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The Well of Ascension: Book two of Mistborn    by Brandon Sanderson order for
Well of Ascension
by Brandon Sanderson
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2008 (2007)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Well of Ascension follows The Final Empire as Book two of Mistborn, a fantasy series set in a world enveloped in falling ash and unique magics. Those with powers of Allomancy can internally burn various metals for very useful results, including influence over others' minds and abilities equivalent to teleportation. Those with the power of Feruchemy can store up enhanced talents for future use by long periods of self deprivation. Mistings have individual Allomantic powers. The Mistborn have all of them.

In The Final Empire, a rebellious band of thieves and con artists led by the legendary Kelsier destroyed the seemingly invulnerable Lord Ruler, and pulled down his Empire, taking over its greatest city, Luthadel. Kelsier sacrificed himself to that goal and it was street urchin Vin, a Mistborn whom Kelsier personally trained, who destroyed the Lord Ruler, leading to her being revered by the skaa (serfs, now liberated). Vin loves bookish philosopher/aristocrat, Elend Venture, who aided their rebellion and has been chosen as King in its aftermath.

As the second episode opens, Luthadel is under siege by Elend's ruthless father, Lord Straff Venture. Soon joining the attack on the city is Lord Cett, lured by stories of the Lord Ruler's stash of atium, a metal highly valued for its use by Mistborn to see a few minutes into the future. As Vin roams the city seeking to fend off danger for her beloved, and Elend struggles with his new role and with the democratic Assembly that he established, yet another enemy advances towards the city, an army of violent, uncontrollable koloss. Still con artists at their core, Kelsier's crew seek ways to create conflict amongst their enemies and delay the city's seemingly inevitable conquest.

Against a backdrop of politics, war and betrayal (they learn that one of Kelsier's former band has been replaced by a shapeshifter, but don't know which) Vin is courted by a mysterious Mistborn, and begins to doubt her relationship with Elend. They both mature in abillity, while Vin struggles to understand what the Deepness is and whether, in killing the Lord Ruler, she has already unleashed an old evil on the world once more. All this builds to a heartstopping crescendo of a conclusion, setting the stage nicely for book three, The Hero of Ages.

2nd Review by Alex Telander:

In the riveting sequel to Mistborn: Final Empire, Sanderson doesn't hold back: the Lord Ruler is gone, but this was just the first mighty battle in an ongoing war. In The Well of Ascension, times are still hard, even though the skaa have been freed and Elend is king of Luthadel and the surrounding territories. The nobles must now learn to live in a democratic society where they cannot have slaves. It is a different world.

Before the dust even has time to settle, King Elend faces problems on various fronts: there is dissension in his democratically elected cabinet whose members wish to return to the old ways; and armies are marching toward Luthadel. Before our main characters can decide what to do, they find themselves under siege on two fronts. One is controlled by Elend's father, Lord Straff Venture, who wants his son to hand over the kingdom to him. And Lord Cett attempts to seize control of Luthadel with his own substantial army. Elend finds himself in a unique position where he can ally with one army to overthrow the other. The question is which one?

As he contemplates this a third army arrives - of koloss. These are tall (nine to fifteen feet) creatures, terrifying to humans. Originally created by the Lord Ruler for his army, their skin is extremely wrinkled and hangs off them in places like loose clothing. Their red, blood-rimmed eyes strike terror in all who view them. They may seem dumb and slow, but in battle they are fierce and destructive. They might lose control at any moment and begin rampaging into Luthadel.

Sazed, loyal to Elend and Vin, is a Terrisman, who can store memories and knowledge - as well as abilities such as strength and speed - in metal armbands. But in Sanderson's world, it's all about balance - the energy in each armband is finite. In some cases, it can take many years to accumulate but be used up in a matter of minutes. Sazed is a scholar who knows that much is awry with the world. The mists - feared throughout the realm - begin killing people and even wiping out whole villages. The Deepness - a force that was supposedly stopped by the Lord Ruler - is not fully understood and may bring terrible things to pass. Sazed seeks the location of The Well of Ascension, for it is here that the Hero of Ages (he believes this is Vin) will release the power and save the world.

OreSeur is a kandra, member of an ancient race who are able to absorb the bones of a dead person or animal and take that form. OreSeur is Lord Straff's kandra and is sent to spy on Vin, but it's also discovered that there's another of his kind somewhere within Luthadel who, given kandra abilities, could literally be anybody.

Finally there is the supposed Hero of Ages, Vin, who isn't sure what she is. She knows she is one of the most powerful people in existence, but must use her power wisely and not kill recklessly. She befriends another allomancer, Zane, who seems very familiar, and becomes close to him, for they have so much in common. Yet he is Lord Straff's allomancer and therefore an enemy.

Sanderson expands the complexity of his world, with many moral and sociological questions coming into play, while adding new plots and subplots. Though it may seem overwhelming, he skillfully keeps everything on track and maintains readers' interest throughout. It is a sequel worthy of its name, as The Well of Ascension keeps the pace going from the first book, making the reader hungry for more at the last page. The trilogy is concluded in The Hero of Ages.

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