The following is an author’s annotation that relates to a specific chapter of the book MISTBORN: THE FINAL EMPIRE. Note that the following is NOT the text of the actual chapter, but a companion to the chapter, revealing “behind the scenes” information. If you have not read the book up to–and including–this chapter, you risk serious spoilers! Please, if you haven’t read MISTBORN, go visit the sample chapters, or perhaps purchase the book via Amazon.
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Prologue Part Two (Note, there is hidden spoiler content at the bottom!)
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.
I really like the scene where Kelsier first displays his scars in this chapter. In fact, I really like how this chapter sets up Kelsier in general. It gives him a chance to be a light-hearted (perhaps even a little flippant) while also showing that he’s had a hard pas. He has some scars–both visible and hidden. At the end, his attack on the manor house should be something of an indication of what he’s capable of doing.
In addition, we establish very quickly why Kelsier smiles so much. I’ve been accused of being a chronic optimist. I guess that’s probably true. And, because of it, I tend to write optimistic characters. Kelsier, however, is a little different. He’s not like Raoden, who was a true, undefeatable optimist. Kelsier is simply stubborn. He’s decided that he’s not going to let the Lord Ruler take his laughter from him. And so, he forces himself to smile even when he doesn’t feel like it.
This is a more brutal world than I presented in ELANTRIS–which is somewhat amusing, since ELANTRIS was essentially about a bunch of zombies. Either way, my goal in this chapter was to show the Final Empire as a place of contrast. Despair contrasted with Kelsier’s attitude. The wealth of the nobility contrasted with the terrible conditions of the skaa.
By the way, Joshua–my agent–pushed until the end to get me to put the Kelsier action sequence in-scene, rather than having it happen off-screen. I resisted. Allomancy is a very complicated magic system, and my writing relies on the reader understanding how Allomancy works in order to provide action. I didn’t want to slow the story down right here by giving an extended explanation of the magic. Instead, I just wanted to show the effects of what Kelsier can do. Later (chapter six, I think) we’ll actually see how he does them.
Okay, some spoiler stuff here. Mennis does make a return later in the book, as you probably know. I actually wasn’t intending to ever use him again, and was surprised when people read this chapter and expected him to be a main character. I guess I characterized him a little too well in the scene where he gets up.
So, when the time came for Kelsier to have a quiet conversation with one of the rebels, I dusted off Mennis and used him again. I’m very pleased with how that scene turned out, though it’s another one I had to rewrite a couple times to get correct. We’ll talk more about that later.