The Final Empire opens with a panoramic view, sweeping across the fields of a nobleman whilst he sits idly on his horse and watches his slaves -the skaa – labour in nearly barren, ash covered, fields. A thousand years ago a darkness came to the land and a hero was to rise up to protect mankind, but instead the darkness was simply held back by The Lord Ruler. The immortal emperor united – through tyranny and subjugation – all lands and peoples to form The Final Empire. Those who accepted his rule became nobles whilst those who opposed him were cast down as slaves – a thousand years on and these slaves are mistreated and murdered by the nobles, and no-one calls out for justice.
Then comes the survivor, Kelsier – a skaa who worked the Pits of Hathsin and lived, a man who is now Mistborn. Few Mistborn are born to the nobles and none to the skaa, so how is it that he is an exception? Why did he get the Mistborn’s ability to use allomancy, which lets him access superhuman abilities? There are many questions one can ask about Kelsier, but everyone knows these things for sure; Kelsier has lost nearly everything dear to him. He’s on a mission to bring the empire to its knees; he seeks vengeance; he seeks to murder nobles; he seeks revolution – and he finds Vin.
Vin is a skaa street urchin living with a ruthless gang of thieves, who dodge the Lord Rulers Obligators and Inquisitors and steal from skaa and nobles alike. A scrawny girl who has survived against all the odds, Vin is a study in contrasts. She has both youthful naïveté and street smarts. She’s average looking but moves with an entrancing catlike grace. It’s almost as though everything you think Vin is, she is not – and she’s not the only one of Kelsier’s crew who is other than she seems.
The world of The Final Empire is breathtaking, though more so in elegant story-telling than in conventional beauty. Soot covered farmlands, drab cityscapes, mist cloaked nights and sinister spirits capture the imagination. Although dystopian fiction is more commonly urban and futuristic, this fantasy has several of the elements – oppression, suppression, and a rigid overseeing and policing of the population by a dictator. Yet there’s more to this world than dystopia. With a painful past and a deadly future mission looming, romance is the last thing on Vin’s mind, but love doesn’t wait for the best of times. When the sixteen-year-old falls in love for the first time it’s not the whirlwind we’d expect her romance to be, instead of a wild affair it’s a slow burn, but since the object of her affection is a Noble, it could also turn Kelsier’s plans to ash.
The Final Empire provides chills and thrills galore. It’s action-packed, and the plot unfolds perfectly through a mix of suspense, humour, romance, and drama. Kelsier’s group are endearing, but in a revolution, there will be casualties, and it’s not always easy to predict who will fall 😥 Not a YA novel by genre, I’m happy to recommend it to older teens. The romance is chaste in comparison to many YA novels, and although it’s gory in parts, even the most graphic battle scenes don’t reach the level of violence depicted in some YA horrors (e.g. Ashes by Ilse J Bick)