Warning: This review contains spoilers for the first two books in the series, The Final Empire and Well of Ascension
I'll start this review by trying to explain how I feel right now. I feel... empty. As if this book has taken all of my emotions from me, and all that remains is nothing but a hollow shell. I spent the last ten minutes or so openly weeping, not from sadness, but just from being so completely overwhelmed by the beauty of it all, with a deluge of so many feelings at once that I simply couldn't handle them. And now, it's as if I am nothing.
I can't remember the last time, if ever, that a book has made me feel like this.
It's true that I've loved this series from beginning to end, but as I started The Hero of Ages, I never expected that I'd have this kind of reaction to it. Actually, it took me a lot longer to get into this book than it did for the prior books in the series. Perhaps it was because I was in a bit of a Mistborn burnout, having read these books so quickly and back-to-back, but I think it was more because the world I was thrown into was so jarring.
I mean, immediately, it was as if everything I had known and grown comfortable with in the Mistborn universe had changed. Elend is a tyrant now? Not to mention, a Mistborn. As it turns out, the Lord Ruler might not have been such a bad guy, after all? And, this, of all things, is coming from Sazed?
Now, he wanted to know . . . no, he had to know . . . if the religions of the world had answers for him. He would find the truth, or he would eliminate each and every faith.
Even the style of this book was different from its predecessors. Whereas the reader experiences the first book through the eyes of Kelsier and Vin (with some occasional Elend), and the second book through the eyes of Vin, Elend, and Sazed (with the occasional random character), the third book is all over the place. Vin, Elend, Marsh, TenSoon, Spook, Sazed - so many POVs that it was initially frustrating, because the converging storylines made the plot move too slowly, and all I really wanted was to remain in my comfort zone with Vin.
But of course, that's just Sanderson doing what he does, brilliantly weaving away. And when it all comes together, it's just so, so worth it. I thought I had all of his tricks figured out by this point, but nope, I sure didn't. I still don't know how he does it - how does he create all these moments that I didn't see coming, and yet manage to have them make perfect sense? I am in awe of him.
And the questions that he forces us to face, about politics, religion, life, and everything else, are uncomfortable but full of truth. Take Elend, for example. I mean, I struggled with Elend so much in this book. Is there any such thing as a noble tyrant? Is it okay to subjugate people if it's for their own good? Was what Elend was doing really much different than what the Lord Ruler did, in his empire that we hoped so desperately would crumble in The Final Empire?
“What kind of monsters are we?” Fatren asked in a hushed tone.
“The kind we have to be,” Elend said.
It seemed like Elend had done a complete 180, and yet, he was really just doing the best he could, trying to somehow balance his ideals with the reality that the situation necessitated.
“There has to be a balance, Vin,” he said. “Somehow, we’ll find it. The balance between whom we wish to be and whom we need to be.”
I may not have liked Elend in this book, I may not have agreed with him, but I most certainly understood him.
I also struggled with Sazed in The Hero of Ages, while he searched for a religion to believe in. Religion is about faith, not truth, and yet, how do you find faith in something you don't believe to be true? Sazed was supposed to be the one person full of faith. Elend was supposed to be the one person full of idealism. And when the world had put them in situations in which they struggled with these identities, it made me uncomfortable.
I keep going back to the word uncomfortable, that this book made me uncomfortable, and well, it did. But really, that just made me love it all the more. It's easy to write a book where everything is good or evil, black or white, where the good guys are always right and true and just, and the bad guys are always wrong and false and evil. But it's the idea of balance (which is also a major theme in this book), and watching the characters be forced to face that, which just made everything feel all the more real.
I'm not saying that this book was perfect by any means, and in fact, there are a lot of things that I wish Sanderson had done differently (I won't say what, specifically, because, spoilers). After all, it's easy to compare this book to The Final Empire, which was much stronger with regard to its storyline and storytelling. Yet, despite it's flaws, The Hero of Ages manages to grab you (or me, at least) on a much deeper level, so much so that The Final Empire almost seems like "Mistborn light" in comparison. It's hard for me to put it all into words, and I'm sure that this review doesn't make any sense and is mostly full of my own ramblings, but all that really matters is that reading The Hero of Ages is an experience that I won't ever forget.