Sanderson's Hero of Ages takes readers on one last trip to the world of Scadriel and Vin the Mistborn, a magical warrior with the power to "burn" certain metals in her body to gain superhuman abilities.
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On Scadriel, people with powers like Vin are known as allomancers. A typical allomancer can burn only one type of metal and thus gain only one super power, but the rare Mistborn can burn every metal and achieve near godlike abilities.
In the first book in the Mistborn series, Vin learned about her Mistborn powers under the tutelage of her mentor Kelsier, and used those powers to overthrow the tyrannical Lord Ruler, the primary antagonist who had ruled the World of Scadriel with an iron fist for 1,000 years. In Book 2, Vin and Elend defend the newly conquered city of Luthadel from an outside invasion, but in the process they end up releasing an omnipotent evil known as Ruin from the legendary Well of Ascension.
Vin's lover Elend is now a Mistborn as well, thanks to a magical stone discovered at the well. By the onset of the Hero of Ages, the two of them now control Luthadel entirely, but all is not well in Scadriel.
The mysterious force known as Ruin that was released when Vin rejected the power of the Well of Ascension is loose on the planet and bent on ultimate destruction. In the interim between The Well of Ascension and The Hero of Ages, Vin and Elend learn that both the well and the mist spirit guarding the well are aspects of Preservation, an inverse deity to the evil Ruin. Preservation wounded Elend at the end of Book 2 to goad Vin into keeping the well's power. This would have resulted in the continuous incarceration of Ruin. ironically, through Vin's altruism, Ruin is released into the world after 1,000 years of captivity.
One year after the events of The Well of Ascension, Scadriel is in a dire state. The Lord Ruler's Steel Inquisitors have gone rogue, driven to Ruin's command by the hemalurgic stakes embedded in their bodies. Renegade monsters known as koloss are rampaging throughout the land, burdened by the same affliction. Ecological disaster is imminent as the ashmounts--great gas spewing volcanoes scattered across Scadriel--continue to erupt at an unprecedented rate, blotting out the sun and coating the land in a patina of gray ash.
As the only remaining Mistborns, Vin and Elend are forced to flit from one disaster to the next, using their emotional allomancy to pacify the raging koloss. Led by Vin's close adviser, the religious historian Sazed, the rest of the allomancer team disperses throughout Scadriel to track down secret outposts maintained by the Lord Ruler. The Lord Ruler knew that Ruin might some day escape the Well of Ascension. He prepared for this eventuality by stocking underground bunkers with food and water. Vin's company follows clues left in steel manuscripts by the Lord Ruler and his servants to discover the location of these caches and use their supplies to raise an army against Ruin.
After conquering Fadrex City, Vin is taken hostage by Ruin. Ruin tells Vin that he and Preservation made a deal. Preservation would be allowed to create the world, as long as Ruin could someday destroy it. The evil deity gleefully tells Vin that it will only be a matter of days until that promise is fulfilled.
Vin realizes that her mother was under the control of Ruin when she murdered Vin's twin sister and pierced Vin with the earring that she still wears to this day. That earring was actually a hemalurgic spike--a piece of metal that bestows allomantic abilities on anyone it pierces. Its existence explains some of Vin's exceptional abilities. Like all hemalurgic beings, Vin has been controlled by Ruin from the start. He manipulated her throughout her life by speaking to her in the voice of her dead brother Reen.
Vin removes the hemalurgic earring and escapes Ruin's clutches. In the climactic battle, she draws upon Preservation's power, burning the mists themselves to battle her mentor Kelsier's brother Marsh who has become the ultimate Steel Inquisitor and Ruin's primary instrument of destruction. Vin defeats Marsh, while Elend leads an army of atium-burning allomancers against the army of Ruin.
Elend realizes that atium is the body of Ruin that the god has been searching for. He can prevent ruin from becoming whole by burning all the atium left in the Lord Ruler's hoard. The battle is won, but it leaves Vin, Ruin and Elend dead.
In the aftermath, Sazed claims the power of both Preservation and Ruin, transforming into the omnipotent deity Harmony. He uses his new powers and his knowledge of world religions to restore the world of Scadriel to its original state--the state it had before even the Lord Ruler came to power. He also transforms the minor character, Spook, into a Mistborn so that he can lead this brave, new world.
Best part of story, including ending:
Hero of Ages is a fantastic ending to the Mistborn trilogy. Mysterious dating back to the first book are explained and the ending is both bittersweet and entirely satisfying.
Best scene in story:
Vin, conversing with Ruin in the form of her dead brother Reen, realizes that she and her family have been manipulated by Ruin since before she was even born. She learns the true nature of her hamlurgic earring and realizes she must give it up to be free of Ruin's influence and take up the mantle of Preservation.
Opinion about the main character:
Vin remains a fascinating main character, though her progression is more static in this book than the preceding two. Her sacrifice to assume Preservation's power and destroy Marsh is one of the most moving scenes in the book.