I went into the second book of the first Mistborn series with some hesitation—I was pretty disappointed by Frank Herbert’s Dune Messiah, the sequel to Dune. Brandon Sanderson did not, however, disappoint.
The impossible is done: the Lord Ruler—a god—is defeated! But his last words to Vin and her crew are chilling: “You don’t know what I do for mankind. I was your god, even if you couldn’t see it. By killing me, you have doomed yourselves…” Perhaps, he is just spewing nonsense right after his defeat—unable to accept his loss. His words bother Vin, nonetheless: why did he say “what I do” and not “what I did“? Everyone knows that the Lord Ruler became what he is—a powerful, god-like allomancer—after he drew power from the Well of Ascension and defeated the Deepness, a greater evil than the immortal tyrant himself. Had he not defeated the Deepness once and for all? What else did he presently do for mankind?
With the Lord Ruler disposed of, Elend, an ill-equipped idealist, becomes the new king. His radically opposite policies of democracy and equality are almost too good at the heels of a tyrannical, oligarchical, and slave-powered economy and politics. Nobles, rising merchants, and recently freed Skaa begrudgingly tolerate each other in Luthadel, the capital of what was the Final Empire. Elend barely has his throne. He’ll be lucky to have his city when there are not one but three armies ready to siege and conquer Luthadel: a wild Cett, a rouge Jastes, and a malicious Straff Venture—Elend’s father.
While everyone focuses on protecting Luthadel from any of or all three armies, Vin and Sazed stumble upon the greater evil that the Lord Ruler forewarned: the Deepness is coming back. What is it? Why was—is—it so terrible? How did the Lord Ruler defeat or keep it at bay? Can the Well of Ascension give her the powers necessary to hold back the Deepness, just like how the Lord Ruler did? The more Vin and Sazed dig into the Deepness, the more they realize that this is a greater evil than the three armies combined. Vin needs to find the Well of Ascension, perhaps she is the Hero of Ages foretold. Or perhaps not.
Unlike The Final Empire, The Well of Ascension is more political, especially how Elend develops as a king and ruler as he negotiates with three armies and their three equally crazed leaders. Sazed, the poised Terrisman, undergoes a terrific and tragic character development. Vin, the self-doubting heroine, is a bit more frantic in this book. I mean, she is the sole Mistborn in Luthadel, charged by Kelsier the Survivor at his death to protect his and her friends and her lover Elend. Breeze was another I enjoyed with his literary-time (also the tone and cadence that Michael Kramer voices for Breeze is just delightful).