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The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#101 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty-Six

Vin and Elend discuss going into Straff's Camp

In the original version of this particular chapter, I had Vin think that Elend's idea to go into Straff's camp was terrible. She thought it was too dangerous, even foolhardy. And, since Vin is generally a very competent and trustworthy character, the readers agreed with her. They all thought that Elend was doing something incredibly stupid in this chapter.

Now, what I had been TRYING to do was have her offer strong objections, then get brought around by the end of the sequence to admitting that Elend was right. Unfortunately, that just didn't work for this scene. The plan was crazy enough that readers were already inclined to thinking it was crazy. When I instead switched the narrative so that Vin had a grudging, yet favorable, opinion of the visit to Straff's camp. With her weight of trust behind the endeavor, suddenly readers had no problem with what Elend is doing.

Readers trust Vin more than Elend, which makes sense. If she tells them that something is a good idea, they're more likely to go along with it. It was an important lesson for me as a writer. I realized that Elend needed Vin's support in these early chapters otherwise he wouldn't have the readers' support. He is untrained and is stumbling as he tries to learn. In order for us to trust him, Vin needs to.

/r/books AMA 2015 ()
#103 Copy


When you wrote the epigraphs to the third book, how much were you expecting to lead readers astray? How loony is it that I thought their author was TenSoon for most of the book? (After all, he is not a man, but a force. He defended his ways, yet violated them. He was their savior, yet they called him heretic.)

Brandon Sanderson

I wanted very much for people to think they'd figured it out. I was actually annoyed when my editor wrote in the jacket copy a question, implying that the identity of the Hero was a mystery. I wanted people to assume it was Vin.

Words of Radiance Philadelphia signing ()
#104 Copy


Which of your characters do you think would win in a fight?

Brandon Sanderson

At what stage in their career?


Not the Slivers.

Brandon Sanderson

Okay, so they don't count, the Shards of Adonalsium don't count… Does Kelsier have atium?


Yes, atium exists.

Brandon Sanderson

A Mistborn burning atium is really hard to beat in any other way.


So you think that Kelsier would beat Vin?

Brandon Sanderson

Oh, Kelsier would beat Vin if he had atium and she didn't. If they both did? Vin has more raw talent, Kelsier has a lot more experience. So if you can pick Vin after she's had more experience she will give him a fair fight, but before that she will not.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#105 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fifty

Vin Tries to Defeat the Sedative

That's our dear, impulsive Vin. Drinking the drugged wine before five minutes had passed. Elend would have stewed in the cavern for days before making that same decision.

I went back and forth on how difficult it might be to open those cans. I figured it wouldn't be too difficult for an Allomancer with pewter. However, what about a regular person—which is what Vin would become once her pewter ran out? I wouldn't want to try opening a sealed can without some kind of tool. Maybe slamming one against the ground enough would crack it and let her suck the juices out.

Either way, I think she made the right decision here. She knows that Yomen is, at least, a reasonable man. Besides, hanging out in that cave listening to Ruin laugh at her wasn't particularly good for her sanity.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#106 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

The Storage Caches

One of the major revisions I made to the book during drafting was to reduce the number of storage caches. Originally I'd planned for eleven or twelve. The one here in Vetitan was still going to be the penultimate, with Fadrex being the last—the team just would have discovered more of them between books.

I changed this in order to make the cache in Fadrex seem more important. I wanted to get across the idea that taking that city was vital to the plans and goals of the team, and making it have one of five caches instead of one of twelve seemed to help with that.

In the first draft, the major draw of the final cache was the hope that it contained atium. But I realized that atium just wasn't that useful anymore—or, at least, many of the reasons it might have been useful are no longer important to the characters. Vin's instinct is right—the atium is more important than it might seem at first, but the original draft made it look like they were chasing a hope for something that wasn't even very useful. So, during revisions, I inserted Elend's acknowledgment that they don't really need atium, and I also added Vin's instinct that it's vital. We'll see how this plays out.

Of course, the reason Vin has an instinct that atium is vital is because of Ruin's touch on her emotions, driving her to seek out the final cache, where Ruin himself hopes to find that atium. To him, Vin and Elend are just another pair of pawns—in some ways more useful than Inquisitors because they don't even know they're following his goals. Ruin isn't sure if these caches will have the atium—he's in fact rather suspicious that this is a ruse of the Lord Ruler—but he's willing to dedicate some resources to the possibility, hence what he did to send Elend and Vin searching out the caches. He worries that there will be some kind of guard set at the final cache or the atium that has been told to watch for Inquisitors and keep them away, and he feels that using Vin and Elend is both more clever and potentially more effective than just sending an Inquisitor.

Calamity release party ()
#107 Copy


What would have happened if Vin had actually met up with Hoid in Mistborn-- er-- Hero of Ages?

Brandon Sanderson

Eh... Have you read Secret History?


I-- I have never heard of Secret-- I'm kind of new to the cosmere.

Brandon Sanderson

There is a short-- or a novella called Mistborn: Secret History that you should read that has a little bit to do with this. It doesn't answer that question exactly, but read it and then ask again, okay?

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#108 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Forty-Three

Vin Looks over Elend at Night, then Zane Arrives

So Vin makes her decision here. Yes, she's been manipulated. But, as Breeze is fond of saying, we all manipulate each other all of the time. Zane didn't get her to do anything that she didn't already lean toward doing.

That said, Zane IS a master at manipulating people. I wanted him to be brilliant at playing with people's emotions. He's been Soothing and Rioting Vin for most of this book, but only very subtly. You rarely get to see that explicitly, since when it's happening, we're in her head and her emotions just feel like emotions to her. But watch the narrative and you'll see little spikes of emotion caused by Zane.

Even without emotional Allomancy, however, I hope that you can see why Vin made the decision that she did. It's important for me, and this book, that she does what she does next. She had to try the violent way. She had to give in, I think. It was always there, hovering so close to her, that if she'd rejected it without ever trying, I think it would have felt like a worthless rejection.

Now, however, the danger with tasting Zane's way is that she'll give in completely.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#109 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Kandra are a race that will also get a lot of development as the series progresses. During the development of this book, I tried to resist using the "there's a spy among us" plot, but in the end, I just couldn't do it. The pieces were all there, and I wanted to play with the concepts of trust and reliability.

In the first book, Vin learned to trust. She learned that it was better to trust and be betrayed than to suspect everyone. The nice twist on that in book one was that there WAS no traitor in the book. Everyone stayed true to Kelsier and his vision.

So, in this book, I had to sew seeds of distrust. I wanted Vin to have to deal with those problems again, and really have to confront her suspicions and paranoia. The only way to do that was to have her begin suspecting members of the crew.

Besides, you don't just put in a race of shapeshifters then ignore the tension of people wondering if someone they know has been replaced. That would just be irresponsible.

Stormlight Three Update #4 ()
#110 Copy


You suggested Secret History gave the definitive explanation why Vin didn't meet Hoid but many years ago you hinted at something different (that something he does spooked her and she is too observant for her own good). Can you reveal what the original reason you had intended was? (My favorite theories were eerily skillful humming and her picking up very faint pulses from his Investiture usage.)

Brandon Sanderson

I went back and forth on this one, honestly. I knew Kelsier would be involved, but one thing I was really worried about with Secret History was undermining Vin's story or her agency. While I liked Ender's Shadow, the closest parallel I knew of to a story like this, I didn't like how it weakened a lot of what Ender accomplished and gave it to Bean instead. (I think I've mentioned this in conjunction with Secret History before.)

So I wanted something to have stopped Vin, regardless of whether or not I ever wrote Kelsier's behind-the-scenes story or not. The official answer in my head is not that it was anything specific, but that the whole package that Hoid was presenting was WRONG to her. Her instincts picked up a dozen subtle cues that he was more dangerous than he seemed, and that made her freeze and assess. And that gave Kelsier the chance to nudge her away.

I wasn't trying to lead people to figure out a specific answer, with those comments. I was trying to hint that something was wrong, and Vin didn't quite know what set her off--because it wasn't one thing, but many. So I don't have a smoking gun, so to speak, of things Hoid was doing to drive her off.

Mistborn: The Final Empire Annotations ()
#111 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirty - Part Two

Here's my original journal entry for this chapter, written right after I finished the chapter itself:

Chapter Thirty: Vin saves Elend at the party.Finished 5-19-04

It's wonderful when a chapter turns out just the way you envisioned it.

I worked on this chapter for a long time–from the beginning of the planning process, I imagined this as one of the major action sequences in the book. I began with the image of Vin shooting up through the air as the rose window twisted and fell beneath her in the mists, then I expanded that to her protecting Elend, giving Vin a real scene of heroism. Originally, I wasn't intending her to fight the Allomancers, just to lead them away, but I decided that I needed a pure Mistborn-on-Mistborn fight in the book. Every other Allomantic battle involves Inquisitors.

The scenes in this chapter are some of my favorite so far. Though, oddly, it took me a long time to get into them–I hedged over what the first part of the chapter should entail. Eventually, I decided that this would be a perfect place to give Vin some abandonment issues. This is a hold-over from the original Vin from the first Final Empire [Prime] write–the fear of abandonment was a large part of that Vin’s personality. It worked well in this setting, and I think I'll emphasize it just a bit more in the rewrite. The next chapter really plays off of this idea.

It feels a little bit weird to be writing about a young girl running around killing people in her skivvies, but I don't really see any reasonable way for her to fight in one of those bulky ball gowns I'm using in this book. So, underwear it is!

Kliss and Shan have both come to have much larger parts in the book than I'd intended. Kliss was intended to be a throw-away character used in one chapter, but now she's become an informant and a conspirator. In a rewrite, I think I'll have to introduce her sooner and try and give her a more distinctive personality. As for Shan. . .well, I only added her a couple of chapters ago. Obviously, she'll need more time in the rewrite as well. Vin's battle will be much better if I can have her fight a named character that's been an antagonist in a few chapters. The Vin ball scenes have become a larger part of the book than I had thought, and adding Kliss and Shan as recurring characters will help flesh out that plot-line, I think.

Like how I ditch Sazed in this chapter so that I can have Vin's "grand" entrance in the next chapter? Pretty smooth, eh? I was worried about how I was going to deal with him. . . . As for the actual fight and the scenes, I think everything flowed quite well. We'll see what readers think!

(Note, when I wrote this, Elantris wasn’t even out yet–it was still over a year away from publication–so I really had no idea if people would be responding well to my writing or not.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#113 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

OreSeur and Vin discuss their interview with Dockson

This series, in total, is about trust. About what it costs to trust people, and what you earn by trusting. In book one, Vin learned to trust–and she learned one of Kelsier's prime beliefs. That it's better to trust, and be betrayed, than to always worry about everyone around you.

The theme, then, for this book is service and friendship, and trusting those you serve. Elend has to earn the trust of his people. Vin has to earn the trust of the kandra who serves her.

OreSeur's explanations about the Contract are mixed with Zane's worries and problems with being Straff's tool. This story is, in part, about what it's like to serve–what it's like to be a tool–and the difference between a good leader and a bad one.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#115 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Eight

Killer Mists

The mists kill now. That was a major plot point from book two, so I hope you haven't forgotten it.

Not only was it necessary for the mythology of the world—as will be explained—it was a necessary shift for Vin's personality. This series is about, as I've stated before, the concepts of trust, betrayal, and faith. The mists are the one thing Vin thought she could trust, but now they have turned against her. How she deals with that is a big part of this book.

If you watch throughout the book, Vin has a stronger reaction against the mists than other characters. True, they're worried about the way it's killing people, but Vin is bitter—almost hateful. This is partially because she feels betrayed, but another factor is the taint of Hemalurgy—and therefore Ruin's touch—in her blood.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#116 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vin and OreSeur

Another thing that's going well is the Vin-OreSeur relationship. In fact, because of some of the wedges Zane is driving between Elend and Vin, one of my alpha readers continually joked that he thought Vin and her dog had a better relationship than Vin and her boyfriend.

I don't think that's true–he was reading the book one chapter a week as I workshopped them. I hope, given Vin and Elend's closeness at the beginning of the book, that you can see they still love each other–even if they are under a great deal of stress. That isn't to say that Vin isn't falling for Zane a bit. However, I don't think she's falling out of love with Elend so much as convincing herself that she's no good for him.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#117 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Vin and OreSeur Talk while Vin waits to see if Zane will Come Find her on the City Wall

I hope I'm not overdoing the parallels between Vin and the Logbook author, the previous person who thought that they might be the Hero of Ages. Some readers, in the original draft, thought her supposition (in the next chapter) that she was the Hero to be too much. They wondered where she got the idea.

I'm not trying to imply that Vin is or isn't the Hero. I'm just trying to show Vin's thought process. That's a tough line to walk in these chapters. As a writer, I want the narrative to be deeply inside someone's viewpoint, and therefore show who that character is and how they view the world. However, I don't want that narrative to indicate–certainly–that what the character thinks is actually true.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#118 Copy

Brandon Sanderson


And so, the circle is complete. Sazed returns to the south and visits the Conventical again, Elend returns to the city wall.

Hopefully, I revealed this well enough for you to understand what you need to in order to make this book work. There are a lot of holes, I know. I've already apologized for that–we'll answer all of them in book three.

For now, understand that something was imprisoned, and it hijacked the Terris religion–the prophesies–and used the Well of Ascension to get free.

Book three is about the real theme of these books. Survival. It's going to be a tough road.

As a wrap up, I guess I'll say that for me, this book was about Vin and Elend testing and proving their standards. In the beginning, they both made certain determinations about themselves and what they wanted to accomplish. Elend intended to make a good government and not be an exception to his own rules.

Vin intended to love the good, kind man of Elend rather than the man of the street–the hard, strict man that was Kelsier. (See Chapter Ten, where Vin snuggles in the chair with Elend, for an in-dialogue outline of her belief system for this book. This is the offering of the challenge. The trial comes later.) They are both tested, then, in these assertions–Elend by losing his throne, Vin by being forced to take a long hard look at her own heart and what she really wanted. To her, Zane represented the past. Did she return to that, or did she look forward to the hope–and the future–that Elend represented?

They both hold strong. That's the true victory of this book. The release of Ruin disregarded, this book marks great success for the characters. They were tested in their absolute most vital of personal convictions, and they passed. This prepared them for the final book. Now that they'd proven their ideals, they could bear the weights and griefs of the empire.

Of course, there is also Sazed. One of my goals in writing this book was to fix Elend and Vin. But another big one was to break Sazed. While they held firm to who they were, he has been forced to reassess his convictions, and he finds them wanting. Chapter fifty-four was one of the saddest chapters for me, personally, to write. In many ways, Elend and Vin have nearly completed their arcs as characters. But Sazed and Spook have just begun. And that is what leads us into Book Three.

FanX 2018 ()
#119 Copy


If you could choose to cast someone for Vin who would you pick?

Brandon Sanderson

Ellen Page from 10 years ago. Is that ok?


*laughs* Yes.

Brandon Sanderson

I think she would've been very good.

Mistborn: The Final Empire Annotations ()
#120 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirty-Eight - Part Three

My one disappointment with this chapter is that I had to end up making it look like I was breaking my own rules. The Allomancy-Feruchemy-Hemalurgy triad is one of the most complex magic systems I've ever devised. The interplay between the three systems, mixed into the mythology of the setting (which involves the mists at a foundational level) makes for some very complicated rules. I try to explain them as simply as possible–simple, basic rules are necessary for most sequences to work.

Yet, the depth of complexity leads to some things that are confusing at first glance. I wasn't planning on having Vin draw upon the mists in this book–I was going to save it for later–but the initial version of this chapter (which had Vin simply grabbing the bracelets off the Lord Ruler’s arms with her hands) lacked the proper drama or impact. So, I moved up my timetable, and gave her access to some abilities she wasn't going to get until the next book.

A lot of the "Rules" of Allomancy are, in my mind, like our basic rules of physicist. They make simple sense, and can be explained easily. However, they only apply when generalities–or large-scale events–are explained. When you get down to the really advanced physics, traditional Newtonian Laws start to break apart.

The same is true for Allomancy. The vast majority of Allomancers aren't powerful enough to look beyond the basics. For them, simple rules like "You can't Push on metals inside of someone's body" apply. It's much easier to tell someone that, as opposed to "People's bodies interfere with Allomancy, making it much harder to affect metals inside of them–so hard, in fact, that only some people you'll never meet can Push on metals inside of people's bodies."

It is a matter of degree of power. Vin, for reasons I'll explain eventually, has access to far more Allomantic power than regular people. The Lord Ruler is the same way, though for different reasons. And so, he can affect metals that are blocked by blood. Vin has to draw upon another, external source of power in order to produce the same effect, but it is possible for her.

Narratively, I worry that this looks too much like I'm breaking my own rules. However, I had to balance drama with effect in this chapter, and eventually decided that I could make it work. I've established throughout the book that there are flaws in the commonly-perceived laws of Allomancy. There are metals nobody knows about. You can pierce copperclouds. In fact, one of the unwritten laws of Allomancy is that it isn't understood as well as everyone seems to think.

Arcanum Unbounded San Francisco signing ()
#122 Copy


Alright, who would win in a fight: Rand al'Thor or Vin?

Brandon Sanderson

Who would win in a fight, Rand al'Thor or Vin. I'm going to go with the person who's a pseudo-diety and held the powers of creation. Which is gonna be-- Yeah. I'm gunna say Rand on that one, pretty safely. With the caveat of "You have to pick when". If Vin where able to get to Rand while he's still on a farm, I think she'll do a better job than the Trollocs did. If you replace Narg with Vin, Rand is in trouble. If at the ends of their respective series, I still think Rand would win, even when Vin is at her most powerful., because he is able to bend reality. But I don't know, Jason?

Jason Denzel

Oh I definitely agree, but I'm a little bit biased here. But yeah it really does depend on the time. Like if you take Vin at the last few pages of Mistborn, I don't know because she's--

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, certain spoiler-rific things happen there. So she could give him a fight at that point, but I'm going to side with Rand on this. I'm going to side with Rand versus any character in most pieces of fiction.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#123 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vin Soothes the Koloss

She does it by Soothing the koloss. I think this is probably the easiest of the twists in the book–after all, I showed her doing the exact same thing to a kandra, then told you that kandra and koloss were very similar. So this shouldn't have been too much of a logical leap. If Vin hadn't been exhausted and overworked here, she probably would have figured it out earlier.

I thought it important, by the way, to show her fighting without her powers–and to show that she's still good, even when she doesn't have pewter steel or iron. She's a dangerous person. The metals just make her VERY dangerous.

By the way, I used Kelsier's last words–obliquely–as the thing that pulled her out of her stupor when she fell to the lack of pewter. She's been burning it far too much for this entire book, and hopefully you're expecting her to have to pay for that at some point. She would have dropped unconscious if she hadn't thought of her friends.

Kelsier would have been proud. His last words to her had been a chastisement, since she hadn't been treating their friends as well as she should have. He insisted on rescuing Spook from the cages, rushing into an obvious trap despite the danger. Vin has done nearly the same thing in returning to Luthadel.

Mistborn: The Final Empire Annotations ()
#124 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

There were two important events for Vin in this last scene. First, she decides to stay and try to save Sazed. As I note below, this is a character climax for her. She's not only grown to trust, but grown–somewhat–to sacrifice. Most of Reen's harm to her soul has been reversed by the care and love of a group of idealistic thieves.

The second thing Vin does of importance in this section is fight without her Allomancy. I think it's a nice moment for her, and lets her show some true bravery. One problem with making heroes as powerful as mine is that it's sometimes hard to find a challenge for them. Also, it's hard to present them as the underdog. In this scene, Vin gets to fight as just a regular person, and show that she's still better than most people, even without Allomancy.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#125 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Eighty-One - Part Four

Vin's Sacrifice

Killing Elend and leaving Vin alive would have been, in my opinion, more tragic than what happened. As I establish in a little bit, there is an afterlife in this cosmology. Better for them both to die and to be together.

There were only two ways that Ruin could have died in this book. The first would be to have him give up his life as Preservation did. I don't think that was very likely.

The second way is the one I've been subtly pushing the reader toward from the very beginning of the novel. Ruin and Preservation are opposites. Equal, particularly while Ruin doesn't have access to the chunk of his power trapped in the atium. The only way, then, for him to be killed would be for Preservation to smash his power against that of Ruin and destroy both of them. It's a form of balance. Either you block and stop each other, warding each other away, or you overlap and destroy one another.

This was the role Preservation chose Vin to play all those years ago. As she surmises, he needed someone to do what he could not. He had been too corrupted by his power, and could not destroy Ruin. If Vin had held the power for millennia as Preservation had before her, then she too would have lost the ability to destroy Ruin.

It needed to be someone fresh to the power, still separate enough from it to be able to kill Ruin. Preservation knew that if he did not sacrifice himself and let someone else take up the power, then Ruin would eventually win and the world would end. Imprisoning Ruin was always only intended to be a delaying tactic.

The delay was so that the power could find a new person to bear it. Someone who could do what Preservation could not.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#126 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vin sees Demoux in the dark

I ramped up the Demoux suspicion scenes during the final draft, since I figured I needed a pretty good red herring this late in the game to keep the heat off of OreSeur. Originally, the next "Vin Follows Demoux" scene happened right after she saw him sneaking out the first time. I moved this in the draft, giving her longer to suspect him

The result was this scene, where she hasn't eliminated him as an option yet, but also knows that he snuck out at night. I had to rationalize why she wouldn't just grab him straight out, though I think I came up with pretty good rational. It makes sense, actually, and was one of the easiest fixes I made in this book. She WOULDN'T want to spring a trap on him, not yet. She'd want to watch and see what she could learn from him.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#127 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vin comes to tell Elend what she's discovered.

The way Elend treats Vin in this chapter puts a few people on edge. If you're in that group, realize that I want you to feel this. And, not just for plotting purposes. I just think it's more realistic.

People get tired. People have trouble focusing. And people treat even those they love with indifference sometimes. This is particularly bad of people like myself–men who are quick to get focused on one project or another. I've done things just like this to my wife, unintentionally ignoring her because I am so tied up in my current project.

It's not a good thing, but it IS natural and normal. Unfortunately, it prompts something very important: the return of Reen's whispering voice in the back of Vin's mind. She's been free of him for a long time now, but I thought it appropriate to bring him back. After all, that voice–partially a representation of her subconscious–was a large part of her character in the first novel.