Fangirl Friday: Book Review, The Well of Ascension

If you’ve been regularly reading Fangirl Friday, you’ll know that I was utterly enamored with Mistborn, the first book in Brandon Sanderson’s eponymous epic fantasy trilogy.

To say that I devoured the second book is an understatement. There’s always a fear that a sequel won’t live up to its predecessor’s standards, but The Well of Ascension does not disappoint.

Join me for the book review! In book one of the Mistborn trilogy, we followed Vin, an unlikely heroine in the form of a street urchin angry at the world, as she joined a colorful crew of law-bending schemers to overthrow the evil Lord Ruler. You can read my book review here (hint: I LOVED IT!).

The Well of Ascension embodies all of the things I loved from the first book, and more. Sure, the Mistborn trilogy is proving itself to be more than worthy of the label “epic fantasy.” But there is so much more to it than just being a great fantasy story.

The biggest strength of The Well of Ascension is how delicately it manages to capture the nuances of morality, of relationships, or life itself. It seems that many fantasies treat good and evil as just that: dichotomous. Sure, any good book will give all its characters some moral dimension, but I can honestly say I’ve never read a book, fantasy or not, that so brilliantly portrays just how grey, rather than black and white, morality and life are.

In my book, that’s a huge feat: Reflecting the real world with haunting accuracy in terms of moral grey areas, relationship struggles, and balancing emotions, all while crafting a genuinely fantastical world quite unlike our own. If any book, especially genre fiction, can provide top notch entertainment and make the reader pause and question his own moral compass, I’d say that’s a book well worth reading.

Additionally, Sanderson’s talent as a writer truly shines in his superb use of dramatic irony to draw the reader closer into the tangled relationships among the characters. As with the first book in the series, I often found myself wringing my hands in distress, worrying about the various relationships in the novel because of burgeoning misunderstandings among the characters. As with morality above, if an author can make me care so much about two fictional characters’ friendship that their misunderstandings keep me up at night, that’s darn good writing.

Sanderson also has an admirable habit of always answering “why?” Why did this character decide to do that? Why does it matter if xyz happens or not? Why does the magic system in the world prevent one thing from happening but allow another? 

For me as a reader, “why?” always needs to have a satisfactory answer. Not “just because,” and certainly not unanswered entirely. I think this is especially true in genre fiction like science fiction and fantasy. In fact, Sanderson does such a good job at answering “why?” that, throughout the book, I found myself asking the question internally mere sentences before Sanderson would answer it on the page.

The only real critique I can give is that some of fight scenes drag on, erring on the side of being expository. At nearly 800 pages, the many action sequences could have done with a little editing down.

Books as splendid as The Well of Ascension leave me sad as the epilogue comes to an end, but grateful it’s part of a trilogy! Needless to say, I’ve already tucked into book three in the series. If it lives up to Mistborn and The Well of Ascension, expect a Fangirl Friday review soon, because I’ll be sure to devour it too.

Book: The Well of Ascension

Author: Brandon Sanderson

Publisher: Tor Fantasy

GirlyGeekGirl review: 5 out of 5 hearts


  1. If it’s one thing I enjoy in a story, it’s the gray in life depicted properly. Too often characters are black and white, and it really detracts from my engagement. Nice write up…hope the 3rd book keeps up with the enjoyable story and well-rounded characters.


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