Love Story Highlight: Vin and Elend (“Mistborn”)

If you haven’t read the original Mistborn trilogy, I highly recommend that you do so (there’s a reason Brandon Sanderson has taken the fantasy world by storm, and you’re only going to regret it if you never find out why). There are spoilers in this blog post for the Mistborn series—read on at your own peril.

Brandon Sanderson loves these characters deeply. He paints them as 3-dimensional people, with weaknesses, follies, and strengths. Each character explored individual trials—trials of loyalty, bigotry, morality, and the struggle of keeping faith in a dying world.

However, the real driving force in the book is the love story between Vin and Elend.

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Vin is a former street rat of incredible power; conscripted into a plot to overthrow the Final Empire and the Lord Ruler, she winds up the symbol and driver of a revolution and a new destiny for the world. Along the way, she meets and falls in love with Elend, heir to the most powerful noble house in the city. Elend is an idealist—though raised by a cruel father, he is kind and intelligent and longs to build a better society.

They meet in the first book, The Final Empire; then Vin (SPOILER) kills the Lord Ruler and Elend persuades the people to form a new government with him at the head. The second book, The Well of Ascension, concerns their attempts to rule despite three attacking armies, the scarcity of resources, and general anarchy after the fall of the Final Empire. In the third book, The Hero of Ages, Elend has gained allomantic abilities, but the world is falling apart around them. Vin and Elend battle together and ultimately (SPOILER) both end up sacrificing themselves for the cause.

To me, the true mark of a good writer is one through whom you can picture many different plausible endings for the characters. At several points in the story I was sure that they were going to split up—not out of a lack of love for each other, but as a result of any number of misunderstandings which slowly eroded their resolve to care for each other. Every time they drifted apart, I began to despair that they would end the story completely alone.

However, despite constant testing, their relationship survived. They allowed their faith in one another to silence their fears of everything else. These are the kinds of stories that we need in our culture—tales that show love not as a trauma or a blissful paradise, but as an ongoing story, a state of joy which must be constantly renewed.

Of course, an essential piece of that relationship in the second book was Vin’s almost-dalliance with Zane. One of her main concerns during this time was trying to figure out where she fit in. No longer a street rat, not quite a lady, and continually grappling with insecurities born of a life of abuse, Vin suddenly finds herself with a kindred spirit—a Mistborn without a real family or place in the world, caught in the machinations of higher powers. He indulges the insecurities and the self-doubts that plague her. In a way, the reader can see a future in which she might be happy with Zane, each exploring their powers and simply being with someone who understands them.

But that would be all they would get out of that relationship—understanding. No growth, no motivation. Vin would be in a destructive cycle of never pushing herself, never becoming better. She would be indulging her lowest impulses and desires, rather than becoming the hero she was meant to be. What she has with Elend is difficult sometimes, and forces her to be vulnerable—but that’s what love is. It’s about wanting to be a better person when you’re with them, and not allowing fear to stop that. Thankfully, she makes the right choice not to run away with Zane and to marry Elend (both in the same night).

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There are many reasons to read these books—the beauty and ultimate simplicity of the magic system, the tensions and manipulation of the political sphere, or the sheer awesomeness of every allomantic battle.

For me, though, the love story of Vin and Elend is what will keep me coming back to the tale. Too often in fiction will the author contrive reasons to drive couples apart, even those meant to be together, purely to create distress for the reader. The story of Vin and Elend in which evil forces continue to try tearing them apart and are thwarted, not by supernatural means, but by their continued decisions to have faith in and love each other. It is by this power that they achieve their ends, make no mistake.

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