When you pick up a Brandon Sanderson novel, you can be assured of an epic fantasy that does not follow the usual fantasy tropes, yet gives you everything you love about epic fantasy in the first place.
Well of Ascension is no different.
The second book in the Mistborn trilogy starts a year after the fall of the evil Lord Ruler in the first book, Mistborn. The Final Empire has fractured into several states, each ruled by a tyrant not much better than the Lord Ruler.
All except the Final Empire’s old capital Luthadel, where the idealistic Elend Venture has set up a parliamentary government, giving the skaa (the former slave/peasant class) the freedom they haven’t had in a thousand years. Back are Elend’s Mistborn lover Vin and her heroic crew of Allomancers who overthrew the Lord Ruler, but now the former scoundrels and thieves have positions of responsibility in the new government.
And responsibility for running a city is proving harder for them than overthrowing an evil tyrant. Aristocrats grumble and bicker, the skaa worship Vin as a god-like protector, and now two armies are encamped outside Luthadel and threatening to raze the city.
Meanwhile an ancient evil called the Deepness is rising again. Vin discovers that the fabled Well of Ascension can not only stop the Deepness, but keep Luthadel free of the tyrants besieging it.
Sanderson does his best to give us all the “cool” magic, battles, and monsters that fans of epic fantasy enjoy, while at the same time adding something new to the genre. While the Well of Ascension is the main “Macguffin” in this story, I like how the book does not fall into the standard quest plot. And when the heroes finally do find the Well, it turns out to be something they wish they’d never found.
Sanderson juggles a lot of different story lines, and does a fine job presenting the angst of the main characters in their new roles of leadership and responsibility. Sometimes he does his job too well, occasionally having the same characters complain about the same issues multiple times. The book might have been 100 pages shorter had he consolidated some of those redundant scenes.
But that minor quibble aside, I found the book to be a worthy follow-up to Mistborn, and an engaging set-up for the final book The Hero of Ages. Highly recommended.