The following is commentary, written by Brandon, about one of the chapters of MISTBORN: THE HERO OF AGES. 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 of Brandon’s books. For those who have read some of MISTBORN 3, 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.
Being a Leader
Elend has always been a man prone to self-examination. I think it’s one of the marks of a true scholar. In book one, he constantly compared himself to Kelsier. In this book, he no longer worries about trying to fill Kelsier’s shoes. Instead, he worries that he is filling the Lord Ruler’s shoes.
The themes of what it means to lead, and what is required of a leader, are fascinating to me. In fantasy books, we can deal with these themes on a macroscopic scale. But that’s the epic format. These books let us deal with issues in exaggerated ways, which makes them easier to talk about and reference. Just like a doctor might look at microbes under a microscope to see them in a larger way, we expand and blow up our issues—giving them epic scope—to make them easier to handle and explain.
So, in a way, Elend’s conflict here is an application of real-world issues. The fear of failure, the difficulty of living up to expectations, and what it means to lead and be followed.
He has a lot to work through, and one of the earliest problems I had in writing this book was dealing with how I wanted to show Elend’s progression as a character. I eventually did a rewrite where I focused primarily on him and his motivations, though many of those edits don’t come to light until later in the novel.
The Number Sixteen
I worry that having Vin make this connection is one of the more forced events in the book. She’d just finished telling everyone that she wasn’t a scholar, and now she discovers a pattern of numbers hidden in the statistics of how people fall sick? My original intention for this was to have her be in a mind-set where she was looking for natural rules—because of her earlier discussion of Ruin and his rules—which then allowed her to see this pattern.
Rereading it, I’m not 100% pleased with it, but it’s too late to make a change. I’d probably rewrite it so that Noorden or Elend make the connection, then let Vin connect that to what she’s been thinking about. That would have been a much more natural progression.
Note that here, Vin misunderstands what these numbers mean. She’s looking for rules that bind Ruin. What she finds is not that, but instead a clue left by Preservation. Numbers are understandable to people regardless of language, and so Preservation decided to leave some clues for people to discover that would hopefully lead them to follow the plans he’d set in motion. In my prewriting, I’d intended there to be more hard facts to be discovered in the workings of the universe—numbers hidden in mathematical statistics that said rational things, like the boiling point of water or the like. All as a means of Preservation hinting to humankind that there was a plan for them.
In the end, this didn’t work out. I decided it would be overly complicated and that it would just be too technical to work in this particular novel. The only remnant of that plot arc became the number sixteen that Preservation embedded into the way the mistsickness works, intending it to give a clue about what the mists are doing to people. “You now are Allomancers!” is what this was supposed to scream. Unfortunately, the Lord Ruler’s obfuscation of Allomancy—and the number of metals in it—left this clue to fall flat.