Rowyn (rowyn) wrote,

The Hero of Ages, by Brandon Sanderson

This is the conclusion of the Mistborn trilogy. I am going to stick with that even though Sanderson's written a fourth Mistborn book now, because this is clearly the conclusion of the story arc. It wraps up everything in a nice satisfying package. I can see how he could write more books with some of the characters and/or in the setting, but it's not like, say, A Song of Ice and Fire where each book is one more installment of a still-incomplete serial.


The series is, in many ways, pretty damn depressing. I told koogrr that it reminded me of something he'd once said: "It's like falling off a cliff and hitting every branch on the way down". You'd be thinking "Wow, this world sucks and the protagonists are in an untenable position". And then the protagonists would, after great struggle and through sheer brilliance, come up with some way to accomplish their current goal!


And then that would make things EVEN WORSE.  D:


Granted, not every time, but often enough that you would know that you never want to be a character in Sanderson novel.


I don't know what the usual name for it is, but there's a style of climax I think of as "The Hollywood Action-Movie Climax".  I don't mean 'it has a happy ending' by this, though they usually do. What I mean is this:


* the climax arrives just before the conclusion
* everything looks just about as doomed as it can possibly be. The protagonists are in an apparently hopeless situation where they're massively outgunned, beaten nearly to death, captured by the enemy, etc. DOOMED.
* The protagonists turn things around at the last possible second and save the day.


One of the reasons I like the Aubrey/Maturin books is that Patrick O'Brian doesn't follow this convention. Sometimes, his protagonists look like all is lost and they're about to lose, and then they lose. Sometimes they look like they're in a pretty good position and they'll be able to win, and then they win.  After a lot of Hollywood Action-Movie Climaxes, this kind of matter-of-fact portrayal (a) makes the book MUCH less predictable, because you don't know if there's a turnaround coming or not (sometimes there is, sometimes there isn't) and (b) it's a nice change of pace.


The Hollywood Action-Movie Climax is very popular because it's viscerally satisfying: it taps into something primal, where the joy of victory is made even sweeter after rising from the fear that accompanied all the certain doom leading up to it .  A lot of books and movies do this thing badly, where the climax feels hollow because the doom and/or victory was unconvincing. You have, say, the sense that the villain had Plot Immunity up until the point where the hero finally manages to defeat him.


Sanderson does this kind of thing well. When the antagonists do something brilliant, you can see and understand why (in retrospect). Likewise for the protagonists. Pretty much everything makes sense by the end and has been consistent throughout, with a few minor exceptions. The things that have been nagging and seeming-inconsistencies through the two prior books add up now, in a way that you can see it was planned all along. I know I say this every time I finish a Sanderson book, but I am just always impressed by it.


Anyway, it's a good book, and I am going to give it a 9 just for having put together the trilogy so well, with everything from all three books tying together in this volume even while the prior two books were reasonably satisfying on their own.

Tags: book review, books, review

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