There were many things Sanderson did right with this book (and this series):
- magic system
The one that stands out the most for me was the main female character, Vin. She is written in such a believable, sympathetic, and solid way that I haven't seen in other fantasy series in recent years. Seriously, only a handful of new fantasy writers can actually write a believable girl/woman. Anyway, Vin's journey from scared street urchin to a force to be reckoned with is done gradually, but believably. And that is what's lacking in new fantasy--believability.
The world of Mistborn is, of course, full of mist. The plants are brown and the sun is red and everything is covered in ashes. There are no mountains, only ash mounts that spew ashes constantly. Noblemen live the easy life and skaa, like Vin, are forever doomed to be slaves. This is where Kelsier and crew come in, to kill the evil tyrant and change the world for the better.
The magic system in this world is called Allomancy and the people who are gifted with it are Allomancers. They burn metals to enhance their mind, body, and skills (there's an index at the end of the book to help keep track). People who can burn only one metal are called Allomancers or Mistings; those who can burn all metals are Mistborn, like Vin and Kelsier. Mistborns are special and valued for their gifts, and all of them are assassins.
This book has been touted as the one that flipped the genre on its head (or something like that), and while it was an engaging read, I thought the praises were over done. This book on its own was different and promises a lot of action to come. The series on its own, however, does leave a huge impression--and a few holes in the soul--and blows many fantasy tropes apart. I can't give examples without giving away important plot points.