Mistborn is a series written by Brandon Sanderson. The first book, The Final Empire, was released in July 2006. The next two books of the trilogy, The Well of Ascension and The Hero of Ages, were released over the next couple of years, the final book in 2008. Brandon Sanderson crafts a fantastical world filled with despair and magic, one that goes into the depths of human character – both good and bad. Below, you will find information on Mistborn’s setting, magic, characters, author biography, general plot, and the series’ reception and popularity.
Mistborn takes place in an entirely fictional world named Scadrial. Scadrial is much different when compared to Earth. The sun and sky are red, the plants are predominately brown, and great clouds of black volcanic ash covers everything. The series primarily takes place in a location called the Final Empire, ruled by the Lord Ruler.
The Lord Ruler has reigned for a thousand years. Before he took the throne, he gained access to a power called the Well of Ascension, which allowed him to remake the world as he saw fit. All the changes to Scadrial in the book that might seem different from the usual stemmed from the Lord Ruler. To gain such power, he had to defeat an ancient danger called the Deepness. Not much is known about this threat.
The Lord Ruler reigns from his palace, Kredik Shaw, in the capital city, Luthadel. From here, he has absolute control over all the Final Empire. In his kingdom, he has instituted two casts of people, the nobility and the skaa. The aristocracy are descendants of those who supported him in his rise to power one thousand years ago. The skaa are descendants of those who did not support him.
The Lord Ruler blessed the nobility with Allomancy, a great power hitherto unseen in Scadrial. The skaa were given nothing. The nobility and skaa were forbidden from interbreeding with each other, to ensure only the nobility from having Allomantic powers. Any skaa who do gain Allomantic abilities must have some noble blood running through their veins.
The skaa are treated horribly by the Lord Ruler. They are subject to his will in all things. The law states that they belong to him, and he often loans the skaa out to the nobility for work and different projects. They are little more than slaves.
Brandon Sanderson’s magic system he crafts in Mistborn is one of the most highly regarded in literature. He has a very logical, hard-magic based system he uses very creatively and efficiently. Three types of magic exist in the world of Scadrial. Each one pertains to a type of energy cost and somehow relate to metal. One for energy gain, one for balance, and one for energy loss. The three types are Allomancy, Feruchemy, and Hemalurgy.
Allomancy is the ability to ingest certain types of metal and ‘burn’ them, granting the Allomancer power based on the type of metal burned. Allomancy is inherited genetically. As previously mentioned, it originated in the nobility of the Final Empire and predominately stays with them, though there are a few outliers. Two types of Allomancers exist, Mistings and Mistborn. Mistings can only burn one type of metal, while Mistborn can burn every single one. A person is either a Misting or a Mistborn; no Allomancers can burn any number of metal besides one or all.
Nineteen metals can be burned, though, during the events of Mistborn, only ten are known. A Misting is given a name based on the type of metal they can burn. Below are a list of metals and what abilities they impart.
Steel (Coinshot): Grants the ability to push on nearby metals
Iron (Lurcher): Grants the ability to pull on nearby metals
Zinc (Rioter): Grants the ability to incite and inflame emotions within others
Brass (Soother): Grants the ability to dampen and calm emotions within others
Pewter (Thug): Increases all physical abilities
Tin (Tineye): Increases all physical senses
Copper (Smoker): Hides any usage of Allomantic abilities
Bronze (Seeker): Detects the usage of Allomantic abilities
Duralumin (Duralumin Gnat): Enhances the current metal being burned, only useful to Mistborn
Aluminum (Aluminum Gnat): Wipes any internal Allomantic reserves, only useful to Mistborn
Gold (Augur): Reveals the past of the burner
Electrum (Oracle): Reveals the future of the burner
Nicrosil (Nicroburst): Enhances the Allomantic burn, and thus the power, of the target
Chromium (Leecher): Wipes the Allomantic reserves of the target
Cadmium (Pulser): Slows down the flow of time
Bendalloy (Slider): Speeds up the flow of time
Lerasium: A metal that can be burned by anyone, turning them into a Mistborn
Atium: A metal, similar to Electrum, but one that allows them to see into the ‘general’ future, rather than just their own
Malatium: An alloy of Atium and Gold that allows the burner to see in the past of someone else rather than just their own
Feruchemy and its wielders are all about balance. Their magic has no net gain or net loss of energy. Instead, they simply change the time in which they use a particular aspect of themselves. Feruchemy is an ability only found within those born in the Terris region of the Final Empire. The Lord Ruler almost exterminated all Feruchemists, though some few managed to survive.
A Feruchemist’s abilities lie in the storage and later use of certain aspects of themselves. They do this by wearing metal, keeping it in physical contact with their bodies. Feruchemists call the metal they wear ‘metalminds.’ The types of metal used are the same as in Allomancy, though the attributes of the user they store are different than the Allomantic abilities. To store an aspect, a Feruchemist must go without that aspect for all the time they store it. Whenever the wish, the wielder can call upon their stored aspect, becoming superhumanly powerful for a short time. A person who can only use one Feruchemical metal is called a ‘Ferring,’ while a person who can use all Feruchemical metals is called a Feruchemist. Below is the list of metals once again, the aspects a Feruchemist can store within them, and the names given to Ferrings who wield the metal.
Iron (Skimmer): Weight
Steel (Steelrunner): Physical speed
Zinc (Sparker): Cognitive Speed
Brass (Firesoul): Warmth
Tin (Windwhisper): Physical senses
Pewter (Brute): Physical strength
Copper (Archivist): Memories
Bronze (Sentry): Wakefulness
Chromium (Spinner): Fortune and luck
Nicrosil (Soulbearer): Investiture, little is known about this type of Feruchemy
Cadmium (Gasper): Breath and the ability to breathe
Bendalloy (Subsumer): Energy
Aluminum (Trueself): Identity
Duralumin (Connector): Connection – the ability to form connections with others
Gold (Bloodmaker): Health, wellbeing, and recovery
Electrum (Pinnacle): Determination
Atium: Age (note: does not effectively grant immortality)
Hemalurgy, the third and final magical powers present within the people of Scadrial. Of the three powers, this one is the least known. Hemalurgy is a net loss of energy and power due to its nature. This magic allows the wielder to steal Feruchemical and Allomantic abilities from their wielders, permanently. In the process of stealing, some of the overall strength of the ability is lost.
Hemalurgic users steal powers by crafting a special metal spike and driving it through specific points of an Allomantic and Feruchemical magic-user. The spike must then be removed and driven through a certain point of the Hemalurge, granting them the power within the metal. The longer the metal spends outside the body of the Hemalurge, the more power it loses. Thus, a Hemalurge will often drive their metal spike through another magic user’s heart while directly behind them. The spike pierces the heart, and the tip exits the body, immediately piercing the body of the Hemalurge standing behind their victim. This technique allows for as little power loss as possible, though some still inevitably occurs. The power acquired depends on the metal used to create the spike.
Brandon Sanderson was born in December 1975 in Lincoln, Nebraska. In his early life, he had a great love of reading. Unfortunately, this love was cooled by the suggestions of those around him and lack of interest in the material. But this love was rekindled by his eighth-grade teacher, who introduced him to fantasy and science fiction. Sanderson immediately fell in love with the genre and made some initial attempts at writing his own.
Upon entering college at Brigham Young University, Sanderson initially majored in biochemistry; his mother wanted him to become a doctor. He also wrote on his own quite often. When he embarked on a mission as a part of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Seoul, Korea, he found what he missed most was not biochemistry and medicine, but his writing.
Upon returning home, Sanderson became an English major. He supported himself with night jobs and wrote many different stories. For a time, no publishing company would pick his stories up, but he kept persevering. Tor published the first novel he ever released. Elantris debuted in 2005 and received extremely positive reviews. Over the next few years, Sanderson would publish the wildly popular Mistborn series and the beginning books to his long, epic fantasy series The Stormlight Archive.
Mistborn follows the story of Vin, a skaa born with the abilities of a Mistborn. She and a motley group of skaa and nobles attempt to take down the Lord Ruler, the Final Empire’s tyrannical king. He rules with an iron fist, only those few who have his favor live any sort of decent life. He remade the world with his great power as he saw fit, turning the sun and sky red, the plants brown, and volcanic ash everywhere. But killing him will be no easy feat. The Lord Ruler holds the power of the Well of Ascension, granting him terrifying magical abilities hitherto unseen on the world of Scadrial.
Mistborn was hugely popular with its release. It received thousands of positive reviews and was the bestseller in several categories. Mistborn also received another trilogy set in the same world, only a few centuries after the final book’s events.
Sanderson also helped develop a board game related to the series called Mistborn: House War. A role-playing game produced by Crafty Games was released in 2011 in PDF, hardcover, and softcover versions. Sanderson initially sold the movie rights to Paloppa Pictures LLC, though they eventually made their way to DMG Entertainment. As of March 2020, Sanderson announced he is working on the first book’s screenplay, Mistborn: The Final Empire. A screenwriter has also been hired to help develop the possible film.