A few months ago, I wrote about Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn: The Final Empire, the first novel in a trilogy. I noted that the series got off to a bang with an epigraph from someone nervous about their role as the prophesied “Hero of Ages,” and then showed a powerful magician named Kelsier encouraging slaves to rebel against their masters. The book then followed Kelsier to the capital of the “Final Empire,” detailing his plans to overthrow the regime, and his allusions to more secretive plans, such as assassinating a thousand-year-old despot, the “Lord Ruler.” Sounds pretty heroic to me.
But, I found to my pleasant surprise, Kelsier is by no means the main character of the book. That honor could just as well fall to Vin, Kelsier's new protege from the streets. Getting one expectation—oh, this book is about Kelsier the prophesied hero!—and quite a different result—never mind, it's about Vin who develops from a distrustful criminal into a powerful magician, capable of love!—is very often the sign of a well-written book.
Sanderson agrees with me. In an essay I'll discuss more later, he writes, “I’ve often said that good writing defies expectations. (Or, more accurately, breaks your expectations while fulfilling them in ways you didn’t know you wanted.)” In challenging my expectation of who the protagonist was, Mistborn succeeded. Over the course of the trilogy, however, a lot more bait-and-switches emerged, beyond just the identity of the Hero of Ages. The series provides another warning about judging a book by its cover. Literally. [note: this post contains major spoilers about the entire trilogy]