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Book Review

The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the first book in the “Mistborn” series.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

The Final Empire is a world controlled by the Lord Ruler, a powerful and brutal being who has lived for 1,000 years. He is thought to be immortal and is worshiped as a god. The Lord Ruler is a powerful Allomancer. Allomancy is the genetic ability that allows an Allomancer to consume and metabolize (or burn) metals for magical powers, which can enhance the Allomancer’s physical and mental capabilities. An Allomancer who is only able to burn one of the Allomantic metals is known as a Misting. Anyone who is capable of burning all of the Allomantic metals is a Mistborn.

Those who have Allomantic powers passed down through their bloodlines for generations since the Lord Ruler took power are called noblemen. All others without powers are called skaa. They labor as slaves for the noblemen. Skaa have no rights and are property of the Lord Ruler, rented out to noblemen for work. It is illegal for noblemen to have children with skaa for fear that skaa slaves will be Allomancers. Though illegal, half-skaa, half-noble people exist but are hunted. While the skaa are controlled by the noblemen, the noblemen are controlled by Inquisitors and the Canton of Inquisition, the police arm of the Final Empire; and Obligators and the Steel Ministry, the religious and legal arm of land.

Three years earlier, a half-skaa thief and conman named Kelsier, along with his wife, Mare, were caught stealing from the Lord Ruler and sentenced to mine the alloy atium from the Pits of Hathsin, a brutal prison camp. When Mare was beaten to death in the camp, Kelsier snapped and discovered that he was Mistborn, killing the guards and escaping the camp. For years, Kelsier has roamed the plantations in the Final Empire, encouraging the downtrodden skaa slaves to rise up and fight their oppressive government.

Kelsier returns to Luthadel, the largest city in the Final Empire, and rounds up his former thieving crew for a final job: overthrow the Final Empire by stealing its treasury and collapsing the economy. Sixteen-year-old Vin is a street urchin in Luthadel. Realizing that Vin is a half-skaa Mistborn like himself, Kelsier recruits her for his crew and teaches her to develop her Allomantic powers, which include burning pewter to strengthen her body, burning tin to enhance her senses and burning steel to pull and push metal.

Kelsier plans to destroy the Final Empire’s center of government by starting a war within the noble houses, raising and training a skaa army and getting the local Luthadel garrison out of the city. The newly trained skaa will need to invade, steal the Lord Ruler’s hoard of atium — the metal that is the cornerstone of the economy — and kill the Lord Ruler himself, using a mythical 11th metal Kelsier claims he’s found.

Vin’s role in the crew is to assimilate, spy on the nobility and listen to rumors. Sazed, one of the crew, helps Vin learn how to dress, act and speak like a noblewoman. Unlike most of the crew, Sazed isn’t a half-skaa Misting but a Feruchemist. Like Allomancy, Feruchemists draw power from metals, but instead of ingesting them, Feruchemists wear the metals and store abilities such as strength, youth and memories that can be used at a later time.

Sazed teaches Vin to spy on the nobility by attending elaborate balls. She poses as Valette Renoux, a niece to Lord Renoux, a nobleman working with Kelsier's crew. She dances with the young noblemen and shares and spreads gossip among the noble women, gaining information about house wars, which may help her crew.

While attending the parties, Vin meets and falls in love with Elend Venture, heir to House Venture, Luthadel’s most powerful noble house. Twenty-one year-old Elend is defying his father’s and society’s rules. Along with the heirs of other noble houses, he secretly plans to build a better society when they ascend to the head of their own houses.

The crew succeeds in starting a house war by assassinating several powerful nobles and making it appear that the other houses are responsible. The crew’s efforts, though slow, are successful in recruiting 7,000 skaa soldiers to join their army, and these men are sent to caves outside of Luthadel to be trained.

All goes according to plan until the majority of the skaa soldiers are killed. One overconfident member of the crew uses the army to attack an unimportant Final Empire garrison. Kelsier finds out about the attack while it’s in progress. Though he tries to aid them, he is too late.

He orders the remaining soldiers be smuggled into Luthadel and hidden. The only benefit of the unwise attack is that the Luthadel garrison leaves the city to round up stray skaa soldiers. This leaves the city unprotected.

To discourage any additional rebellions, the Lord Ruler has many innocent skaa beheaded in the city square, which only serves to anger Kelsier and his crew. The Lord Ruler’s action steels the rebel’s resolve to bring down the Final Empire.

The house wars prove to be successful, resulting in broken alliances between noble families. This places Luthadel in a state of fear. As house wars intensify, Vin hears of a plot to kill Elend. She saves him, killing a Mistborn assassin in the process.

As the city grows even more chaotic and Inquisitors slaughter skaa crews, Kelsier fears his brother, Marsh, has been caught and killed. Marsh, a Misting, was a part of Kelsier’s crew and had infiltrated the Steel Ministry as an acolyte. In anger and sadness, Kelsier decides to attack the Lord Ruler where he will feel it most: the atium mines in the Pits of Hathsin. Kelsier attacks the mines, and using Allomancy, breaks the crystals that produce the rare metal.

In retaliation for the destruction of the mine, the Lord Ruler rounds up more innocent people to behead in the square. Lord Renoux and his estate are among those captured and sent for execution. Though Kelsier's crew manages to free most of them, Kelsier stands up to the Lord Ruler. In a dramatic confrontation in the city square, the Lord Ruler kills Kelsier.

Though his death would seem to make Kelsier’s plan a failure, the crew realizes that he has become a martyred symbol of hope for Luthadel's skaa population. The skaa react to Kelsier’s death by rising up and overthrowing the city with the help of Kelsier's army.

Before his death, Kelsier had tried to unlock the potential of the 11th metal, which was rumored to be the Lord Ruler's weakness. He was unable to do so and leaves the bit of metal for Vin, asking her in a note to figure it out. Vin takes the 11th metal and goes to the palace to kill the Lord Ruler. She is captured and left in a cell to be tortured. Sazed and Elend come to her rescue. Using Feruchemy, Sazed helps Vin escape the prison, but she does not leave the palace.

Vin attacks the Lord Ruler, and after ingesting the 11th metal, she sees a glimpse of who the Lord Ruler was before he ascended to power and who he would have been had he not. She realizes the Lord Ruler was a Terrisman. She fights the Lord Ruler, who is revealed to be both an incredibly powerful Allomancer and a Feruchemist, the combination of which grants him incredible healing powers and eternal youth.

Vin is almost killed, but with help from Marsh, who wasn’t killed but turned into an Inquisitor, she manages to separate the Lord Ruler from his Feruchemical bracelets, which provide him with constant youth, causing him to age rapidly. The Lord Ruler’s last words to Vin are that by killing him, she has doomed the Final Empire to a greater evil.

Using a spear, Vin stabs the Lord Ruler in the heart, killing him. The Final Empire collapses, but Elend is able to stop the city from falling into complete anarchy by uniting Luthadel under a new system of government.

Christian Beliefs


Other Belief Systems

The Lord Ruler is worshiped as a god and is thought to be a sliver of infinity, a piece of God himself. While nobles control the skaa, the Lord Ruler’s Steel Ministry, the religious arm of the Final Empire that is run by Inquisitors, control the nobles. The Steel Ministry forbids the worship of anyone but the Lord Ruler, and over the centuries, has destroyed evidence of other religions.

Sazed is a Terrisman Keeper and stores the knowledge of 562 old-world religions in the metal he wears. Sazed explains different religions to Vin and Kelsier in an effort to find one that fits them. He tells Vin that the Steel Ministry cannot last forever, and when its power ends, men will want to return to the beliefs of their fathers. The Keepers are who will return mankind to their forgotten truths.

After Kelsier’s death, the skaa revere him as a martyr, which was Kelsier’s plan. His martyrdom pushes the skaa into rebellion against the government.

Authority Roles

Vin’s mother murdered Vin’s baby sister and tried to kill Vin. After saving Vin from their mother, her half-brother, Reen, became responsible for Vin. He beat her and taught her not to trust anyone, as those you care most about will betray and leave you. Vin believes Reen left her, but she later finds out that he was caught by an Inquisitor and was tortured to death for not revealing her whereabouts. She realizes that he never left her and that he loved her.

Vin’s father is an Obligator and the head of the Steel Ministry, the Lord Ruler’s religion. He didn’t know Vin existed, and he is put to death when the Lord Ruler finds out that he fathered a half-skaa child. Vin is forced to watch him die.

Kelsier treats Vin like a daughter and tells her that Mare always wanted a little girl with dark hair, just like her. He thinks to himself that Mare would have really liked Vin. At first, Vin is nervous about trusting Kelsier, but eventually she trusts and cares for him and his entire crew. After Kelsier is killed, Vin is furious that another person she loved has left her.

Elend Venture has a poor relationship with his father, Lord Straff Venture. At 13 years old, Straff Venture wanted Elend to become “a man” and forced his son to have sex with a skaa prostitute. Then he had the girl murdered. It is one of the reasons Elend hates and purposely defies his father. Elend’s constant defiance frustrates and angers his father, who thinks his son is a failure and an embarrassment. When Lord Venture hears of a plot to kill Elend, he doesn’t stop it, hoping that Elend’s death will be an excuse to give the house title to his nephew instead.


The profanity in this book includes h---, b--tard and d--n. The Lord Ruler owns all the skaa, but the noblemen rent them and are allowed to kill as many of them as they want, as long as their house’s produce come in on time.

It is legal for a nobleman to bed any skaa woman, but he must then kill her so she can’t birth any half-noble children. Kelsier kills a plantation nobleman and all his guards before the nobleman has a chance to rape a young skaa girl. Kelsier also kills several guards when he breaks into a noble house to steal atium.

Kelsier’s brother, Marsh, is angry that Kelsier killed both nobles and skaa guards. Kelsier tells his brother that anyone who works for the Final Empire deserves death. Kelsier murders several noblemen, making it look like the work of rival houses, thus inciting a house war in Luthadel.

Vin and Kelsier get into a bloody battle with three Inquisitors, whose powers as Allomancers give them metal spikes protruding from their eyes and back. The battle leaves Vin with a large cut on her side that almost kills her. She battles another Mistborn and kills the girl.

Kelsier also battles an Inquisitor and finally wins when he beheads the man. The Lord Ruler easily kills Kelsier, and afterward, Vin gets into a battle with the Lord Ruler, who wounds her. Vin eventually stabs him through the heart. Marsh kills other Inquisitors by ripping the metal from their backs. Blood and gore are depicted in these scenes.


While it’s legal to rape a skaa woman, it’s illegal for her to bear half noble children. As such, skaa women are regularly raped and killed afterward. Kelsier visits a plantation and hears a girl screaming as she is being taken from her mother to a nobleman’s home. Kelsier knows the girl will be raped and killed.

Vin stays with conman Camron and his crew, despite his beatings, because she is afraid of being alone on the street and being forced into work in a brothel. She wears her hair short, wears baggy boys’ clothes and tries to be as inconspicuous as possible so she doesn’t attract unwanted attention from men.

Vin tells Kelsier that her mother was a prostitute, though not by choice. Sometimes the underworld forces you to do things you don’t want to do. When Vin starts getting too comfortable in her pretense of being a noblewoman, Dockson reminds her that the noblemen she dances with at the balls and parties have raped and killed skaa women. He tells Vin that he was a plantation skaa, but the skaa woman he loved was taken, raped and killed by the plantation owner.

Vin is in love with Elend and doesn’t want to believe this kind of behavior of him. When she confronts him, Elend admits that when he was 13 years old, his father took him to a brothel and forced him to have sex with a skaa girl. The next day he was horrified to find out that the girl had been murdered. Later, as Elend argues with his father, Lord Venture taunts his son — saying the only time Elend was ever with a woman was when he was forced at 13. Vin kisses Elend after he helps to rescue her from the palace prison.

In an effort to control the population of Terrismen like Sazed, their breeding is strictly controlled. Terrisman boys are castrated at birth, and all are raised to be servants. When guards capture Sazed and strip his clothes, Vin sees that in the place between his legs is an empty scar where his manhood should have been.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Alcohol: Vin and other members of the crew drink alcohol.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

15 and up




Brandon Sanderson






Record Label



Tor Books, an imprint of Tom Doherty Associates, LLC


On Video

Year Published





We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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