I said the characters were well done, but if you think about several of them, they’re characters that have been done again and again in other works with the only thing unique about them being the cool magic system or the world building they happen to be in. Even Sanderson admits that it wasn’t till after the series was written that he realized he had almost an entirely male cast of characters to accompany his main female character. I remember him saying that if he were to do it over again, he would change that.

The third time worked like a charm. No, seriously, I enjoyed it again and got over the whole romance thing. I vaguely remember being intrigued by all the quotes at the beginnings of the chapters, something I think that can only be appreciated at its fullest when you know the whole of the story. After you already care about the characters, that’s when you can dive into the rich world building and just enjoy all the little nuggets along the way. And if there’s anything you know about Sanderson, it’s that he is one of the leading experts on world building now-a-days. That being said, The Mistborn Trilogy were some of his earlier works and for that reason, I think it’s safe to say that he did a fantastic job even with the few hangups that I’ve read some people have with his writing in the book.

The things I’ve seen people say they don’t like about the book are: the dialogue, the way the characters interacted with one another, flat characters, simplistic prose, repetitive actions (raised an eyebrow, etc.), and moral naivete. Having read it now, as a writer myself, I totally agree with the dialogue not being the best. He used it a lot to explain the plot and it ended up not being very realistic and more telling than showing. This is something Sanderson has improved a great deal on since writing Mistborn. As for the flat characters, I sort of addressed this above. I think the characters are deep enough for the kind of story that he told. And I kind of like the simplistic prose, especially when the magic system is full of unfamiliar terms that the reader has to learn. It’s nice to not have to parse out the language on top of Allomancy. Again, the repetitive actions, I see them in the book now, but in all honesty they didn’t make me stumble while I was reading, mainly because his action scenes are so well written. And as for the moral naivete, who needs constant gray morals in all the books you read? Sometimes a little moral naivete is just what one needs. It definitely makes it more child friendly.

That’s it. There’s my musings on The Final Empire. Did you enjoy the book? What qualms do you have with it if any? Our next book of the month is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. See you in a couple of weeks. Happy Reading!

2 comments

  1. I finished “The Final Empire” just a couple days ago! What an exciting read! But I did have trouble really getting into it at first. I didn’t enjoy it as much as Sanderson’s Stormlight Archives and his Reckoners series. Like you said, the dialogue was a bit stilted. Also, several passages felt pretty dense, and I cringed at some of the gruesome scenes. There were certainly some pretty graphic descriptions!
    My favorite characters were Vin, Breeze, and Dox. πŸ™‚ It was super fun getting to follow Vin on her “My Fair Lady” transformation. And I really enjoyed the camaraderie and all the bantering that went on in Kelsier’s team. Their wisecracks had me laughing out loud more than once! And I loved how you described the romance trope in this book–that was spot-on! πŸ˜‰
    And I found Marsh pretty intriguing; Sanderson did a cool job of setting him up as a contrast to Kelsier, especially with their personalities.
    Speaking of Marsh and Kelsier, the ending of this novel left me feeling really sad, shocked, and a bit confused. I love happily-ever-after endings, and this wasn’t a happy ending when looked at from Kelsier’s POV. 😦 However, I am glad that Vin and Elend ended up together, and that the villain was vanquished! That’s always a plus. πŸ˜‰
    Although it seems that most of Sanderson’s endings can be rather strange (I’m thinking of the third Reckoner’s book here), he does always include a super awesome plot twist! I always look forward to those. πŸ™‚ And as always, his magic system in this book is it’s biggest selling point. The allomancy was so fascinating!
    Can’t wait for our discussion of “To Kill a Mockingbird” later this month! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love that you chose to compare it to Sanderson’s epic fantasy and to his YA superhero novels, because I feel like The Mistborn Trilogy was some sort of combination like he was trying to write a YA epic fantasy. This may contribute to some of the problems we’ve mentioned: having trouble getting into the story (i.e. a large introduction to a new world and what it’s like but not from the main character’s POV), dialogue, etc.. I think he wanted the story to be bigger than it was and at the same time not as big as it was. Does that make sense? Too big in the sense that he had to cram in all the details by telling us through dialogue or other means, and too small in the sense that the characters didn’t have enough room to be developed. Basically, he tried to make it a YA but didn’t quite capture what YA characters are like and he tried to make it an epic fantasy but didn’t develop it enough to qualify.

      Anyway, I’m glad you mentioned Marsh. I like what you said about him being contrasted with Kelsier. I didn’t see that till now. But I do like Marsh. I think his part in the next two books is very interesting, though maybe not what you would like. I think this is where you and I differ in our tastes in books. While I do enjoy a good happy ending, I can also enjoy the not so happy endings too. Keep in mind that The Final Empire was the first in a trilogy, so you’ve only read 1/3 of the story. But that also means that if the other two are anything like the first (hint: they are) there will be more sadness to come, but also, more happiness.

      Thanks for reading along with me!

      Like

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