For a thousand years the ash fell and no flowers bloomed. For a thousand years the Skaa slaved in misery and lived in fear. For a thousand years the Lord Ruler, the “Sliver of Infinity,” reigned with absolute power and ultimate terror, divinely invincible.
This page is for the original Mistborn trilogy. You can also read about the Sequel Series, The Alloy of Law.Long ago, a conqueror and philosopher was acclaimed as the Hero of Ages and sent to vanquish an ancient evil known only as the Deepness. The nature and character of the threat has been lost to the mists of time, but the Hero was evidently successful in his quest, as the Deepness was destroyed and the Hero returned in triumph, but not without great cost — the sun became red, Ashmounts filled the sky with ashes that forevermore fell to the earth, plants withered and turned brown, and mysterious mists (whispered by the superstitious to be sentient and malevolent) enwreathed the lands by night. But humanity survived, even prospered, and years passed.The Hero, having unlocked the secret to immortality, installed himself as the Lord Ruler of the world and became their deity. He granted those who supported him in his quest titles and lands of great power and influence, and a magical power known as Allomancy. Those who did not support his rule were turned into the downtrodden peasant race, known as "skaa", who have since worked the fields in virtual slavery for their masters. A thousand years later the ruling class consists of the decadent descendants of the Lord Ruler's ancient companions, who hold massive balls and festivals in their stone keeps as the rest of the world slaves away. The Lord Ruler impassively reigns over both sides as king and god with his bureaucratic priesthood, his army of beastlike monsters known as koloss, and his brutal, near-inhuman enforcers the Inquisitors. The Lord Ruler, immortal, with unlimited power, keeps the world stable and relatively prosperous under his autocratic rule, and has reigned for so long that most people consider him virtually unstoppable, a force of nature.The main plot begins with a rebel that seeks to overthrow the the Lord Ruler. That man is named Kelsier, who arose from the ranks of the skaa. Kelsier was once a thief, blithely stealing from the nobility for the sheer joy of it, until he was betrayed, captured, and sent to the Pits of Hathsin, the Lord Ruler's most brutal prison, a mine where prisoners are forced to find one piece of the precious metal atium every seven days or face execution. No man had ever escaped from the Pits — but Kelsier did, earning him the epithet "the Survivor of Hathsin" and a seething desire for revenge against the Lord Ruler. In the Pits, Kelsier had come into his powers as a Mistborn — a special, powerful type of sorcerer that comes along only very rarely, and supposedly only among the nobility. While most magicians ("Mistings") can "burn" only one type of the eight allomantic metals (iron, steel, tin, pewter, brass, zinc, copper, and bronze), generating a very specific effect, Mistborn can burn all eight and some extra ones besides, giving them extensive power and versatility. Among the nobility, Mistborn are mostly used as elite assassins, but Kelsier had other plans.Gathering up many of his old friends from the criminal underworld (most of them themselves allomancers), Kelsier begins raising the skaa revolution once more. Unlike previous attempts at rebellion, however, who mostly tried a purely military strategy and were soundly defeated every time they raised their head, Kelsier plans to hit the Lord Ruler at the place where he's most vulnerable: his vaults of atium. As for the Lord Ruler himself, Kelsier claims to have a trump card: the so-called "Eleventh Metal", obtained on the edges of the world where even the Lord Ruler has no power.His plans look more prosperous when Kelsier's double-agent brother detects these powers in a Street Urchin named Vin. Unbeknownst to her, she also has the power of a Mistborn, so Kelsier quickly recruits her and begins her training. With two Mistborn and the support of the underworld, the rebellion churns along at a pace it never has before, and slowly the populace begins to believe in them.Part Heroic Fantasy, part heist novel, Mistborn: The Final Empire is the first novel in Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy. It was followed by The Well of Ascension and The Hero of Ages, dealing with the return of the Deepness and the ramifications of bringing down a thousand-year empire.Sanderson has compiled lengthy annotations for each chapter of the book at his website, detailing the development of the series and clarifying various plot points. Note that they're chock-full of spoilers.See also Elantris, Warbreaker and The Stormlight Archive for more books taking place in The Cosmere. Also see Alcatraz Series, Brandon Sanderson's humourous YA fantasy.This page is split into folders depending on which book each trope occurs in. Needless to say, the folders for books 2 and 3 have massive unmarked spoilers for the previous books.
Straff Venture. More emotional distance (though he is openly disparaging) than actual physical or mental abuse, but when push comes to shove it's quite clear that Straff considers his children nothing more than tools to bring him more power. And then there's what he did to Zane...
Hell, nobles in general. They will often put their children through a severe beating in the hopes of making the child snap and awaken their allomantic potential.
After the End: The books are set in a world that is very clearly post-apocalyptic. The third book reveals what happened. Rashek was very, very bad at terraforming.
All There in the Manual: A lot of things, even things mentioned in spoiler tags on this very page, are mentioned in Sanderson's liner notes on the website, or on forums etc. For instance, the name of the world, the name of the god-metal which makes people into mistborn, etc.
Alternative Character Interpretation: Kelsier is subject to this in-universe. Is he a noble messiah fighting for his peoples' freedom, a vengeance-driven fiend, or a Glory Hound fighting the Lord Ruler to become a legend? Different characters have different views, but the Kelsier the reader comes to know has elements of all three.
Always Chaotic Evil: The Koloss, which are so violent they can't even be trusted around humans (or each other, really). This turns out to be a Justified Trope — and the justification borders on nightmarish.
A Man Is Not a Virgin: Inverted by Sazed, who has been a eunuch since soon after he was born and is thus physically incapable of having penetrative sex, but still ends up in a romantic relationship with a woman... and ultimately turns out to be the real Hero of Ages. Also appears in Elend's backstory: when he was young, his father took him to a skaa brothel to cement his "manhood". As per the law to prevent skaa/noble interbreeding, the girl was killed afterward. When Elend found this out, he refused to sleep with another skaa woman, unlike most nobles.
The Anti-God: Subverted. Ruin is initially presented as this to Preservation, two gods who are complimentary opposites and together created the world; when the balance is thrown off between them, bad things happen (in the books, the balance gets thrown too far Ruin's way, nearly leading to The End of the World as We Know It). However, later works set in The Cosmere show that Ruin and Preservation themselves were only two fragments of a much more powerful god called Adonalsium- sixteen such fragments (called Shards) exist in total, and none of them can properly be called God or Anti-God.
Anti-Villain: The Lord Ruler, although we only find out post-mortem, although the chapter heading note throughout the series suggest it.
Anyone Can Die: Countless unnamed skaa and nobles, in addition to cast members. In Mistborn: The Final Empire, Kelsier dies; in Well of Ascension, Clubs, Dockson, and Tindwyl die; in Hero of Ages, Elend and Vin die.
Apocalypse How: A type X, complete destruction of the planet, is Ruin's immediate goal. He's stopped with about an hour to spare, though much of humanity had already started dying off.
Arc Number: Sixteen, though it mostly shows up in the last book. Sixteen is hardcoded into the laws of physics by Preservation, as the number of metals with magical properties and the percentage of Mistings in the population, among other things. The heroes first take note of this oddity when they realize that the number of people fallen ill in the mist is oddly precise....
Aristocrats Are Evil: Kelsier certainly thinks so, though the truth is a bit more complex; some nobles are truly evil (Straff), others are actually quite decent (Elend), still others are Lawful Neutral but still ruthless (Cett), and most are completely disconnected from reality.
Attack Its Weak Point: The Lord Ruler deliberately built multiple weaknesses into the races he created via hemalurgy. The shared weakness are emotional allomancy that will bring a Koloss, Inquisitor or Kandra under the allomancer's control and removing their hemalurgic spikes.
Axe Crazy: Koloss, the Inquisitors. Drawing your power from Hemalurgy tends to leave you a little... homicidal. Being that hemalurgy is Ruin's power, this is not an unfortunate side effect, but a built-in feature of hemalurgic spikes.
Badass: Kelsier, Vin, and (in Hero of Ages), Elend and Spook, too. Sazed has carefully rationed moments of it. Every Inquisitor also counts.
Badass Cape: All Mistborn; the standard attire is a "mistcloak" made up of many individual tassels, designed to make the wearer blend in with the mist while flying through the air. So ubiquitous that Zane's not wearing one is extremely distinctive.
Badass Normals: Hazekillers who are normal people specially trained to take down allomancers,even Mistborn
The Bad Guy Wins: The whole premise of the series revolves around what would happen if the Hero won, but in the afterward became an Evil Overlord. Though it's a bit more complicated than that. The bad guy did win, but he was the lesser of two evils, and possibly the good guy.
Black Magic: Hemalurgy. For each power you gain from it, you have to brutally murder someone and then physically nail a fragment of their soul to your own. Not only that, but using it also grants Ruin a degree of power over you.
Body Horror/Eye Scream: The Steel Inquisitors. Each one has numerous spikes driven into his body, including his eyes, but they don't appear inconvenienced by it, even having superhuman vision despite having a pair of frigging spikes for eyes.
Boomerang Bigot: The crew, particularly Kelsier, are rather hateful toward nobles. Most of the crew are also part noble (and in Breeze's case full noble)
Lord Ruler appears to be one once it's discovered that the being responsible for oppressing the Terris for a millenia is a Terrisman himself. It's later revealed that he wasn't being hateful so much as ruthlessly practical.
Building Swing: Mistborn can perform a variant using their pseudo-magnetic pushing and pulling abilities.
Breaking Speech: Ruin does this to Vin when she is captured by Yomen. He tries to convince her that everything she has done over the last two and a half books has ultimately served his purposes. He even gives her a nickname — "Beautiful Destroyer".
Cape Busters: Many nobles employ hazekillers, normal people trained specifically to fight mistings but against a full Mistborn, especially Vin, they're useless. (Kelsier had trouble with half a dozen, and he's one of the best alive.)
Card-Carrying Villain: Subverted with Lord Cett, who is to all appearances an arrogant, self-confessed tyrant who doesn't give a damn about anyone other than himself. His bark, however, turns out to be much worse than his bite.
Character Development: Lots of it for everybody, but the Lord Ruler is the most notable case because almost all of it happens after he's dead. As the reader learns his motivations and history he becomes almost an Anti-Villain.
Chekhov's Gun: There are a truly ridiculous amount placed throughout the trilogy. And it's awesome. Here are just a few of them.
The Final Empire, Chapter 38: The Lord Ruler is Rashek, and his bracers are what gives him immortality.
The Well of Ascension, Chapter 51: The Well of Ascension is in Luthadel, not the Terris Dominance.
The Hero of Ages, Chapter 52: TenSoon uses Kelsier's bones to impersonate him and get the people out of Luthadel.
The Hero of Ages, Chapter 63: Atium is Ruin's body.
The Hero of Ages, Chapter 66: The Pits of Hathsin is the Kandra Homeland.
The Hero of Ages, Chapter 70:
The mists are Snapping people.
There are 16 Allomantic metals.
The Hero of Ages, Chapter 71:
The Kandra have the Atium Cache.
Early in Mistborn: The Final Empire, Theron's plan relied on the Obligator boats being used to transport Ministry funds. It turns out that the boats were being used to transport Atium.
The Hero of Ages, Chapter 72:
Vin's earring is actually a Hemalurgic Spike, which allows her to pierce copperclouds. It also lets Ruin talk to her and prevents her from drawing on the power of the mists.
When killing Goradel, Marsh notes blood-frenzying makes it harder for Ruin to control him. When he goes into blood-frenzy mode, he is able to regain control and pull out Vin's earring.
Said confrontation with Goradel also gave Marsh the knowledge he needed to know to pull out the earring.
The Hero of Ages, Chapter 81: The Mistfallen are Atium Mistings.
The Hero of Ages, Chapter 82: The religions in Sazed's metalminds contain knowledge of what the world was like before the Ascension. With that knowledge, he can restore Scadrial to how it originally was.
The Chessmaster: Pretty much everyone, from Ruin to Kelsier. But the ultimate Chessmaster crown definitely goes to Preservation.
The Chick: Lady Allrianne Cett. Vin's first reaction to meeting her is basically "what was that pink thing that just flew past me?"
Chickification: Averted. Vin does develop from a pure tomboy to having more feminine interests (namely formal dances and dresses), but she never stops being a badass — if anything, she becomes more powerful as the series goes on, culminating in defeating twelve Inquisitors at once before becoming a god.
The Chosen One: The Hero of Ages, played with in many, many ways before everything is through.
Colour-Coded For Your Convenience: Things associated with Preservation tend to be white; things associated with Ruin tend to be black. And yes, this includes Vin and Elend
Combat Clairvoyance: Atium causes this, letting one see things a few seconds before they happen. It makes one almost invincible unless the opponent also has atium, which essentially nullifies the effect.
Conservation of Ninjutsu: Applies somewhat to the Koloss, and happens later but is justified in Vin's fight against the 13 Inquisitors, due to her tapping into Preservation's power to superfuel her Allomancy once her Hemalurgic earring was taken out by Marsh. She was a hair's breadth from dying before that.
In the case of the Koloss, it's mostly because they're complete berserkers, fighting with no sense of unity or teamwork. Even a moderately disciplined force can hold their own against them if they gang up on individual Koloss.
Corrupt Church: The Obligators are an interesting example, in that they're a religious body who's main concern is power in this world rather than honoring God — but this is exactly what their god designed them to be in the first place, as he himself cared more about running an efficient empire than looking into the spiritual well-being of his people. They also have some overlap with Religion of Evil (because they form the backbone of a hellish totalitarian government) and Path of Inspiration (because their god really isn't a god, making the whole religion based on a deception).
Creepy Monotone: The Lord Ruler has one of these, owing to the general emotional detachment that comes from living for a thousand years and Ruin messing with his head.
Curb-Stomp Battle: Various throughout the series, most notably Kelsier vs the Lord Ruler (which actually went exactly as planned for both sides) and Vin's fight against the 13 Inquisitors at the end of Hero of Ages (which flipped who was getting curb-stomped halfway through).
Dark Messiah: The Lord Ruler is a very successful one, though it helps that he really did save the world. Kelsier is a heroic example — he knows he's not really a god, but paints himself as one in order to give the skaa something to believe in so they will rebel. In Hero of Ages, Ruin attempts to manipulate Spook into becoming one.
Die or Fly: Allomantic abilities are awakened by being brought to the brink of death, assuming you have the right "spiritual genetics". This process is called "Snapping".
Which leads to the rather unpleasant practice of forced "Snapping" by noble houses. Most of them, at some point, undergo brutal torture and beating, administered at the orders of their own families, as they hope to beat them to the Snapping point manually.
Does Not Like Shoes: While mostly glossed over, Vin likes to go barefoot when using Allomancy (which is, almost always).
Epigraph: Each chapter is headed with one, taken from a document that exists in-universe and is read by the main characters. Interestingly, in each case they are presented in such a way as to mislead the reader in some way.
Eleventh Hour Superpower: Vin's ability to draw on the mists, though she could have done it at any time if not for Ruin's counterinfluence.
What happens when Vin combines duralumin with zinc or brass. Straff Venture describes it as feeling "as he imagined death would."
Similarly, the Lord Ruler uses an immensely powerful soothing to try and rob anyone near him of the will to resist him. It's normally very successful.
Emotion Control: Zinc and brass allows an Allomancer to enhance or dampen emotions, respectively. Zinc Mistings are known as Rioters, and Brass Mistings are Soothers. Note that the Allomancer can't actually tell what emotions a person is feeling (aside from the normal methods), but with practice they can become very adept at knowing which emotions to adjust to get the desired effect.
Evil Versus Oblivion: The Lord Ruler against Ruin. The readership winds up much more sympathetic to the Lord Ruler - at least he was trying to accomplish something constructive.
Face Stealer: The Kandra, who are essentially smarter mistwraiths have to eat a person's bones to take on their form. Eating a body gives them an intimate knowledge of its structure and lets them imitate it; they also have to have the skeletons to provide any form of structure.
Fake King: Sort of. The switch happened immediately before the man who was replaced would have become king; so in a way the imposter was "king" all along, but he doesn't deserve it as much as people assume. And while he spent his reign committing constant acts of mass murder and oppression, he was also constantly working against the real Big Bad; see The Good, the Bad, and the Evil below.
Fantasy Gun Control: Justified: The Lord Ruler was afraid of that guns would make rebellions easier (since gunmen require considerably less training than archers). So, he destroyed them all, killed those who knew how to make them, and then spent a millennium crushing human scientific progress to the point that everyone forgot they had ever existed and were unable to experiment to make more.
Fate Worse than Death: Kandra who break their Contracts are executed. Kandra who do something worse are thrown down wells and given just enough food to survive. Since they're immortal but can barely move at all without a set of bones, they always eventually go insane.
Fill It With Flowers: This was Mare's dream, although nobody in the setting had ever seen flowers. When Sazed ascends to godhood, he makes her dream come true.
Functional Magic: Not one, not two, but three entire separate-but-related systems.
Allomancy: An Inherent Gift type system. People are either born with the knack or they are notnote Subverted once when Elend becomes Mistborn by ingesting Lerasium near the Well of Ascension. Allomancers can ingest and "burn" metal to allow a specific effect, from Super Senses to manipulating emotions. "Mistings" can only burn one metal (and thus get one effect), while "Mistborn" can burn any/all of them.
Feruchemy: Another Inherent Gift system. Feruchemists are Terrismen who are born with a genetic knack. They store certain attributes in metal trinkets, which they later "tap" to boost that attribute. The attributes that can be stored depend on the material it's being stored in, and range from senses to various mental qualities (quickness of thought, emotional resiliency), to physical traits (like speed and strength, but also things like mass and age). Storing and tapping things works on a 1:1 scale. When you store strength, you become weaker; if you store strength by becoming half as strong as normal for 10 minutes, then you can tap that strength later to become one and a half times as strong for 10 minutes — or two times as strong for 5 minutes, etc.
Hemalurgy: A terrible form of pseudo-Equivalent ExchangeBlood Magic, where a victim's abilities are permanently transferred into a recipient via metal spikes used to impale both victim and recipient at certain points in their bodies. The victim is killed, but the recipient is unharmed by the spikes — even if he should have been, as with spikes through the brain or through the heart. Like allomancy and feruchemy, the attributes transferred are dependent on what materials are used. Unlike allomancy and feruchemy, hemalurgy can even grant the recipient allomantic or feruchemical powers, though only from an allomancer or feruchemist "donor+", and only one attribute at a time. Also, there is a slight net loss of power, as the stolen attributes are slightly weaker than they were originally which only increases the longer it is before the spike is inserted into the recipient, and every time it is removed and reinserted/reused outright.
Gambit Pileup: Given that it spans all of creation and most of people influencing it are dead well before their true impact is felt, yes this trope is in effect. The shortest possible explanation is still a textwall covering at least five different instances of someone being Out-Gambitted: Preservation out-gambits Ruin and seals him in the Well of Ascension, Kwaan out-gambits Ruin and has his nephew become the Lord Ruler by taking the power at the Well, Ruin out-gambits the Lord Ruler by having Vin kill him and release the power of the Well, the Lord Ruler retroactively out-gambits Ruin with the underground storehouses and the Kandra, and finally Preservation ultimately (and also retroactively) out-gambits Ruin by getting Elend to destroy all the Atium and die which in turn gets Vin to sacrifice herself to finally kill Ruin. Whew! And that's just the general overview, to properly explain the specifics and details would take... well, an entire novel trilogy.
Glass Cannon: Coinshots (Mistings who can only telekinetically push against metal) are like this; as their name suggests, they can launch coins and other metal projectiles like bullets, making them incredibly dangerous at long range, but unlike a full Mistborn they're no better at surviving in close quarters than any other human.
Grievous Harm with a Body: If you're a guard wearing a breastplate, the best you can hope for is to get casually tossed aside by a Mistborn. If you're not lucky, you're going to be the one tossing aside your comrades. The guards are at least Genre Savvy about this; they can detach their breastplates immediately if they realize they're up against an Allomancer or Mistborn.
Healing Factor: Mistwraiths and Kandra can heal flesh wounds almost instantly, though they can't heal bones. Pewterarms and Mistborn heal faster than normal by burning pewter. Feruchemists can use gold to store health, and then use that as a healing factor when they need to. Inquisitors have a healing factor as well (thanks to a hemalurgy spike giving them the power of gold feruchemists), and the Lord Ruler has this to an insane degree — supposedly not even having him decapitated or burning him down to a skeleton was enough to kill him, though according to Word of God these incidents were exaggerated (note however that he was a compounder for all metals, and gold compounding in the sequel The Alloy of Law was shown to be extremely effective, up to regenerating a character's head after a shotgun blow to the face ).
Heart Is an Awesome Power: Feruchemical Atium, which lets the Feruchemist alter their age, is generally considered a pretty worthless power since you'd have to, for example, spend an equivalent amount of time old in order to make yourself young. It's also the secret to the Lord Ruler's immortality- as a Compounder (hybrid allomancer/feruchemist) he was able to combine his abilities to create essentially a closed loop of infinite youth for himself.
Also emotional allomancy: while soothing or rioting the emotions of people can be very useful outside of combat, Brass and Zinc are mostly useless in a fight... unless you use them to take control of Kolosses
Hour of Power: How the Well of Ascension's power works if one chooses to use it rather than release it; a few minutes of godlike power over everything but resurrection in the world of Scandrial. However, a few minutes for a human may as well be hours for a host of Preservation in terms of how much can be done and learned.
How Do I Shot Web?: Happened to the Lord Ruler when he first got the power from the Well of Ascension. In his case, it was a rather bigger deal, as it was his clumsy use of power that lead directly to the ash-covered brown-planted setting of the series.
Hulking Out: A Ferruchemist can do this for a very short period of time, if they have a lot of strength stored up.
Humans Are Special: Humanity contains power of both Ruin and Preservation. As a result, humans can both protect and destroy, while Ruin and Preservation are limited to destruction and protection, respectively. This is ultimately what allows Vin to destroy Ruin, as Preservation could not attack Ruin, but Vin, with Preservation's power, can.Exactly as planned.
Improbable Weapon User: Coins are a commpon weapon used by Mistborn and steel-burning Allomancers. They're common enough that steel-burners are referred to as "Coinshots."
Coins are so ubiquitous a tool among Allomancers that Vin comments to herself at one point that it's easy to forget that to some people, coins are for buying things.
Improvised Weapon: For an Allomancer, anything made of metal can be a deadly weapon. In an early scene, Kelsier kills several men with a paperweight. One of the most amusing and versatile weapons they can use are guards - or rather, guards' breastplates.
It Was Here, I Swear: Sort of. Ruin slowly changed the wording of the prophecies about the Hero of Ages to mislead people into doing what he wanted. The only recordings he can't change are memories in someone's head or writing engraved in metal, so the only one to notice was one person with a Photographic Memory.
Liquid Assets: Around half of Feruchemy is this. Store or tap weight, physical strength (causing your muscles to deflate or bulge), health, age...
Magic A Is Magic A: All three magic systems are thoroughly logical and internally self-consistent.
To the point where fans figured out the magical effects of certain metals after the series was over, even though those metals had never been used during the story and it wasn't explained in appendices, just by filling in the gaps in relationships between established ones.
The allomantic external pushing and pulling powers are a very down-to-earth version. People who burn Iron or steel can push or pull on metal objects (two separate powers; only Mistborn have them both). The force goes either straight toward or straight out from their own body, and it allows very little fine control (making stunts like a Bullet Catch or forcing one person to shoot another like Magneto does exceedingly difficult). Finally, if the metal object is strongly anchored or heavier than the person doing the pushing or pulling, then the person will be moved, not the metal object (Unless they're also pushing or pulling on something else on the other side of them). These abilities can still be used in lots of impressive ways, but they require a lot more care and thought than similar powers do in other settings, and many uses of Selective Magnetism are completely impossible.
The Magocracy: Kinda-sorta. The ruling class can inherit Allomancy, while the commoners shouldn't be able to. But not all of the nobles have such powers, nor are all of the commoners without, (due to nobles not killing their commoner lovers/prostitutes like they're supposed to.)
Man Behind the Man: Ruin. Preservation ended up being the Man Behind the Man Behind the Man.
Man in White: Elend in Well of Ascention and Hero Of Ages. Invoked, since the point was to make him stand out; in a place where constant volcanic eruptions bury the entire country in ash, a white uniform is especially distinctive.
Manipulative Bastard: Breeze is something of a subversion — he loves manipulating people (and the fact that he's a Soother helps), but he's not malicious about it, being a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, and often winds up using his skills to help people.
He seems to play it straight when he's first introduced, using his power for petty things like making Vin want to fix him a drink. He even flat out says that he the point of life is to get other people to do things for you. It's not until the second book, when he becomes a viewpoint character, and we see him do things like sooth the anxiousness in some guards for no reason that benefits him, that we see his Hidden Depths.
Medieval Stasis: The Lord Ruler deliberately suppressed scientific and technological progress, in order to maintain stability in the land and to protect himself from guns.
Messianic Archetype: Lots of characters play around with this trope — Alendi was one in the backstory, the Lord Ruler presented himself as one, Kelsier deliberately became one to the skaa so they would have something to believe in that was powerful enough to cause them to rebel, and for much of the last two books Vin acts as one. But the series' real messiah turns out to be Sazed.
Mordor: Pretty much the whole world. It's not as barren as some examples, but the sun is still red, what plants that survive are drab and colorless, and thanks to a chain of volcanoes the sky is covered in perpetual clouds of smoke and ash. And then in the third book it gets worse.
Also Spook, to a degree. Though he's pretty tough, having grown up on the streets, the fact that he's a Tineye means he can't really compete with most of the other characters on a physical level and knows better than to try. He also Takes A Level In Badass in Hero of Ages.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Multiple examples across the whole trilogy, thanks to the Gambit Pileup going on. It finally turns out that, from start to everything leading up to the end, the entire series, including the post-apocalyptic setting, was the result of good people trying to do good things and getting screwed over.
Not Quite Flight: Mistborn can damn near fly by Pushing and Pulling and metals just right; Vin invents a technique allowing her to cross distances extremely rapidly by juggling mid-sized metal pieces, such as a few horseshoes.
Numerological Motif: An in-universe example, but the number sixteen has a nasty habit of showing up a lot. Especially in the third book. The most obvious example of this motif is Allomancy, which is organized into four sets of four related metals.
And it's not just Allomancy, either. Those 16 metals have uses in all three systems (we just don't know all of them). Also the number of people who were Mistfallen aka Atium Mistings. It's explained that the number 16 was used as Preservation's way of showing that he was giving them a hand after he died.
Obfuscating Disability: In books two and three, Vin consistently maintains the suspicion that Cett is Mistborn, simply because he is paraplegic. As far as we know, he is not, unless he's still hiding it after the conclusion.
Obfuscating Stupidity: The author's rather fond of this one, and especially of having female characters do it.
Offing the Offspring: It's revealed towards the end of the first book that Straff Venture is conspiring with House Elariel to have Elend assasinated, though Vin finds out and foils the attempt in the nick of time. In the second book Straff also attempts to kill his bastard son Zane, deeming him too dangerous and out of control.
One-Gender Race: The Koloss are all male. Because they're an artificially created race and don't reproduce naturally, this is not an issue for them.
One-Man Army: Invoked by Ham in the second book: "A Mistborn... well, they're like an army in one person."
One Steve Limit: To the point that when Vin tells people just someone's given name in The Final Empire, they immediately know who she is talking about, even if she doesn't.
Only One Name: Skaa traditionally do not have surnames, though nobles do. Upon the fall of the Final Empire, some Nouveau Riche skaa take them up, or are given the opportunity to do so through being selected as a member of a new noble class for the New Empire.
Orphan's Plot Trinket: Vin's earring, given to her by her mother when she killed Vin's younger sister. Also, it's a hemalurgic spike that Ruin uses to talk to her and is the method by which Vin's bronze allomantic power is strong enough to pierce copperclouds.
Our Orcs Are Different: Koloss, which are actually humans who have been transformed into monsters by careful application of hemalurgy.
Person of Mass Destruction: Mistborn are generally treated with the same degree of respect as a tactical missile strike. This goes double for Vin.
Pieces of God: Humanity's sentience is explained by each human having a minute fraction of Preservation's power in them. Both Preservation and Ruin are, in turn, actual pieces of God, which is relevant in the grander scheme of Sanderson's multiverse.
Pintsized Powerhouse: Vin stands "barely over five feet tall." Don't let her size fool you. Her small size can be an advantage to her strength in that she is packing all the extra strength of a pewter burner into a smaller body, giving her a larger relative output.
Planet of Hats: According to the annotations for Chapter 78 of Hero of Ages found on his website, Brandon Sanderson deliberately tried to avoid this trope, specifically citing how boring Our Dwarves Are All the Same gets after a while. Lampshaded by Sazed in that same chapter when he says, referring to TenSoon: "There is a Kandra who fits in with his people as poorly as I do with my own."
Power Parasite: Called Hemalurgy. By killing a person with a metal spike and implanting that spike in your own body, you can steal one Allomantic, Feruchemic, or human power from them. Some Hemalurgists, like the Steel Inquisitors, might have up to twenty spikes.
Prophecy Twist: And how! The Terris prophecy of the Hero of Ages uses a gender neutral pronoun to refer to the Hero, which Sazed takes to mean the Hero could be male or female, allowing for Vin to be the one. It actually refers to Sazed himself, who as a eunuch since infancy is technically "gender neutral" himself.
Prophetic Fallacy: Ruin has been changing the wording of the prophecies about the Hero of Ages in order to make them do the exact opposite of what they're supposed to.
Proud Warrior Race Guy: The Koloss can be seen as a parody of this. The entire race has only two modes- apathetic (when they just lie around in apparent boredom) and homicidal (when they try and kill anything within reach, including other Koloss if they can't get anything else). The only reason the Lord Ruler was able to use them as shock troops was because he knew an allomantic trick that let him control their minds.
The Revolution Will Not Be Vilified: Averted. Though the main characters in the first book are all rebels, plenty of people outside their group think they're evil (or just plain stupid), Kelsier's motives are heavily implied to be as much or more about glory and revenge than helping people, and there is even questioning in the second book about whether killing the Lord Ruler was really a good thing for the world.
Roof Hopping: How Mistborn usually get about cities when they are pushing/pulling on metals.
Schizo Tech: Armies fight with medieval weaponry and the land is worked by state-owned slaves, but there are also canning factories and mills, and large canals stretch across the Final Empire. On a more individual level, people carry pocketwatches, a technology that wasn't developed until well after the Renaissance. Justified because the Lord Ruler purposefully suppressed technological advances that could become a danger for his rule, such as gunpowder. He had good reason to develop canneries, instead: to store large quantities of food in underground shelters where humanity could hide from Ruin's destruction
Science Is Bad: Averted pretty nicely, in that one of the reasons they need to defeat the Lord Ruler is that he is choking the world's development — technology, fashion, and even language have barely changed in the thousand years of his rule.
Scry vs. Scry: Atium vs. Atium. Notably in Vin's duel to the death with Zane. Atium normally gives you the ability to see a couple seconds into the future, causing you to see ghostly images of something happening shortly before it happens for real; when two Mistborn burning atium engage, though, the ability gets scrambled.
Slasher Smile: The Inquisitors have these. Kelsier's smile might be considered this too, at least from the point of view of the nobility.
Sleeves Are for Wimps: Ham, the Thug, almost never wears sleeves. At one point when he's forced to wear a uniform, he gets even by ripping the sleeves off later and wearing it like that.
Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: The characters tend to start out at the extreme ends of the scale and gravatate towards the middle as they're given more Character Development. The extremely idealistic Elend gets a large dose of reality, and the super-cynical, street-savvy Vin eventually learns to trust others. The series itself has traits from both ends, putting it somewhere in the middle.
Smug Snake: Straff. Most of the nobles and obligators seem to be that way, really, but he's the one we get to know the most.
Soul Fragment: The hemalurgic spikes which empower the inquisitors, koloss, and kandra (and possibly the Lord Ruler) are created from a piece of metal used to kill someone. They retain some kind of strength or ability from the victim, as well as a part of their soul.
Spirit Advisor: Reen's voice in the first book, and the trope is played with in the other two.
Start of Darkness: The Lord Ruler's gets explored, though the one we're initially led to believe was his was actually someone else's.
Suicide Pact: The Kandra are bound by one as part of a plan from The Lord Ruler.
Supernatural Sensitivity: A Misting who can burn bronze (known as a "Seeker") can detect Allomancy, but a Misting burning copper (a "Smoker") can hide it. Copper clouds aren't a perfect form of defense, though, because under certain rare circumstances, a Seeker can punch through them and find you anyway.
Super Reflexes: Available by burning atium, in the form of getting to see what your opponent is going to do seconds before he does it and being able to react accordingly.
Territorial Smurfette: Vin's reaction to meeting Allrianne who, aside from Tindwyl (who is significantly older than the two and always on the outside of their little team), is the only other female character of any real consequence. She's not particularly fond of any other female characters that she meet either.
Thou Shalt Not Kill: The Kandra's own law forbids them from killing humans. Those who break it are confined for life.
Tomboy and Girly Girl: Vin is almost this ensemble in one person, considering the disparity between her noblewoman and Mistborn personas which she eventually comes to terms with. A more traditional example happens in the second book, whenever Vin and Allrianne interact.
Vin: We went shopping, Allrianne. Once.
Allrianne: I know. That makes us practically sisters! *Vin facepalms*
Traumatic Superpower Awakening: Allomancers must "snap" in order to awaken to their powers. Mostly this is physical trauma, as enforced by parents beating their children severely, but can also happen emotionally, as with Kelsier seeing his wife's death.
Troperiffic: Just look at the rest of the page. Sanderson loves using lots of recognizable tropes and then either subverting them, deconstructing them, or just playing them straight in cool ways.
Verbal Tic: When Sazed offers an observation or opinion, he almost always ends the sentence with "I think". As in "the building is burning down, so we should be leaving, I think". Elend starts with "now, see" whenever he's trying to be forceful or persuasive, which has the unfortunate effect of making him less so, though Tindwyl cures him of this eventually.
Tindwyl also says "I think" sometimes. Either this is a common trait of Tarris people, or she picked it up from Sazed when she was his student.
Vitriolic Best Buds: The refined Soother Breeze and the easygoing Thug Ham are always sniping at each other, but place great value on their friendship.
Waif-Fu: Very much Vin's stock in trade. She's about five feet tall, weighs maybe 90 lbs sopping wet, and she will kick your ass.
Justified as she uses Allomancy to strengthen herself in combat. Take away her pewter, iron and steel, and she's a much less formidable fighter.
Was Once a Man: The Steel Inquisitors. Also the Koloss and the original Kandra.
Weak, but Skilled: Sazed, who is a force to be reckoned with when he gets creative with his Feruchemical abilities even though he can't match Mistborn or Steel Inquisitors in raw power. For long, that is; one of the tradeoffs of Feruchemy is that all the power has to be paid for, in advance, by the user... but he can use as much of what he's stored up as he wants, as fast as he wants, letting Sazed turn into The Incredible Hulk for a few minutes and squash a bunch of Koloss. Allomancers get their power "for free" just by swallowing metals, but there's a limit to how hard they can push it.
Well-Intentioned Extremist: The Lord Ruler, for all the many evils he perpetuated, was nonetheless trying to save humanity from an even worse threat. Kelsier has shades of this as well — though he's pretty solidly a good guy, he can be quite manipulative and has no mercy for noblemen.
What Could Have Been: In-universe, the allomantic effects of gold and malatium. Gold is something most people only ever try once; it shows you what your life could have been like if things had been different and is described as being unpleasant at best. Malatium does the same thing, but lets you see other people's possible lives rather than your own.
Wide-Eyed Idealist: Though he is aware of the ugly side of life (thanks to his father), Elend is certainly a political idealist. Eventually he does learn that trying to introduce a hybrid constitutional monarchy/democracy to a world that has known only theocratic totalitarianism for the last thousand years with no transition whatsoever is really dumb.
Once again, the Lord Ruler; justified: Ruin's thousand years of psychological torment wore on the Lord Ruler pretty badly.
Hemalurgy in general, too. According to Sanderson's website, the whole process would best be described as ripping out a bit of someone else's soul and stapling it onto your own. There's no possible way that's good for your long-term mental health.
And it sure doesn't help that Hemalurgy brings one closer to Ruin. One spike is enough for him to sense you and push on your mind; constructs with more spikes, like koloss, can be forcibly controlled, and the Steel Inquisitors are basically hand puppets for him.
Yin-Yang Bomb: Crops up in several places. First off, the secret to the Lord Ruler's immortality: Having Feruchemy and Allomancy allows one to break the rules for both by getting more out of a reaction than he put into it; combining the two allowed him to have unlimited youth and also to display his other abilities, like Wolverine-level regeneration. Steel Inquisitors and Vin can pierce the obscuring effect of copperclouds due to a combination of Allomancy and Hemalurgy; someone who could already burn bronze who is pierced with a Hemalurgic spike bestowing that same ability essentially has it doubled in power. And most impressively, the creation of life itself: Neither of the two gods Ruin and Preservation can create life unless they agree to work together; seperately, Ruin can only destroy and Preservation can only... preserve.
And Sazed in the end, who absorbs the powers of Ruin and Preservation into his body to become God.
You Are Who You Eat: The kandra can take on the appearance of anyone whose bones they absorb. They are, however, literally contractually obligated not to kill humans. Their employers must provide the bodies to be impersonated.
Angst Dissonance: In-universe example: Vin's reactions to reading the Lord Ruler's logbook that she found in Kredik Shaw. She decides that he sounds far too whiny for a man who conquered the world and became a Physical God. Turns out she's right. The diary belongs to someone else.
Batman Gambit: The crew's plan to fell the Lord Ruler in addition to Kelsier's sub-plan of the skaa revolt.
Becoming the Mask: Vin worries that pretending to be an aristocrat might change her. She eventually accepts the part of herself that likes gowns and dancing.
Bittersweet Ending: The world is saved from the Lord Ruler, but Kelsier and Yeden die. As well, Vin still doubts herself, Elend may not be the right king, and The Lord Ruler's final words imply that everything is going straight to hell.
Caper Crew: A fairly odd crew. Kelsier is the Mastermind, Yeden is the Backer, Dockson is the Coordinator and the Partner In Crime, Breeze is a master Conman, Ham is the Muscle, and Renoux, Marsh, and Vin are all the Inside Men, and Vin doubles as the New Kid. Clubs is sort of a Concealer (he uses his copper Allomancy to hide the others' Allomantic signatures), Spook uses his Super Senses to be a Lookout, and Sazed functions as a Driver from time to time, although he's really the team Badass Bookworm. Also, Kelsier doubles as the Distraction, a second Muscle, and the Burglar, as does Vin.
Dating Catwoman: Vin (one of the most important members of La Résistance) with Elend Venture (son of the Final Empire's most powerful nobleman).
First Time in the Sun: Early in Mistborn: The Final Empire, when Kelsier is teaching Vin about using tin, she uses it to see the stars through the mist for the first time.
Full-Frontal Assault: Sazed at the end of Mistborn: The Final Empire when he let himself get captured to rescue Vin from Kredik Shaw. He swallowed a pewtermind to tap for super strength when he saw an opening.
Game Breaker: The Lord Ruler. Combining Allomancy with Feruchemy to create an "infinite loop" of stored power and age is very reminiscent of the way a smart Magic: The Gathering player can combine card abilities in unforeseen ways.invoked
God Is Evil: Again, the Lord Ruler. Subverted in that he's not actually a god—anymore at least. Ruin is a straight example.
God Is Good: Preservation, Ruin's polar opposite who worked with Ruin in order to create the world, and double-crossed Ruin in order to ensure that the world would never be ended. Everything in the story, including Ruin's near-success and release, ultimately lead to Vin temporarily becoming Preservation's replacement, sacrificing herself to destroy Ruin, and Sazed taking up the power of both Ruin and Preservation in order to restore the world to its natural, lush state. This ultimately makes Sazed another example of the trope in the end.
Guile Hero: Kelsier. Full stop. Vin has elements as well- she doesn't have his flair for all kinds of plans but she's still very good at thinking on her feet.
Heroic Sacrifice: Kelsier lets the Lord Ruler kill him so that the Skaa will finally rise up.
How Do I Shot Web?: Vin goes through this when Kelsier first tells her about her powers, though she gets over it fairly quickly in the grand scheme of things.
Immortality Inducer: The Lord Ruler's bracers serve this function, though he made them himself. By exploiting a loophole in the magic system, he was able to store his youth and vitality in them and increase its output exponentially- so long as he's wearing the bracers, he's as young as he wants to be, with everything that implies. When the heroine rips the bracers off him during their duel, he instantly reverts to his real age - of over one thousand.
Luke, You Are My Father: Vin knew who her father was, but he thought she (and her mother) had been killed as per the Lord Ruler's law. It's not particularly important to her, but it's eventually used against her father (Tevidian, the Lord Prelan of the Obligators) by the Inquisitors.
No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: The final battle, where the Lord Ruler effortlessly wipes the floor with Vin and Marsh at the same time, while casually proclaiming his divinity. And then Vin got a hold of his bracers...
No Immortal Inertia: Once Vin rips the Lord Ruler's bracers off, all that age he'd been holding back starts to come back, fast.
Physical God: The Lord Ruler has learned how to use a combination of Allomancy, Feruchemy, and Hemalurgy (possibly) to become something close to this; combining Allomancy and Feruchemy lets you break the rules of both in some major ways.
Plea of Personal Necessity: The Lord Ruler, "You don’t know what I do for mankind." Surprisingly, he was largely telling the truth. On the other hand, he may have no longer had the sanity left to do what needed done.
Redshirt Army: Most of the rebel army Kelsier assembled. They get slaughtered when they attack a Final Empire garrison and expose themselves, letting an army of Empire reinforcements show up and stomp them into the ground.
Villain with Good Publicity: The Lord Ruler is an interesting example — most people hate and fear him, but because everyone thinks he's God they still won't dare cross him or rebel against him. Until Kelsier's death and apparent resurrection turns him into a God as well, that is.
Arc Words: Alendi must not be allowed to reach the Well of Ascension.
Awesomeness by Analysis: How Vin managed to defeat Zane despite his burning of atium giving him a huge advantage. She realized she could figure out what future action on her part he was reacting to by his movements and change it at the last moment to surprise him.
Lord Cett does one near the end. It's not out of any change of heart, but rather because he thinks his chances are better that way.
TenSoon defects to Vin's side after she showed him kindness despite the hatred he received from all other humans he had met.
Honor Before Reason: Elend doesn't want to compromise on his ideals, even when it will doom his rule. At one point, he winds up in a situation where a lie could have secured his power and keep the city from falling into enemy hands. He decides against it.
Hope Is Scary: Tindwyl reprimands Sazed at one point for giving hope to a situation that is more or less hopeless, which would just allow for greater despair later. She seems to ultimately change her mind.
Ten Little Murder Victims: One of the trusted heroes gets replaced by an impostor. A major subplot deals with Vin's attempts to figure out who it was. It eventually turns out that OreSeur, Vin's Kandra, was himself replaced with the hidden Kandra.
Straff, following the failed assassination at the government assembly. He starts by trying to put a Contract on the Hitman, then strangles a mistress who had gotten him addicted to a drug, then comes to the conclusion that the city should be allowed to be destroyed, rather than save the remnants.
You're Insane!: Straff frequently says this to Zane, though he doesn't mean it in a good way. It turns out that while Zane actually is unstable, most of the more visible traits of his madness were the result of Ruin's influence on him.
Mistborn: The Hero of Ages
Above Good and Evil: Ruin explicitly states that good and evil are terms that have no relevance to him. He considers his actions to be both natural and inevitable.
All Deaths Final: Even after Sazed becomes God, he can't return souls to their corpses, although he is apparently in contact with them.
And I Must Scream: Marsh, as a result of his Hemalurgic spikes. Ruin has absolute control over his body, but whenever he's focusing elsewhere Marsh's mind goes back to being Marsh again. However, he still can't control his own body.
Anti-Villain: Yomen, the Obligator leader from Hero of Ages, is a very skilled leader and has very understandable motivations for his actions — he could very easily have joined the heroes if he didn't hate them for overthrowing his god (Yomen thinks He's Just Hiding). And he eventually does.
Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Sazed. Previously, Vin and Rashek, though both too briefly to completely fix things. Then Vin again, when she became the new Preservation. Even before that, the two guys who became Ruin and Preservation in the first place.
Battle Couple: Vin and Elend, thanks to Elend's new Mistborn powers.
Bittersweet Ending: The world is saved from Ruin, Sazed's faith is restored, Spook becomes a Mistborn, and peace is achieved. As well, Sazed becomes the Hero of Ages and restores the world to what it was before the Ascension. However, Vin, Elend, Leras and many others die, Marsh is left with the horrors that he has committed, and many people of the world were wiped out by Ruin's apocalypse.
Briar Patching: TenSoon complains vocally about how much he hates the humiliating dog body Vin forced him to wear. The other Kandra bring it to him as part of his punishment... which is how he is able to escape.
Bulletproof Human Shield: Subverted in Hero of Ages. Spook tries to use a downed attacker as a shield, but didn't count on his opponent being willing and able to stab straight through the guy to hit him.
Does This Remind You of Anything?: The hidden archives explain how the true religion was corrupted by Ruin's influence, whispering lies in people's ears and causing the sacred records to be altered. The only true and trustworthy record was inscribed on plates of metal and buried. Anyone familiar with Mormonism will not be surprised to learn that the author is a Latter-Day Saint.
Fate Worse than Death: After Marsh is turned into an inquisitor, he is unable to break free of Ruin's control for even the second or so it would take to kill himself. And worse, when Ruin does focus his attention, he loses control not only of his body, but his mind is twisted to match Ruin's outlook until the attention drifts elsewhere.
First Time in the Sun: Vin's duralumin-powered steelpush forces her so high up that she ends up above the mist, and becomes the first person in a thousand years to see the stars without the mist in the way.
God of Evil: Subverted with Ruin. Though he is evil by basically everyone's standards but his own — wanting to destroy literally everything — he's not a god of evil, but of entropy and decay, and was just as vital to creating the world as Preservation was (who, incidentally, was an example of God Is Good).
Good Cannot Comprehend Evil: Averted, Preservation, despite by the very nature of his power as the god of stasis and stability, knew that if nothing changed, nothing could be created (and probably prompted creation as well), and while Ruin did not understand his counterpart, he knew Ruin well enough to trick him.
After seeing the future with a duralumium-atium combo, Elend allows himself to die because he knows that it's the only way to save Scadrial.
Vin has a head-on collision with Ruin so that both of them will be killed.
Heroic Willpower: Marsh manages to resist Ruin's control for a brief moment while the god was slightly distracted (something the blurb at the start of the chapter said would take a HUGE amount of willpower) and manages to rip out Vin's earring, allowing her to absorb the mists.
Hoist by His Own Petard: Ruin gets several in this book but his biggest were killing Elend (which allowed Vin to commit a Heroic Sacrifice, since she no longer had a reason NOT to), and creating mankind, which could both preserve and destroy, or destroy TO preserve, which is part of what allowed Vin to kill him.
Homage: According to Word of God, the character Slowswift (a writer and friend of Cett's in Fadrex City who helps Vin with information) is based on "Grandfather Tolkien" to honour the debt all modern fantasy writers owe to him.
When Vin absorbs the power of Preservation, it takes a little while to get used to it. Her attempts to stop the ashfalls even light the world on fire.
Averted, however, with Sazed. As he takes in both Ruin and Preservation's power, he dumps the entirety of his copperminds into his expanding mind, giving him enough information to fix everything without creating unintended side-effects.
Just Between You and Me: Ruin appears to Vin when his victory seems certain, for no better reason than to gloat. In doing so, he betrays some of his humanity and helps her realise that he has weaknesses.
Knight Templar: Quellion, who thinks Kelsier has come back from the dead and wants him to kill all noblemen and any skaa who don't follow the Church of the Survivor. It turns out that "Kelsier" is actually Ruin, who is just using Quellion as one of many tools to kill people.
Mass Super-Empowering Event: Surprisingly, the mist sickness in The Hero of Ages. It was an effort on Preservation's part to get every potential mistborn and misting to Snap and awaken their allomantic abilities to give humanity an edge once Ruin escaped his cage.
One-Man Army: At the beginning of the third book, Elend promises two armies to the residents of the town. One is the attacking koloss army, which he takes control of once their leader is down. The other? Vin.
Taking You with Me: How Vin kills Ruin. Turned out to have been the end plan of Preservation all along; Preservation just couldn't do the deed itself because it was an act so counter to his being as to be impossible.
Thanatos Gambit: Vin, when she realizes she has to let herself die to destroy Ruin. Also Preservation in the backstory, though in a far slower fashion.
Spook. He gains incredibly heightened sense from constantly flaring tin, to the point that he can dodge a sword swing because he can 'feel the swing through the air'. He then gains yet another level when he gains the ability to burn pewter, though he loses that level by the end, only to gain about fifteen more levels by becoming a Mistborn
Elend also takes a level in the third book, after becoming a Mistborn at the end of the second.
Worthy Opponent: Elend and Yomen view each other as worthy intellectual opponents.
Xanatos Gambit: Ruin frequently declares that anything Vin, Elend and their allies do will serve its purpose: they can either lie down and wait for the end, or fight - in the process causing more death and destruction, which is exactly what Ruin wants anyway. He doesn't consider that someone may use Preservation's power to destroy him, since that's not supposed to be possible.