As a side note, this is the last we see of Fatren. I warned you he would fade away fairly quickly.
As a side note, this is the last we see of Fatren. I warned you he would fade away fairly quickly.
The Symbol of the Spear
I'm not trying to overtly duplicate Christianity with the spear becoming the symbol of the Church of the Survivor much like the cross became for Christians. It just seemed a very natural symbol, and I do very much like playing with the idea of how a religion grows and changes from a loose set of beliefs into an organized theology.
The Koloss Named Human
Human is another reader favorite from this series. He completes a cycle of characters I'd conceived from the beginning of the series.
In each book, Vin is given an assistant—someone to watch over her and guide her. In book one this was Sazed, who Kelsier charged with watching over Vin. Eventually, Sazed became his own force in the books and could no longer fill this role. At that point, Elend asked TenSoon to watch over her, and he became her attendant for book two. Now in book three, TenSoon is a viewpoint character in his own right and Vin is left without an assistant.
Human fills that role for this book. I had planned him to have a much larger place in the novel than he eventually got—I intended to do something more like with TenSoon in book two, where Human was always accompanying Vin. However, I feared repeating myself in that way, as the TenSoon/Vin relationship in book two worked so very well. I didn't want to do another story about Vin and her inhuman companion growing to trust each other and becoming friends. So, I reduced Human's role in the book. A koloss would make a terrible sidekick anyway.
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.
We get to dig a little bit deeper into the kandra culture here. True Bodies were one of the more interesting things I wanted to discuss in this series, and I'm glad I finally found a chance to show them off.
It makes perfect sense to me that kandra would turn their skeletons into works of art. Some have asked me why they don't do more—take their bodies more to the extreme. But TenSoon addresses that right here, in a way. The kandra are too used to having human shapes; that is what makes sense to them. It's odd how something inherited from a society's oppressors can become an important part of that society's culture.
I worked for a long time to make the kandra culture feel real and interesting. The idea of shape-shifters is not new, particularly changelings who take the place of humans they meet. And so my means of making the kandra distinctive can't come from what they are but who they are. Their culture, their thought processes.
Avoiding Hints about the Epigraph Author
The epigraph to this chapter, where the epigraph author discusses that he/she is going to refer to each group as "we" is very important, though most readers skip over it. What she/he is saying here is that you aren't going to be able to guess who he/she is simply by looking at which parts of this book she/he discusses. And that's all I'm going to say, because typing he/she all the time is getting very annoying/frustrating.
Marsh Is Still Around
Short little Marsh chapter here. This is partially just to remind you that he's still around, since he has a part to play in this book.
I learned a little from book two, where I had wanted to use Marsh more but wasn't able to squeeze him in. There were a lot of complaints about this from alpha readers and fans talking about how Marsh was one of their favorite characters, and how they didn't like it that he disappeared throughout most of the book.
The problem I run into is that I can't show too much of what he's doing, as that would reveal Ruin's plans prematurely. I do go into some of what Marsh is up to in subsequent chapters, but I felt that at this point it was too early. So, fairly late in the revision process, I added this chapter in as a reminder of his mindset and what he's up to.
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.
Vin and Elend's Plans and Progress
This is my personal favorite of the opening chapters. I love how it establishes what Vin and Elend are trying to accomplish, but at the same time shows how stretched thin they are. Both bounce around from one emotion to another, and the argument near the end of the chapter is a good example of just how exhausted they both are.
Elend is more forceful now. He's become a wartime leader, a much different man than he was in book one, when he went to parties and read books. He's fighting to find a balance between being the man he thinks he should be and the man he knows he has to be. It all works very soundly for me.
Sazed's Depression and Search for Truth
And we finally get to do the first Sazed chapter.
It seems that each book presents different challenges. In book two, Sazed's scenes flowed easily and perfectly, much as TenSoon's chapters did in this book. However, in book three, I couldn't get Sazed's chapters to work right. I had to do several revisions.
The main problem was that in the first draft of the book, Sazed just sat around moping all the time. I wanted to show him in the clutch of depression, having given up on all of his religions. In that draft, he'd already decided that all of his religions were false and that there was no hope.
But his chapters were a major drag. They were rather boring to read, and even when exciting things were happening, Sazed himself was just too depressing. That came from two problems. First off, his depression just didn't feel right—it felt like I was telling people he was depressed, rather than showing someone who really had depression. Secondly, he wasn't doing anything. That's an accurate portrayal of someone with depression, but it sure is a drag to read.
So, I revised heavily and came up with the idea of Sazed looking through his portfolios searching for truth. I like how this turned out. Not only is he being active now, but it feels to me that he's more depressed—despite being active—because of the way he thinks and the edge of despair you can feel each time he eliminates one of the religions in his portfolio.
At the same time, I took out a lot of his thoughts about how depressed he was, and instead just let his outlook on things show that depression. I'm still not sure if I got the balance perfect or not, but this is such an improvement on the previous drafts that I am very pleased with it.
Elend Takes Control of the Koloss Army
The truth is that Ruin wanted Vin and Elend to get this army of koloss. He wanted them to keep up their quest and to surround themselves with his minions. Now that he's got Marsh and company churning out new Inquisitors, he figured that he could risk—and probably lose—one here in order to keep Vin and Elend thinking that they were doing the right thing. After all, if the Inquisitors are fighting them, then they must be on the right track.
Again, Ruin is playing them. Though, one other thing to note is the attempt to get a spike into Elend here. In Ruin's opinion, that also would have been an acceptable end to this fight, and another good reason to toss away an Inquisitor. He wasn't successful, but he got close. If Ruin had been quick enough to block Vin as she grabbed one of the koloss, the rest of the book would have been quite different.
The Inquisitor's Speed
What the Inquisitor does here at the end is very important. If you've read book two recently, you may recognize this as what Sazed did when he tapped speed at the end of that book.
The Inquisitors are gaining Feruchemical powers, which makes them very, very dangerous. Mixing Feruchemy and Allomancy is what made the Lord Ruler so formidable. Fortunately, it took him a long time to figure out how to mix the powers correctly, and the Inquisitors haven't had the time to practice, regardless of the force controlling them.
I held off on using this metal because while I knew what it had to do, I also knew that it would make atium far less important.
The way I built Allomancy, there is a logic to its framework. Atium shows other people's futures. Gold shows your own past. Each group of metals has internal and external powers. Therefore, one of the two alloys (either atium's or gold's) had to show other people's pasts—the Eleventh Metal from book one, an alloy of atium.
The final metal of that group, then, had to show your own future. I wanted this to be an alloy of atium. But the problem was that it couldn't be. There is always a pushing metal and a pulling metal to each set. The pull always comes first; the push is always the alloy. The two external metals (that do things to other people) have to be grouped together, and the two internal metals (that do things to yourself) have to be grouped together.
That means atium and gold are both pulling metals, and the ones that do things to you both had to be related to gold—and both metals that do things to other people had to be related to atium. Therefore, even though initial logic makes it seem that the alloy of atium should be the one that shows your own future, the way the magic is arranged means that it has to show other people's pasts. [Editor's note: Careful readers may intuit something else about this that Brandon is holding back.]
Writing Fight Scenes
A fight should be more than a blow-by-blow. I've talked about this before. In a book, you can't get away with action for the sake of action—at least not in the same way you can in a movie.
With a visual medium, viewers can simply enjoy the blow-by-blow. Character X hits Character Y can be exciting. In books, it's dreadfully boring. I think I went a little too far toward that in this chapter.
What makes a fight work? Well, emotional impact for one. If we're tied to a character and think that they might be in danger, that can make a fight work—but only insofar as we're seeing the danger's emotional effect on the character. (Which is something books can do far better than movies.) Also, interesting discoveries and ramifications can work to make a fight more exciting.
Why is Elend forcing these men to fight like this? Where are the armies he promised? How are they going to win? Hopefully these questions drive the action. Thus the final way to make something exciting in an action scene is to show the characters being clever through the way they manipulate the fight or the magic or the area around them.
That's just my take on it.
The Fight against the Koloss
One of my biggest worries about the beginning of this book is that the fight scene here is too long, particularly for the beginning of a book. But I wanted to show this fight in chapter three for a few reasons. First, I wanted to have a dramatic beginning. I also wanted a good excuse to reintroduce Allomancy and how it works, and I've found that battles are the best place to do that. Finally, I wanted to indicate what the feel of this book would be.
Book one was underscored by the heist story and book two by the siege of Luthadel. Book three is underscored by epic war. That's not all it is, but the wars and battles are a big part of what drives this book.
Unfortunately, having to stop to explain Allomancy slows things down. I think I did it better in this book than I did in book two, but it still makes this fight a tad dry.
A Kandra Perspective
I knew I wanted a kandra viewpoint in this book. They have a unique perspective on the setting and the mythology of the world, and beyond that they're just plain fascinating to me. I like their culture, and I'm glad I finally found a place to show the Homeland, their true bodies, and so forth. (More on this in upcoming annotations, of course.)
In addition, TenSoon's viewpoint offers a contrast to the battles, sieges, and wars going on in the other viewpoints.
I wrote the TenSoon chapters separately from the rest of the main storyline. (In fact, I wrote in three sections, since I did Spook as a chunk as well.) So when I wrote this, I didn't know exactly which chapter in the book it would be.
I decided to place it early. Not only did I feel I needed something short to split up the two big Elend chapters, but I wanted to introduce TenSoon as soon as possible. His chapters were the favorite of many of the alpha readers, as they offer a completely new experience and mark our first viewpoint in this series from a creature of a different species. (As I think about it, this is probably the first viewpoint in any of my books from a nonhuman.)
This chapter is short, mostly giving background and setting the stage for TenSoon's viewpoint chapters. I found it curious that I got such a good response from readers about his chapters, since TenSoon is forced to be mostly reactive. He's imprisoned, undergoing trial. He can't really do much other than speak. Yet readers found the chapters compelling and interesting.
Anyway, the image I mentioned above—the small army of people facing off against overwhelming odds—was a metaphor I wanted to start the novel off with. It sets the stage for what's to come. It's the dominant theme of this book and, in a way, the series.
I knew early on that I'd need to start with a viewpoint from someone we haven't seen before. I thought that someone fresh would allow us to get a distinct sense of what has happened to the world in the months since the end of book two. The viewpoints of the main characters would be clouded by events—I wanted someone who could show us what was really happening.
That meant using a skaa peasant in one of the outlying cities. I wanted to show a different slice of life and indicate how hard things were. In addition, I felt I wanted to hit right away on the fact that this book would be about the world ending.
Hence we have Fatren. I toyed with making him a main character, but I eventually discarded that idea. I think this is the only chapter from his viewpoint. I hate to use a throwaway viewpoint so early in the book, but the alternative—making him a main character just to avoid having a throwaway viewpoint—was a bad idea. We already have too much to focus on with Elend, Vin, Spook, TenSoon, Sazed, and Marsh all being major viewpoint characters in the novel.
Adding TenSoon, Marsh, and Spook gave us enough that was new in the way of viewpoints. We didn't need Fatren—except for this first scene. Here, we get to see Elend from an outside perspective, and I think this does an excellent job of providing contrast—both against the hopelessness of the world and against the Elend that readers have in their head.
He's changed, obviously. The beard and rugged looks are meant to indicate a year spent fighting koloss and leading humankind as it struggles against extinction. Using Fatren's viewpoint gave me a powerful way to update the world and explain what's changed. I'm pleased with how he turned out.
Part One Title
The title of this section of the book is "The Legacy of the Survivor." If I recall correctly, part one of the first book was "The Survivor of Hathsin" and part one of book two was "The Heir of the Survivor."
Kelsier still overshadows these books. In this chapter particularly, I wanted to show an entire group of people doing essentially what he did in book one. Just as Kelsier faced down an Inquisitor, this band of soldiers is going to charge an army of koloss.
Magic System Focus
I've mentioned before that, in my mind, each of the three books has a focus on one of the three magic systems. Book one introduced Allomancy. And in book two, Sazed became a viewpoint character, and his story is very important to that book. Through him, we see Feruchemy work.
We will, of course, see lots more Feruchemy and Allomancy in this book. However, we also add Marsh to introduce us to Hemalurgy. The secrets behind how this magic system works are a major focus of the plot of this volume, as they explain to us how Ruin and Preservation operate.
Book two didn't have a prologue—if you read the annotations, you can find out about the one I was planning to use but then decided to drop for various reasons.
However, I always knew that this one would have a prologue. Why is this a prologue and not chapter one? I'm not sure I can explain it—I just had a sense of what it needed to be.
It's a glimpse rather than a full chapter. It's from a viewpoint that, while important to the book, doesn't carry a lot of weight in page count—we won't see Marsh again for a number of chapters. Plus, it stands out as being the closest thing to an evil character viewpoint in the book. All of these things scream prologue to me, as they give a hint of what is to come, but don't immediately indicate how the story is going to start.
Just like the other two books, the maps in this volume are brought to you by the talented Isaac Stewart—video game designer, writer, and all-around great guy. Isaac is a member of my writing group, and he started work on the maps for Hero of Ages early, since we knew we'd want maps of Urteau and Fadrex to replace the map of Luthadel (which doesn't have as big a part in this book as it did in the others).
I'm curious to know what people think, opening this book and seeing these two cities instead of the familiar Luthadel. Part of me still wishes I'd been able to set the book in Luthadel.
And yet, I worried that that setting was played out. In book two, the action came to the characters—but I wasn't certain I wanted them to still be sitting there, dealing with the problems life threw at them. I wanted them to be out proactively seeking to head off the end of the world.
That required them to leave Luthadel, and while I did find opportunity for a few scenes in the city, they aren't the focus of the book.
I like how both of these maps turned out, as they both have visual elements that were challenging to describe in the text. For Urteau, the streetslots are an unusual image, and I think the map helps get across the idea of the empty canal streets. Fadrex was an even bigger problem—it was tough to get down the descriptions of the rock formations around the city that provide natural fortifications. I think that the map here gives me a leg up on description, as it adds a visual image I can work from before I even have to begin describing.
I know some readers complain about how fantasy writers feel a need for maps, but for me it's always been a vital part of the experience. The map is an initial visual image that begins to pull you away from our world and deposit you someplace else. David Farland always says that one of the goals of fantasy—and reading in general—is to take you somewhere new. Maps are the gateway into doing this, and I'm happy to include them in my books.
As usual, this page has a couple of inside jokes buried in it. In the first Mistborn book, I referred to Peter Ahlstrom (one of my longtime friends and alpha readers [Editor's note: and now the assistant who's editing these annotations]) as "the incalculable Peter Ahlstrom." He got a big kick out of this, partially because he didn't know what the heck it meant. (I don't either.) He even went so far as to make a T-shirt that said "Incalculable" on it and wear it to one of my signings. (I had to think for a while to get the joke, to be honest. It had been forever since I'd written that acknowledgments page, and I'd forgotten what I'd written.)
Anyway, this time around he gets to be The Indivisible Peter Ahlstrom. I don't know what that means either.
Ben Olsen is another friend I tend to make fun of. I don't know why. Tradition, I guess. This time around, I realized Olsen is almost a kandra name. Ben OleSoon he became. And Eric "More Snooty" James Stone came about because he and Eric J. Ehlers got into a lighthearted argument about how they were snooty for including their middle initials on the acknowledgments page.
These are all wonderful folks who helped me in creating these books, and they have my thanks. I know most readers skip this page, which is why I like to add Easter eggs to it.
This one is for my brother, Jordan. He is, in a word, awesome.
I don't know if any of you had to grow up with a domineering older sibling, but I know my brother did. I'm the eldest, and when we were growing up, I was the "good" son. I did everything right (not really, but I know it seemed that way). I was the one who got the good grades, who did what he was supposed to, was responsible—all of that. I know it was rough on Jordan. It took me until I was in my twenties to snap out of the sense of entitlement that growing up this way gave me.
Many younger siblings, I think, would have reacted bitterly to a brother like me, even going so far as to cut off contact. Yet Jordan has remained my stalwart pal. He put up with a lot when we were younger, and he didn't give up on me. He's fiercely loyal, a wealth of information, and a great webmaster.
Originally, this book was going to be called The Final Hero. In the first draft of book one, that was the term I was using for the hero from Terris lore. I changed this for a couple of reasons.
First off, I just didn't like the way The Final Hero sounded. Something about it felt off to me. In addition, if I titled book one The Final Empire and the last book The Final Hero, then it seemed that the second book should also be The Final (Something)—and I didn't like that either. The Well of Ascension is actually my favorite title of the three, I think.
So I toyed around with other words and terms I could use. Eventually, I settled on The Hero of Ages. I'm satisfied with it, but it's not my favorite title. If you've read the books, then it makes perfect sense and is a great capstone title to the trilogy—but to those who haven't, I think it comes off as a rather bland title.
Regardless, I'm now very glad I didn't go with The Final Hero. People were confused by book one having final in the title, as they weren't sure if that book were the first or last in the series. I think having another book with final in the title could have been even more confusing—particularly if I decide to do any more books in the Mistborn world.
And . . . those are the annotations! I hope you enjoyed reading them. As you can probably tell, I write them rather quickly. This, of course, is to give them that feel of an improvisational director's commentary. (And it has nothing to do with the fact that when I work on them for a book, I'm usually about three weeks behind deadline on turning in the copyedit. Why do you ask?)
Joking aside, I'm quite proud of this book and what it does. I think it's the first time I've blended plot twists, humor, worldbuilding, and romance all together in a book the way I've wanted to from the beginning of my writing career.
Would I do anything different? Perhaps. I still wish Parlin had a more compelling character, so there could be more emotional impact when he died. I wish the ending had a bit less of a deus ex machina feel to it. But overall, I think the writing here is a big stride forward for me.
Thanks again for reading, both the book and these annotations.
Vasher Explains Some Things, but Leaves Some Things Hidden
I'm worried about leaving Vivenna's two questions unanswered. One is pretty obvious—how Vasher can hide how he looks—but the other is unintuitive. I wish I could explain better in the book, as I said above, but I decided in the end to just leave it hanging. It's a bit of a violation of Sanderson's First Law, but not a big one. The reason I feel I can get away with it is because Vasher didn't use his nature as a Returned to solve any problems. It is more a flavoring for his character than it is important to him getting out of danger or fixing things. He could have done everything he needed to in this book without being Returned. So I feel it's okay not to explain why he can be Returned and not die when he gives away his Breaths.
Can Vivenna change her appearance more? She can indeed. She could actually stoke that fragment of a divine Breath inside of her and start glowing like a Returned. She can't change her physical features to look like someone else, but she can change her age, her height (within reason), and her body shape (to an extent). It takes practice.
And yes, the scraggly miscreant is how Vasher sees himself. Not noble and Returned, which is part of how he suppresses his divine Breath.
Events in the second book may change that.
Vivenna Goes with Vasher
I was always planning this ending for her. She's still got a lot of growing she can do as a character, and I think she'll make for a very interesting heroine in a sequel. She could never return to Idris and face her father; doing so would be returning to a lot of people who expect her to be like she was. But she can't stay with Siri either. She still hates Hallandren and just wants to be free of it—free where she can calm her fury and really explore who she is now that her life is no longer dominated by the need to go marry the God King.
Life has been very unfair to Vivenna. It's time for her to live for herself. Here we finally have the last reversal of the book. Siri has become the queen; Vivenna is running away from responsibility, out into the wilds. And it (hopefully) feels very natural for them to be in these roles.
The Phantoms Charge Away
Did they succeed? Yes, they did. The Lifeless were destroyed, and only a couple of the phantoms were lost. That still leaves Hallandren with a very powerful army. Fortunately, Siri and Susebron are the ones in charge of it, so things will be all right for a little while at least.
Vivenna and Siri Reunite; Vasher Shows Off His Returned Breath
I believe that this is the first time in the book that Vivenna and Siri talk to each other. (Weird, eh?) I knew I couldn't make their reunion very effusive, since they're both Idrians, and Siri has learned to control herself. Plus, the situation is very tense. (And beyond that, despite Vivenna's coming to rescue her sister, the two were never terribly close. They were sisters, but separated by five years or so.)
This chapter focuses on other things, primarily the changes in the God King's personality and the revelations about Vasher. For the first, I hope they are plausible. Remember, the God King has grown a lot with Siri's help. Beyond that, he's been trained to look regal and act like a king, even if he's not had any practice talking like one. I think he works well here, projecting more confidence and nobility than he really feels, speaking in ways that don't make him sound too stupid, yet still betraying an innocence.
The bigger surprise is Vasher's revelation about his nature. I almost didn't put this in the book, instead intending to hint at it and save it for the second book. The reason for this is that I knew it would be confusing.
The big question is, if Vasher is Returned, why can he give away his Breaths and Awaken things without killing himself?
The answer is simple, in many ways, but I'm not sure if I have the groundwork for it properly laid in the book. (Which is why I hesitated in explaining it.) Remember when Denth said that Awakening was all or nothing? Well, he lied. (I think you've figured this out now.) A very skilled Awakener can give away only part of their Breath. It depends on their Command visualizations. So Vasher needs to always give away everything except for that one Returned Breath that keeps him alive. As long as he has that one Breath (which he's learned to suppress and hide), he can stay alive.
Vivenna and Vasher Talk about What to Do
One of the biggest revisions to the ending was what to do with the D'Denir. When first drafting the book, I wasn't 100% sure on what Awakening could and couldn't do. I figured that Vasher could have Commands that would Awaken statues, and I wrote the ending that way.
Unfortunately, through revising and developing the story, this ended up not being viable. I was also disappointed in how poorly telegraphed the use of the statues ultimately ended up being. So in revisions, I switched it to make them Lifeless created from bones, something special that Vasher came up with during the Manywar. I then added the concept of Kalad's Phantoms as a mystery in the book, so that readers would be expecting that army to show up by the end. I think this mitigates the surprise somewhat. (Though not completely; see below.)
What did Blushweaver achieve? In fact, she Returned in the first place to be involved in this ending as well. One thing to note about the Returned coming back is that they do see the future, but when they Return, they aren't guaranteed to be able to change anything. Before her Return, Blushweaver was a powerful merchant in the city, and very well known. She was assassinated after denouncing a group of dye merchants she'd worked with for their deceptive and criminal practices. Her testimony ended with them in jail, but it got her killed. That's how she earned the title of Blushweaver the Honest (which, if you'll remember, she eventually got changed to Blushweaver the Beautiful).
She Returned because she didn't want T'Telir to fall to the invaders she saw taking it after Bluefingers and the others caused their revolt. That was why she gathered the armies. While she didn't succeed in her quest as well as Lightsong did, she did help out quite a bit. I think she's pleased, on the other side, with how things turned out.
Siri and Susebron Visit the Body of Lightsong
I wanted to have this scene as a little epilogue to Lightsong's storyline. He was a great character, one of the best I've ever written, and I think he fulfilled his place in this book wonderfully.
I often say that I don't see my endings as sad, even though they do tend to involve the deaths of major characters. In this case, Lightsong's ending is triumphant because of what he was able to achieve. At least that's my perspective on it.
Anyway, a lot of important things happen here. Note that Nightblood doesn't remember being drawn. When he was created, the Breaths gave him sentience as planned. (That was a big part of the goal in making him—to prove the existence of Type Four BioChromatic entities.) However, once he is drawn, his Command takes force and he acts much more like a regular Awakened object—but one with very strange abilities and powers. During this time, his Breath is diverted to creating the powers, and his mind goes fuzzy.
Vasher Finds Vivenna
I'm torn about this ending. It seems like this last chapter is a little anticlimactic, and yet at the same time, there is still the major conflict of the book to resolve.
Or is it the major conflict of the book? Probably not, as I think about it. This book's major conflicts were character conflicts. Yes, we want to save Idris, and it's important—but what happens with the characters has overshadowed that. Perhaps that's why this chapter feels just a bit tacked on. It's not as bad as the Well of Ascension second ending, however, and I think it's nearly the best way to format this story. That doesn't stop it from feeling a little extraneous, though.
Siri Is Rescued
And here we have a big scene that a lot of readers have been waiting for. I apologize for making Siri need to be rescued like this, but I felt it was appropriate to the story. It's because of her teaching the God King and helping him become the man he is that he's able to do this.
Remember that the Seventh Heightening (I think that's the one) grants a person Instinctive Awakening, meaning that once you reach that Heightening, you don't need any practice to learn to Awaken. Your Commands are obeyed instinctively. This doesn't mean that everything you try will work, but that you can make most basic Commands (grab things, that sort) work without having to try. In fact, figuring out most of the more complicated, previously unknown Commands requires a person to be of the Seventh Heightening.
This power grew out of me wanting the upper Heightenings to do some very dramatic things. I do worry that this scene is a little deus ex machina. That keeps me from liking it quite as much as the Lightsong climax or the Denth/Vasher climax. But I feel that a story needs a great variety of climactic moments—some internal character moments, some external skill moments, some great twists, some expected payoffs, some big reveals, and some dramatic rescues. This chapter and the next take a shot at trying to cover a lot of those different types.
And by the way, we don't see Tonk Fah, Jewels, or Clod again in the book. They'll come back in the sequel. Without Denth's control, Tonks is off to start murdering and killing wantonly; by the next book, he'll have changed quite dramatically.
Jewels, on the other hand, is taking Arsteel (Clod) to his brother, who is a master of Lifeless Commands. (Yesteel invented ichor-alcohol.) She hopes to find a way to restore to Arsteel some of his memories and personality.
Both of these scenes end with a transfer of Breath. That's intentional; I placed these scenes together on purpose. I love the parallel of one transfer bringing life and hope, the other bringing death.
Vasher and Denth's Climax
I wanted to offer Denth the chance for redemption here, though there was no way he was going to let himself take it. His response is honest. He doesn't feel he deserves it. He has done terrible things; to wipe away the memory of them would be cheating. Better to just get it over with.
There's a very good chance that after killing Vasher, Denth would have walked over, picked up Nightblood, and let the sword drain his life away. He wouldn't have been able to live with the guilt.
But that doesn't happen. When I first designed this magic system, I added to it the idea that taking a lot of Breath shocks you and sends you into a small seizure of pleasure. This is lifted from the magic system in Mythwalker, the story from which I drew Siri and Vivenna. I added the component to Awakening not only because it fit, but because I liked giving one more little nod to Mythwalker.
However, the moment I began writing it, I knew that this twist of giving someone Breath, then killing them, would be an awesome way to pull a reversal with the magic. So I built into the story the entire arc of Vasher beating Arsteel mysteriously, and Denth wanting to duel him to prove that he couldn't win a duel.
Denth was right. Vasher cheated.
Lightsong's Climactic Scene, with His Vision of the Boat
Lightsong's vision and eventual death in this chapter are another of the big focus scenes. In fact, I'd say that this little scene here is my absolute favorite in the book. It's hard to explain why, but I get a chill whenever I read it. It's the chill of something you planned that turned out even better than you expected. (As opposed to the planning for the Siri/altar image, which turned out poorly and so had to be cut.)
I worked hard to bring this scene in my head to fruition. No other section of the book has been tweaked more in drafting—everything from changing it so Lightsong grabs the God King's hand as opposed to his foot, to reworking the imagery of the ocean. (That imagery, by the way, came from my honeymoon while standing on the cruise ship at night and staring into the churning white froth above deep black water.)
Many people on my forums called this event ahead of time—Lightsong healing the God King. I'm fine with that. It did seem like a very obvious setup. One character with powers he cannot use until healed, another with the power to heal someone one time. Sometimes it's okay to give people what they expect—particularly when the result is this scene. I hope they didn't expect it to be as powerful as it is (assuming readers like the scene as much as I do). I want this one to be very moving.
It's the final fulfillment of Lightsong's character. Note that even in the end, his sarcasm and irony come through. He told Siri not to depend on him because he would let her down. Well, Lightsong, you're a better man than you wanted us to believe. There's a reason why so many are willing to rely upon you.
Vasher and Denth Spar; Vasher Gets Stabbed
I love scenes in books (when I read them) that imply a great weight of history that we don't get to see between characters. It gives me a sense that the story is real. That these characters lived before the story, and that they'll continue to live afterward (or, well, the ones who survive).
When I built this book, I knew that the Vasher/Denth relationship needed a lot of groundwork to give it that sense. I wanted them both to be complicated characters who have a twisted past. It all comes to head here, in this chapter, and we get the ending of a story over three centuries old. Will I ever tell those stories? Probably not. Like the story of Alendi and Rashek in Mistborn, I think the story between Vasher and Denth is stronger as it stands—as something to lend weight to this book. We will go more into the Vasher/Arsteel relationship (particularly as we deal with Yesteel) in the next book, if I write it.
By this point, you should be wondering just who Vasher is. He's been alive since the Manywar, and Denth implies that Vasher himself caused the conflict. There's obviously a lot more going on with him than you expect.
Siri Is Led Up to a Room with an Altar
Well, welcome to my favorite chapter in the book. (Of course, I do tend to say that about the climactic chapters of each book.) For me, this is the kind of chapter that drives one to write a book. The chance to get to it, and to have things start coming together, is the biggest thrill I get in writing.
The "sacrifice Siri on the altar" image was one of the original ones I'd planned for this book, but by the time I got to this place in the novel, it just felt lame to go through with that. It's such a clichéd image. That's kind of the point—Bluefingers is trying for something visceral and exaggerated—but I felt that the imagery of it could undermine the entire scene.
I think I did one draft with her tied down to it, but I revised that out pretty quickly. It was far too Snidely Whiplash for me. I like this version much better, where we find out what Bluefingers is going to do, but Siri stands up to him and bullies him into letting her die with dignity. I also went back and seeded the stories about Hallandren and killing people on altars as a superstitious rumor that some Idrians believe. (There were stories about the Mormons, back in the day, claiming that they sacrificed women on the altars of their temples then threw the corpses out the window into the Great Salt Lake. Sounds ridiculous, I know, but in eras without as much media, people can believe some pretty crazy things.)
Denth Finds Vasher and Forces Him to Duel
Note that Denth, way back many chapters ago, mentioned that he felt the only way to defeat Vasher was to get him to draw Nightblood. Denth knew that would leak away all of Vasher's Breath and thereby leave him unable to use Nightblood any further. (This exchange with Denth and Tonk Fah happened in the D'Denir garden after meeting with the forgers.)
Denth has been planning to find a way to force Vasher to draw the sword and use it. He was hoping that the sword would consume him, which he felt would be a fitting end for Vasher, considering that Vasher killed Denth's sister with Nightblood. When he didn't die from pulling the blade, Denth decided that killing him with a dueling blade—as Arsteel should have—would be a fitting end instead.
Vasher Fights the Soldiers and Finally Pulls Nightblood
In my annotations, I've often talked about focus scenes. These are the scenes of a book that I imagine cinematically before I sit down and write the novel. They're part of what drives me to want to work on that book in particular, and I need a few really good ones before I'll write a book.
This was one of the primary focus scenes for this book. I had this in mind before I developed a lot of the rest of the story. I'm glad that I was able to write to a point where I was able to use it. Vasher, Awakening a rope to save himself, then fighting alongside Awakened sets of clothing. Then finally, at long last, drawing Nightblood. You probably knew that had to happen in this book. I certainly built up to it long enough.
I originally imagined the pulling of Nightblood from a body a little like a dark "sword in the stone" moment. I don't think that quite made the transition to the final book, but hopefully the image of a black sword leaking smoke is visually potent for you. I ended the scene in my head with Vasher standing amid those puffs of black smoke that used to be bodies, Nightblood at his side, feeding off of him with pulsing black veins.
Vivenna Saves Vasher—Kind Of
Vivenna has a few things going for her here. First off, Denth has gotten rid of his Breath. He doesn't want to have it as he tortures Vasher. It made him too aware, too pained. Being a drab as he does it is easier for him. With Tonks dozing, that means that nobody in the room has enough life sense to notice Vivenna hanging outside.
Secondly, Denth doesn't really like what he's doing. He feels he took Vasher too easily, and the torture isn't satisfying. He'd much rather kill Vasher in a fight, as he later realizes. So there's some hesitance to him in this scene, as you might notice. He doesn't just stab Vasher or Vivenna. He goes to free Tonk Fah, then hesitates before turning back and challenging Vasher. Denth was actually hoping that something like this would happen. (Plus, he does care for his friend Tonk Fah. Again, Denth is far from purely evil, no matter what he would like people to assume.)
Denth is the better duelist. Even if Vasher hadn't been beaten and tortured, Denth would have won. Except for the trick Vasher was planning, which Vivenna interfered with. But we don't know about that yet . . .
I don't know if you remember that Vivenna put a whole bunch of Breath into Tonk Fah's cloak accidentally, but it happened during the time when she found Parlin. It might be just a little bit of a stretch here, as I don't know that people will remember it. As I consider it, I should have mentioned what she'd done one more time.
Also, I hope that you don't mind the line that goes something like "Vasher is plunging to his doom from a three story window—of course he'll live!" It's a little bit self-aware, and I'm not trying to break the fourth wall. Denth has simply known Vasher for a very, very long time, and knows that something so simple isn't likely to kill his old friend. That, mixed with Denth's penchant for sarcasm, produced this line.
When is Emperor's Soul set chronologically in relation to Elantris? Because if its around the same time Teod and Arelon might not have to stand alone against the Fjordell Empire.
My other question is also a timeline one. (There are a lot of those tonight haha) I heard you had to move The Way of Kings a little bit due to some plot constraints. So does Warbreaker still fall around the same time as The Alloy of Law or has that shifted as well?
Thanks for the kind words! Emperor's Soul is after Elantris, but not too long after. It is before Mistborn.
Second question is that I've moved things so that The Way of Kings is around the same time as The Alloy of Law, forced by some behind-the-scenes events. Warbreaker now happens before The Alloy of Law.
Will we see another book with Waxillium Ladrian? His story doesn't appear to end with The Alloy of Law. And will his story be directly related to the next Mistborn trilogy? This has been eating away at me since finishing that book.
Wax's story was indeed directly related to the second trilogy, but I was intrigued enough with his time period that I find myself wanting to do more with him. I probably will.
We were kind of joking about it that in the original Mistborn trilogy Kelsier, you notice that he--we kind of had a little joke about it that every once in a while he’d raise his eyebrow, and we were like “How many eyebrow raises did you count this time?” And in the Secret History, we were both kind of like “Did you notice any?” and there weren’t any. And I was just a tiny bit disappointed that he didn’t get a--
So what happens is--
We were just curious if you got some kind of feedback that told you to stop that...
No, writers start to notice what their tells are, and so your tells will shift. If you go look through the Mistborn books another one is “maladroitly”, I use that one all the time. And all that happens is the copyeditor notices them and starts bracketing them over the course of “Oh I use this too much” I don’t usually mean to cut them all, there should have been one or two. And it just meant they got bracketed and I was “Oh this one isn’t appropriate” and I just took a bunch of them out.
Will we see more of the god metal alloys in the future?