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Mistborn: The Final Empire Annotations ()
#1 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Prologue - Part Two

I intentionally hit the setting very hard in this chapter. People bring a lot of preconceived notions to fantasy, and sometimes it's difficult to shake them free. With this book, I don't want people to assume an immediate time period or culture for this world. In realty, I've stolen from all over the place. My hope is that I'll be able to destroy people's conceptions quickly, then instead build my own world in their mind.

So, here we have a land where the sun is red, ash falls from the sky, mists come upon the land at night, and plants are brown rather than green. In addition, we have a slave population who live like very rural peasants–but, at the same time, Lord Tresting checks his pocket watch in the first scene. Later on, you'll see gothic cathedrals mixing with people in near-modern clothing. It's all just part of the image I'm trying to create–a place that isn't set in any particular time. In fact, it's a little bit frozen in time, as you'll find in later books.

Ad Astra 2017 ()
#2 Copy

Questioner

So, pre-collapse Final Empire. The random Allomancer house guards. Were-- are they house members, or--

Brandon Sanderson

Oh, yeah usually it's uh-- So if you've got an Allomancer it's because the family's gotten large and there are lots of cousins, and distant cousins, and things like that. And the Allomancy shows up in some of them, and they kind of get brought up in getting a retainer. They're kind of like knights, right? Like, you get money from the house and things like that, but in return you have to protect the -- use your Allomancy for them.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#3 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Trip into Straff's Camp

Seeing the obligators here is my other nod to the fact that they're still a small force in the world, that they haven't disappeared, and that they can be important to the setting and the characters. However, we're just not going to deal with them much.

I hope that readers buy Straff's easy dismissal of Vin as they first enter his tent. It was a bit of a stretch that he'd let Elend into his camp with a Mistborn, but I believe it's important here to remember a few things.

First off, a Mistborn could probably go into the camp on her own, if she wanted, at pretty much any time. If Vin had wanted to attack Straff's tent, she didn't need to wait until Elend had an invitation to visit to do so.

Secondly, there is the feel in this world about using Mistborn–it's a little like the modern idea of Mutual Assured Destruction. If both parties have Mistborn, and one attacks, there will be retribution. People tend to hold their Mistborn back, using them only in emergencies, lest they unleash something dangerous in return.

Manchester signing ()
#4 Copy

Questioner

..One of things I had difficulty with was coming up with names for the characters and seeing how your names are more than just random collections of letters, a lot of them actually have meanings behind them. I was wondering how you were able to do that.

Brandon Sanderson

That's actually a very good question and number one you should keep writing, even if you feel like what you are writing is a rip-off, it is better to finish that first book and be acknowledging your influences because you want to be practicing. And sometimes it is very useful to lean on something else while you do it. In fact this is how Great Masters did artwork, you can find-- I don't know if you guys know this-- various different versions of the Mona Lisa, we saw one in Spain, my wife and I, that was done by DaVinci's student while DaVinci was painting the Mona Lisa. "Here's what I painted now you do it too"  That was the means by which the Great Masters would train their students, so leaning on someone is just fine. You just can't publish it like that, but it can teach you a whole lot. Don't feel bad about that.

Names, I use two general methods, and this is not going to give it the justice it deserves, I'm giving you the five minute version. One version is I look for the linguistic attribute that is interesting to me that will visually distinguish these people on the page. So when you are coming across them and you see that name, I want you to say "I bet that they're from this country". That is really tough because that means they all have to feel similar but you can't let everyone get confused over who's who and that's the real challenge, it's the getting confused. For instance in Warbreaker I tried using some different things like we don't in our world. In Warbreaker I used repeated consonant sounds, so you get someone like Vivenna, when you see that double v, you are like she must be-- Llarimar, there's a double L, you pronounce them both out. T'telir. And when you get double repeated consonants you are like "Oh they are from this region, that makes sense to me even though they start with different letter there is something to them" The same sort of thing is supposed to happen in The Way of Kings, you see names that are mostly symmetrical. When you see something like Shallan and her name is a derivation of Shalash, who was one of the Heralds and its a symmetrical name. When you see something that reads almost, or does read, forward and backward the same way you are like "They must be either Alethi or they must be-- They've got to be Vorin because that is the Vorin religion influencing this". And hopefully it will give you some subconscious cue when you run across those names and you'll get it.

Now a way to do this that is easier is than doing all of that is going to take a lot of work linguistically is to go get yourself a nice atlas and say everyone from this country is going to have names that are analogous to this region in our world and I am then going to take this atlas and look for these names and use baby names from that culture... I did this in Emperor's Soul, I just picked ancient Persia, I picked people who lived there in this era and what they named their cities there and I'm going to take those words and I'm going to screw with them until it is not actually a word but it feels like it might be one. That way everyone from this region is going to feel like they've got a similar name. Or I can just-- For that book it was much easier because the linguistics were not as big a deal.  I could basically just crib off the bat. And that works very well also.

Sometimes I do it intentionally, Mistborn was supposed to evoke a sense of 1820's Paris, or London, that was what I was shooting for with the grime and the dirt, the ash falling. So I used French names and Germanic names and Spanish names and things like this, so when you run into Vin, Vin is just wine in French and Kelsier [Kelsi-ay] is how they would say-- you can say Kelsier [Kelsi-er] if you want-- and they have Kelsier and Demoux so you can go "Oh this is a French sounding region" so when you get some like Elend and Straff you are like "They are from a different region. They sound like the eat meat and potatoes and they try to conquer Europe periodically, those guys" *laughter* That helps you distinguish the regions very easily.

Alloy of Law 17th Shard Q&A ()
#5 Copy

Chaos (paraphrased)

For people really into the obscure workings of the politics of the Final Empire, we asked about the legality of assassinations.

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

It turns out that you have to ask the obligators' permission to assassinate someone--and permission, of course, means bribe in this context. The Steel Ministry can say yes or no. Presumably more high level people would cost more money to be killed. Of course, if the Ministry says no, you can always risk it and assassinate illegally, but you'd have to be very careful not to get caught. Even with legal killings you need to keep things quiet. Brandon said the Steel Ministry has much more corruption than governments in our world. Corruption which we would abhor is commonplace in the Final Empire.

Words of Radiance Philadelphia signing ()
#6 Copy

EHyde

I was also wondering, with the Steel Alphabet in the Mistborn books, each of the letters aesthetically looks like it's built from a cuff, a spike, and a bead, and was that intentional to reflect the magic systems?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. Do remember that that writing system was developed by the Final Empire. They actually took the ancient Terris symbols and they made them more to their own aesthetic over time.

Barnes and Noble Book Club Q&A ()
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Chaos2651

In the days of the Final Empire, how does one acquire a Kandra Contract? It's not like they can just walk up to their hidden Homeland and ask for their services.

Brandon Sanderson

Same way you would go about hiring an assassin. Secretly, using contacts who have used them before. You have to be in the know and well-connected, either with the upper-class or the underground.

Mistborn: The Final Empire Annotations ()
#8 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty-One - Part One

You can thank my editor Moshe for the canals in this book. He's a bit of a canal buff, and when he had read through Mistborn, he excitedly explained to me how canal technology was just perfect for the level of development I had in this book. So, at his suggestion, I changed caravans into convoys, and swapped horses for longboats.

I really like the change. It gets boring seeing, reading, or writing the same old things. So, by getting rid of one standard fantasy element–highways and horses–I think we add something very distinctive to the world.

Moshe, though. Man. He knows TOO much about this stuff.

Mistborn: The Final Empire Annotations ()
#9 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Ham's family makes no appearance in this book. I added this line in on a whim, since I figured it would add some more depth to a character who–unfortunately–I just don't have much time to develop.

I am happy, however, that I found a chance to spend some time with Dox. The scene between him and Vin is one of my favorites in the book, since it humanizes him while at the same time giving us further insight as to who he is, and why he does what he does. Dockson feels the same way about things that Kelsier does; Dox is just far more subdued in the way he goes about life.

This aspect of the world–the fact that noblemen regularly rape, then kill, peasant women–is the most discomforting to me. I don't like my books to be overly sexual in nature. However, there is a difference between having sexual books and having sex in the books, I think. This is a very corrupt and fallen society, in many ways. I think I had to include this aspect to show just how terrible it is.

In addition, I wanted this scene to be shocking because I hoped to put the reader in Vin's shoes. You all know that this sort of thing happens in noble society–in the prologue, a nobleman tries to rape a young girl, after all. But, I hope that you–like Vin–have kind of glossed over that sort of thing in your mind. Seeing people like Elend, and the pretty balls, has helped you forget about the terrible things these people do. So, when Dockson lays it out so bluntly, I hope that it is surprising.

Some alpha readers thought that it was unrealistic that Vin would delude herself to this extent. She's know about the whorehouses, after all. However, I think that this is the kind of thing that people naturally try and gloss over. It is natural for Vin to not want to think about these sorts of things until she is confronted by them so expressly.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Felt

Oh, and Felt gets a mention here. I don't know if you remember him from book one, but he was the spy who Elend sent to tail Vin one night and figure out who she truly was. He was loyal to house Venture, and Elend inherited Felt from his father when Straff fled Luthadel and left behind most of his servants and men.

A third son of a very minor nobleman, Felt is used to working for a living—something that does happen to a lot of nobility in this world, even if the ones you see most of the time are either too busy ruling, stealing, or going to war to bother with things like that.

General Reddit 2016 ()
#11 Copy

[Fancast of Mistborn Era 1]

Brandon Sanderson

For what it's worth, I love seeing things like this, but as I don't "cast" most characters with actors in my head, it's not like I can step in and say "let it be so." I do like the idea of playing with a black Ham, though personally, the big change I'd make to canon for a film would be to genderswap a character or two to get more women in the crew.

Doniac

Did the lord rulers armies have female soldiers? Wondering since Ham hung out with them quite a bit and sparred, speaking of genderbending characters.

I think the easiest character to genderbend would be Clubs. And more outside the main cast, people in the Skaa rebellion.

Brandon Sanderson

I would imagine that the LR's armies would take Allomancers of either gender quickly and happily.

Mistborn: The Final Empire Annotations ()
#12 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

The limelights were added at Moshe's suggestion. In the original drafts of the book, I had bonfires burning outside. That was problematic, however, since they not only required a lot of fuel, but getting them close enough to the windows to provide enough light meant getting them close enough to be dangerous to the glass because of the heat. In addition, Moshe pointed out that bonfires just wouldn't be intensely focused enough in their brightness to provide the right illumination for the stained glass windows. (And, of course, I HAD to illuminate the windows. Why go to all the trouble of putting the balls in gothic cathedrals if nobody could see the windows?)

So, anyway, Moshe came up with the limelights as a fix. They actually work quite well–they fit the general level of technology I place the Final Empire as having, and the provide focused and intense light. As I understand it, they were the way that stages were illuminated to show the actors during the nineteen hundreds. Hence, being in the limelight as a phrase for someone who is being paid attention to.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#14 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Seventy-Six

The North Pole

One of my big challenges in the geography of this world was figuring out how we could have a kingdom set at the pole of the world while at the same time maintaining a normal day/night cycle. My original plan was for the Well of Ascension to be located a distance to the north of Luthadel, up at the geographic north pole of the planet. When I was revising the second book, I realized that wouldn't work for various reasons. (More on this on the MISTBORN 2 Alternate Ending deleted scene page.) I changed things so that when the Lord Ruler held the power in the Well, he decoupled the geographic north pole and the magnetic north pole.

In our world, the magnetic north pole is located about eleven degrees of latitude south of the geographic north pole. On Scadrial, the two poles were originally in the same location. When the Lord Ruler moved the planet too close to its sun and realized he didn't have the control to place the planet in the proper orbit, he created the ashmounts to cool the atmosphere. He also wanted to keep access to the Well under his control, so he decided to build his capital city right above it. However, he realized that on a planet with a tilted axis, a city at the north pole would have seasonal daylight variation so extreme that at the height of summer the sun would never set and during the dead of winter the sun would never rise. He could remove the axis's tilt, but that would just make the sun perpetually skirt the horizon all year round.

What Rashek decided to do (and he had to make split-second decisions in the brief time he held the power) was to shift the crust of the whole planet so that the Well was at a latitude that would have more standard seasonal variation, and to re-create the Terris mountains in the new North (to maintain the rumors that the Well was located there). He worried that the new location of Luthadel would be too hot due to the latitude, but it turned out that moving the Well created an unexpected effect. The planet's magnetic pole followed the Well as he relocated it—and the ash from the ashmounts was slightly ferromagnetic. (Ferromagnetic volcanic ash has some precedent in our world.) So the interaction of the ash with the planet's magnetic field's new alignment meant that its protective cloak over the area of the Final Empire caused it to be cooler than the now unprotected geographic north pole.

One side effect of this is that all compasses point toward Luthadel. Since it's been that way for a thousand years, no one finds it odd–in fact, it's used as evidence of the Lord Ruler's divinity. It also makes it mathematically very easy to pinpoint one's exact location in the Final Empire using a combination of the compass reading and noon observations. Not that it's easy to get lost in the Final Empire in the first place—the geographical area of the planet's surface that the Final Empire covers is actually quite small.

Ultimately, when it comes down to sophisticated geography and astrophysics, I'm out of my element. If there are mistakes in my reasoning above, that is why I write fantasy and not hard sf.

And I still haven't said anything about what happened at the south pole.

Email to Nepene - Re: Population of the Final Empire ()
#15 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Blast. I've got that in my records somewhere. It's been a while, now. Off the top of my head, I believe Luthadel was the biggest city with around two million. (Peter might have a better read on this.) I was shooting for 1920 London, but with a slightly better flow of food in because of the imperial structure an absolute monarch offers. It was the biggest city by a long shot, though. Others would have trouble topping 100k. Probably a 25%/75% split urban rural, weighted on rural, through the entire empire. Scope is relatively small. Smaller than the US. Bigger than Korea. If you email [email protected], he might have the actual scale.

Brandon

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#16 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

If the number sixteen seems obvious to you, please don't blame the characters for not figuring it out. Remember, for a thousand years they've had it reinforced over and over again to them that there are only ten Allomantic metals. Sure, you've got the handy illustration in the back of the book showing you all sixteen in a circle, but the characters don't have the benefit of being able to read the novel.