I don’t say it enough, but I love my brother. He is a great guy who has helped me weather a lot of life’s storms. And he told me to read The Mistborn Trilogy by Brian Sanderson.
I am a huge fantasy book reader. Have been since I could pick up a book and read. Great, original stories in the genre are very few and far between. Brian Sanderson hit a grand slam with The Mistborn Series. The characters come and alive and jump off the page. The story line is engaging and very rarely bogs down as we journey through three novels.
Sanderson’s worldbuilding is incredible. In his universe, some characters are endowed with Allomancy and some possess the gift of Feruchemy. Hemalurgy is a third system of magic which is much more violent then the previous two.
As well built as his systems of magic are, Sanderson’s chief culmination can be found in the explanation of religion and how it shaped society. There are spoilers ahead. Please continue if you do not plan on reading the books. if you do, then click here to skip the spoilers
The Lord Ruler has reigned for over a 1,000 years. His has been a cruel and oppressive regime. The Skaa workers are slaves and the nobility govern under the Lord Ruler’s thumb. The Emperor is referenced as a “Sliver of Infinity”, a god among men because of his power and immortality.
Kelsier is a Mistborn Skaa thief who imagines a plan to tear down the Final Empire and the Lord Ruler. He is a charismatic leader who finally convinces the Skaa to stand up and fight the Lord Ruler. Between all the battles and skirmishes, Kelsier has his chance to fight the Lord Ruler and is brutally murdered.
This was the master stroke and final part of his plan. He had planted seeds in the hearts of the Skaa people that he was larger than life, a legend living in their midst.
Shortly after his death, the Church of the Survivor is started and the legends of Kelsier are remembered. His words and teachings become church doctrine. Vin, his protégé, is revered as the Heir of the Survivor.
Stay with me here. It might seem as though I’m rambling incoherently, but I promise I’m building to a complete thought.
Vin, is a sixteen year old survivor of the streets and she completes Kelsier’s mission to slay the Lord Ruler. She brings the Final Empire down and sets the Skaa people free. Immediately she is revered as a holy figure and gains the title of Lady Heir.
She wants nothing to do with the fledgling religion. She is grounded in what really happened and refuses to acknowledge the larger than life legends of Kelsier, as she knew him when he was alive.
Sazed is a third protagonist in the series. He is no warrior, but a scholarly Terrisman, a Keeper who has catalogued the religions of the Final Empire. The Lord Ruler extinguished all other religions except his own. The Keepers looked forward to a day when the Final Empire was gone and they could educate the populace of how life used to be before the Lord Ruler began his regime.
At the start of the series, Sazed is a man of faith and sees truth in all 500+ religions of the world. The faith systems were in no way all the same, and in fact, contained many varying and contradictory beliefs. Sazed was able to see past these differences and see the beauty of the totality of what they represented.
At the end of the second book, a tragedy happens that affects Sazed to his innermost core. He calls into question his previous faith and becomes an agnostic atheist. The author describes Sazed’s inner turmoil so well that it made me remember when I lost my own faith. I felt the anguish and frustration that Sazed felt. We were very similar indeed.
Through a long series of events that I won’t describe here, Sazed eventually becomes the embodiment of Harmony and is able to restore his world to pristine health directly because of his knowledge of the religions of the world. It was actually quite beautiful to read!
After I finished this series, it took me about a day to analyze everything I had just read. Religion was a foundational aspect of the world Sanderson built. It played a part in every character’s life.
I love how Sanderson did not shy away from different belief systems and actually incorporated them into the very fabric of the story; not only that, but he made those belief systems integral to the ending of the book.
As sometimes happens, I believe this work of fiction tells a true story. Faith systems of all people play a crucial part in the world as we know it. We are all struggling to find meaning in life most people find that in the religion of their people group. Some shun belief altogether, but those people are in the minority.
If we were to compare the fictional Church of the Survivor to the very real Christian Church, we would find many similarities. In fact, I’d say that Sanderson modeled this storyline directly from the New Testament.
A charismatic leader rises up to lead an oppressed people and ends up dying for it. A few years later legends rise up and the deification of said leader starts. Before you know it, an entirely new faith is built.
When this happens, I believe it to be a beautiful thing. Humanity struggling to find the Other, the Divine. Isn’t that what life is all about?
This particular post is kind of an introduction to my new few entries. I intend to read Peter Enn’s new book The Bible Tells Me So and review it chapter by chapter.
The Bible was actually one of my major stumbling blocks that led me to lose my faith. (Mike McHargue writes about a very similar experience on his blog. He is a much better writer and thinker than I am. I highly recommend reading all of his thoughts!)
Pete Enn’s is a phenomenal author and scholar and I look forward to reading his latest book.