Jean, 39, lover of sci-fi, horror and fantasy, reader of comic books, conqueror of genre fiction.
It's extremely difficult for something to live up to its reputation. Right before this novel, I read another fantasy book with a sterling reputation that very nearly sneaked onto my DNF shelf, so I began this one with a certain amount of trepidation. I've had trouble reading lately, for a variety of reasons, and the first sign that this was going to be a good read was that I kept trying.
It starts a bit slowly. There's a lot of exposition that has to go into world building this unique and detailed, but I think Sanderson did the right thing: instead of just dumping it all on the reader, he made the clever decision to show AND tell with some fantastic early training scenes. This isn't your typical Tolkien-esque fantasy world; the system of magic and an almost historically familiar just pre-industrialized world of plantations and an enslaved race, as well as likable, unusually low-key characters, were enough sustain it until the story started picking up.
And it does, after about the first third. Don't get me wrong, it's not the most original thing ever, not at its core. The basics are these: a youth at the complete ass-end of the universe with secret magical powers gets discovered by an older mentor with the same magical powers, and trained; said mentor enlists the youth's help to overthrow the evil government, led by a shadowy emperor figure, who they have to figure out how to kill. Not that that makes it derivative at all, but simply it taps into that language of mythology (no, Star Wars didn't do it first. King Arthur didn't even do it first!) But it's also joined by questions of religion: Who has the right to call themselves a savior, how is one made, and what if one was charismatic enough to be a leader, but it's another who actually has the heart and power to do the miraculous?
Vin is that rare female character, the one that everyone says they want but rarely then take to (I saw a lot of dislike, looking the book up): she's a person before a woman. Which sounds like a backhanded compliment, but switch that around, a woman before a person, and you get the trap that most authors who try to write STRONG (in capitals) women fall into. She's not just a jumble of characteristics and gender traits, whether typically feminine or tomboyish. Her personality feels real, if not as bombastic as a sassy heroine might typically be.
And Kelsier was fantastic, someone who's been through something he was never meant to survive, and lost the person who meant most to him (two, he thinks, by the end of the book) and keeps smiling nevertheless. People, even his friends, underestimate both him and his motives because of it. While these aren't the most complex characters I've read, they seem more real to me than others.
And Sazed is simply awesome. More than that shouldn't need to be said. Read it: you'll see!
And while I'd managed to figure one thing out about the ending, I didn't guess the BIG SECRET (though... figuring out the first thing really ought to have made me think of the BIG TWIST, and others might not be quite as shocked as I was.)
The rare fantasy novel that doesn't feel the need to use YE OLDE language, but isn't simplistic or workmanlike either. I'm definitely in this series for the long haul!