The following is commentary, written by Brandon, about one of the chapters of MISTBORN: THE WELL OF ASCENSION. If you haven’t read this book, know that the following will contain major spoilers. We suggest reading the sample chapters from book one instead. You can also go to this book’s introduction or go to the main annotations page to access all annotations for all books. For those who have read some of MISTBORN 2, any spoilers for the ending of this book will be hidden, so as long as you’ve read up to this chapter, you should be all right.
Chapter Fifty two
The Battle Begins
You’ll notice something about these next chapters. Instead of focusing on the trained warriors during the siege of Luthadel, I spend my time inside the heads of Breeze and Sazed–the two least experienced with war and killing in the entire crew.
This is intentional. I want to give the sense that Luthadel is a place unprepared for war. Even its soldiers aren’t really fighters. There hasn’t been much war in the Final Empire, and those veterans who do exist are in Cett or Straff’s employ. I would rather show the battle against the koloss, then, through the eyes of men who will be horrified and confused at what to do, as I think that will be the norm for this conflict.
It heightens the tension, and the tragedy, of this all when you get to see Breeze and Sazed trying to cope with the horrors of a battlefield. Plus, the opposite has been done quite well a lot–whether it be in a David Gemmel book or in Lord of the Rings. You’ve seen brave warriors defend a city. Now watch a politician and a scholar try to do it.
Vin Tries to get to Luthadel in Time
These scenes involving Vin running toward Luthadel formed one of the pivotal sequences for me during the plotting of the story. Unlike most focal scenes like this I write, however, I’m not completely satisfied with these. Not because I don’t like the sequence; I think the writing in the scenes turned out very well. However, I do wonder if the tension behind them works.
You see, with the finished product in hand, the plot sequence I worked out feels just a tad contrived to me. It’s hard to avoid this in novels; if you plot out as much ahead of time as I do, then often you end up with contrived sequences because they ARE contrived. You designed them to work a certain way. In these areas, however, the “smoke and mirrors” I often mention comes into play. How good is the author at hiding his hand on the work? How easy is it for the reader to feel what the characters feel, rather than being drawn into playing the game of the metastory.
If the smoke and mirrors work, then you’ll feel anxiety here. Is Vin going to arrive on time? Will she get there and find her friends dead? Will she even be able to do anything if she arrives on time?
However, if the smoke and mirrors fail, the reader will feel manipulated by the fact that I sent Vin away, only to have her turn around and come back a few chapters later. The reader will think “Of course she’s going to make it. That’s what this sequence is all about.”
Often, I’m pleased with how the plotting keeps my readers feeling that anxiety. But in this sequence, I think the author’s hand shows a little more than usual. Could just be my critical eye inspecting my own work, but I see it. Hopefully, you can read and appreciate the sequence for the emotions the characters feel, rather than the slight awkwardness of the plotting.
Vin Meets the Skaa in the Hovel, then does her Horseshoe trick
This scene was very important to the series as a whole. the people in the skaa hovel are just what Vin needed to see. We didn’t get to experience a lot of it, but the run for Vin was very draining. It isn’t easy to pewter drag. It wears you out, body and mind.
The skaa people laughing, however, recharges her. She gets what she needs to keep going, if in an unconventional way. And this gives her, and us, validation for all the work that Elend has been doing. It’s working. For these people, at least, the struggle is worth fighting.
The series works best, I think, when read together as one long novel. I wrote them to feel separate enough that people wouldn’t feel cheated when they read only one. However, so much of this story is meant to intertwine. For instance, this Vin scene will be made more powerful if you’ve 1) Seen how the skaa lived in their hovels back when Kelsier visited them in book one. 2) Remember what a pewter drag did to Vin in the last book. 3) Remember Vin using the spikeway from book one.
I would have liked to have shown another spikeway in this book, but again, there was no room. Still, readers have really liked her horseshoe trick. I would point out, however, that not just anyone–not even any Mistborn–could figure this out as quickly and as well as Vin. Kelsier trained her well in the Pushing and Pulling of metals. That was his specialty.