Mistborn #1. Author: Brandon Sanderson.
For a thousand years, the ash fell and no flowers bloomed. For a thousand years, the Skaa slaved in misery and lived in fear. For a thousand years, the Lord Ruler, the “Sliver of Infinity,” reigned with absolute power and ultimate terror, divinely invincible. Then, when hope was so long lost that not even its memory remained, a terribly scarred, heart-broken half-Skaa rediscovered it in the depths of the Lord Ruler’s most hellish prison. Kelsier “snapped” and found in himself the powers of a Mistborn. A brilliant thief and natural leader, he turned his talents to the ultimate caper, with the Lord Ruler himself as the mark. (Provided summary.)
I have learned, through much hard experience, not to trust a book’s summary or concept line. The book never lives up to it. Imagine my astonishment, then, when this book did. The concept line: What would the world be like if the chosen one, the hero of ages… failed? Set a hundred years after the hero could not save the world, the civilization is a brutal scene of slavery and oppression, cruelty and nobility, and constant ash over it all. None of the characters were completely reliable. They all had their good traits, but they all had moments… and there was the whole issue of trust, which could not be placed in most of them. Instead, they were believable. Relatable. Growing, changing, and human.
The point-of-view character went through an astounding transformation, but every step of the way made sense. And yes, some of them were awesome. And some of them were broken, and sometimes it was the same people. Then there was the plot. The twisted, knotted, fast-moving plot marked at junctions with death and at crossroads with doubt. This is epic fantasy at its best, spinning a single tale that reaches back into the past and forward into the future, encompassing countries and characters of every descript.
Sexual content: Clearly implied without direct statement that the overlord rapes and otherwise sexually abuses attractive female slaves. (Later, this is clearly stated: one character explains the skaa, considered less than human, are routinely subjected to this in the outerlands.) Mention of “whoremaster”. Girl says “My mother was a whore, but not by choice”. Man says the Lord Ruler makes all men of a certain race (to which the man belongs to) eunuchs. Girl remembers struggling to avoid attention so that she would not be raped. Mention of brothels. Girl is stripped to underwear in prison so she can’t hide anything, later in an escape attempt runs into a young man she knows. Character admits to having once lain with a girl in a brothel, when he was thirteen and his father told him to.
Language: 10 hell, 8 bloody, 6 d***, one derogatory name.
Violence: Death count high, but not overly detailed. Past or off-screen violence that was not included higher, and details from some of the battles were not included. An entire family is killed and house burned, off screen. Character backhands a girl across the face. Girl is whipped off-screen, not too badly hurt. Character slits a guard’s throat, beheads another, and stabs one. Characters find a room of torn apart bodies. They find a man tortured and hung. Guard cuts beggar boy’s throat. Character remembers the woman he loved/loves being beaten to death. Multiple prisoners beheaded. Crowd massacre, pov fairly removed. Character stabs another character twice in the chest with an arrow. Characters find dead body, badly mutilated. Violent battle. Inquisitor beheaded. Character killed with a spear through the body. Six men stab another man to death. Character flung across room and breaks leg. Character stabs a man on the ground through the heart.