Mistborn Reading Guide-Part II – Supernatural Powers


Mistborn is a sci-fi/fantasy trilogy written by author Brandon Sanderson.  The series is really hard to describe but what I’ve said to others is that it’s like a collision between The Lord of the Rings and X-Men.

As an avid reader, I am picky about who I read.  When I was introduced to Brandon Sanderson and finished reading Mistborn, I placed him as one of my top 3 favorite authors.  He knows how to introduce and develop characters, he maintains a strong storyline and he captures the reader’s imagination.

As I read through the books, I gathered information about the world of Scadrial, the characters in the books and the science behind the three mysterious super-human abilities Sanderson created.

Spoiler Alert


Inhabitants of Scadrial are normal in that most do not have any abilities above any inhabitant on earth.  However, very few are able to possess one of three different supernatural manifestations: Allomancy, Feruchemy and Hemalurgy.  Each supernatural manifestation has three aspects: a physical one (which can be seen in the creations made by Ruin and Preservation); a spiritual one (in the unseen energy that permeates all of the world); and a cognitive one (in the minds which control that energy) (Chapter 57 in The Hero Of Ages)


  • An Allomancer on a nighttime escapade
    An Allomancer on a nighttime escapade

    Allomancy is the most prominent set of superhuman manifestations that people possess on Scadrial

  • It works by an Allomancer ingesting and then burning one (or more) of the 16 specific metals to draw powerful abilities from them
  • In Allomancy, the metals themselves are the fuel for an Allomancer’s abilities (Chapter 26 in Mistborn)
  • After the Lord Ruler took the power at the Well of Ascension, he recreated the world until the power expended itself
  • Although forbidden by the Lord Ruler, children of mixed skaa and noble heritage survived; eventually developing Allomantic abilities outside the nobility
  • It was these Allomancers who were hunted down by Steel Inquisitors and were used to create new Inquisitors
  • One of the Lord Ruler’s seemingly “divine” powers through his thousand year reign was his essential Allomantic strength which was also part of each one of the original nine Allomancers.  This was why his powers were so much stronger than the Mistborn in the books, although his ability to mix Feruchemy and Allomancy was what produced many of his secret abilities
  • Allomancers are divided into two main groups of people: Mistings and Mistborn


  • A Terrisman in traditional garb
    A Terrisman in traditional garb
    • Feruchemy is the second most prominent set of supernatural manifestations in humans
  • It is an ancient trait passed down among a race known as Terrismen
    • Feruchemy was known to men before the conflict between Preservation and Ruin began (Chapter 34 in The Hero Of Ages)
  • Feruchemists are also referred to as Keepers
    • Feruchemy is the power of balance; it involves the use of the same metals as Allomancy but rather than ingest the metals, they can be worn as jewelry or carried by the Feruchemist
  • This jewelry is used as storage of the Feruchemist’s own attributes
    • Feruchemists store up their reserves and keep them hidden by wearing many rings, earrings and other items of jewelry that had always been a part of the Terris culture (Chapter 22 in Mistborn)
  • Feruchemists refer to the metals that they use as “metalminds” (for example, a “coppermind” or an “ironmind”)
  • In one instance, Sazed, Keeper, stored his Feruchemal charge in metals he was not wearing.  Although this is not practiced by any Feruchemist and the Feruchemy charge was lost in the metals, he was able to escape capture by employing this tactic

Storing Up FeruchemyCircles-Stirling-Silver-Bracelet-300x265

  • Power is stored up, then later drawn upon (Chapter 22 in Mistborn)
  • As long as a metal is in contact with the skin and the Feruchemist had stored something in it, it could be drawn upon and used
  • Storing up Feruchemal attributes takes time – it would take weeks to fill even a ring’s worth of metal (Chapter 50 in The Well Of Ascension)
  • While sleeping, Keepers can’t fill their metalminds – only a bronzemind, the metal that stores wakefulness can be filled while a Feruchemist sleeps (Chapter 50 in The Well Of Ascension)
  • Only the Feruchemist who originally stored an attribute can use it
  • Feruchemists make themselves weaker for a certain time, storing up strength in their metals to use when they are ready (Chapter 22 in Mistborn)
  • The biggest limitation of Feruchemy is that a Keeper has to store up all of their abilities by drawing them from their own body (Chapter 27 in Mistborn)
  • To be twice as strong for a time, a Feruchemist has to spend several hours being weak to store up strength or to store up the ability to heal quickly, they have to spend a great deal of time feeling sick (Chapter 27 in Mistborn)
  • Feruchemists don’t have the limitations Allomancers have; if a Feruchemist has enough strength stored up to be twice as strong as normal for an hour, they can choose instead to be three times as strong for a shorter period of time – or even four, five or six times as strong for even shorter periods (Chapter 27 in Mistborn)
  • If an Allomancer tries to ingest a metal originally stored by a Feruchemist, it would be ineffective to that Allomancer

Using Feruchemy

  • teacher
    A traveling Feruchemist scholar

    Feruchemist uses each piece of metal, depending on its size and alloy, to store a certain physical quality; they save up an attribute, then draw on that reserve at a later time (Chapter 22 in Mistborn)

  • When Feruchemy is used, there is no loss of energy—just a changing of the time and rate of its use
  • Feruchemy is completely internal (Chapter 27 in Mistborn)
  • It can provide some of the same things Allomancers get from pewter and tin (strength, endurance or eyesight) but each attribute has to be stored separately (Chapter 27 in Mistborn)
  • Feruchemy can enhance a lot of other things too that Allomancy cannot such as memory, physical speed, clarity of thought and strange things like physical weight or physical age can be altered (Chapter 27 in Mistborn)
  • Feruchemy doesn’t have any external powers – it can’t Push and Pull emotions, nor can it Steelpush or Ironpull (Chapter 27 in Mistborn)
  • In Feruchemy, the metals are just storage devices – a Feruchemist’s own body is the real fuel (Chapter 27 in Mistborn)

History of Feruchemy

  • ae718e0d96909a1763b1de570fd256aa
    A Terriswoman Feruchemist

    The Lord Ruler once tried to enforce a ban on Terrismen touching or owning any metal – even making wearing metal a noble privilege (Chapter 28 in Mistborn)

  • Although he himself was one, the Lord Ruler executed many Terrismen because he feared them and hated them for their Feruchemy (Chapter 28 in Mistborn)
  • After Rashek became the Lord Ruler and received his power at the Well of Ascension, Terrismen hid away the last of the Feruchemists from the Lord Ruler (Chapter 28 in Mistborn)
  • During the first century after the Lord Ruler’s Ascension, he turned all Feruchemists into mistwraiths and they began to breed true as a species (Chapter 66 in The Hero Of Ages)
  • When the Lord Ruler offered his plan to his Feruchemist friends to change them into mistwraiths, he was making them speak on behalf of all the land’s Feruchemists. Though he changed his friends into kandra to restore their minds and memories, the rest he left as non-sentient mistwraiths.  These bred more of their kind, living and dying, becoming a race unto themselves.  From these offspring of the original mistwraiths, he made the next generations of kandra (Chapter 68 in The Hero Of Ages)
  • The Lord Ruler thought to transform all of the living Feruchemists into mistwraiths. However, he did not think of the genetic heritage left in the other non-Feruchemist Terris people, whom he left alive.  So it was that Feruchemists continued being born, if only rarely (Chapter 68 in The Hero Of Ages)
  • The Lord Ruler’s purges of the Terris people grew violent and he enacted a breeding program by making many Terrismen into eunuchs to limit the amount of Terrismen born with Feruchimal powers (Chapter 22 in Mistborn)
  • There were two main groups of people who used Feruchemy: Feruchemists or Keepers and Ferrings


  • The Synod are group of Keeper elders who guide their sect (Chapter 30 in The Well Of Ascension)
  • Once the elite leaders of the Terris Keepers, the entire Synod was attacked and carried off by the Inquisitors – they were presumed dead (Ars Arcanum in The Hero Of Ages)
  • The Synod charged themselves with keeping knowledge of the world before the Lord Ruler’s Ascension
  • However, they did not openly rebel against the Final Empire, instead they remained as a secret organization based in Tathingdwen, in the Terris dominance
  • After the Lord Ruler’s death, the Synod spread the knowledge collected from before the Ascension


  • The Lord Ruler’s breeding program included selecting a few special individuals to use for birthing new children – the goal being to breed Feruchemy out of the population (Chapter 45 in The Well Of Ascension)
  • A well known breeder was Tendwyl, who groomed and instructed many governors and leaders including King Elend after he came to power


  • Image may contain: 1 personAll Feruchemists are Keepers
  • Keepers were founded in the second century of the Lord Ruler’s reign (Chapter 41 in The Well Of Ascension)
  • They are an organization of Feruchemists dedicated to discovering, then memorizing, all of the knowledge and religions that existed before the Ascension
  • The Lord Ruler hunted them down to near extinction, forcing them to remain hidden
  • After The Collapse, they began teaching and revealing their knowledge
  • Most of them were presumed dead save Sazed
  • As a well known Keeper, Sazed, who was hired by Kelsier and played a major role during the final skaa Rebellion.  He was also Vin’s mentor and was very instrumental in overthrowing the Lord Ruler


  • Hemalurgy is the corresponding power of the god Ruin
  • Hemalurgy destroys by taking abilities from one person and giving them to another in reduced amounts (Chapter 33 in The Hero Of Ages)
  • Hemalurgy is in line with Ruin’s own appointed purpose – breaking down the universe into smaller and smaller pieces (Chapter 33 in The Hero Of Ages)
  • Without other people to steal from, Hemalurgy would be useless (Chapter 35 in The Hero Of Ages)
  • Hemalurgy is used for stealing a person’s abilities or powers by stabbing them in a vital organ with a spike made of one of the Allomantic metals, then driving it into precise “bind points” in the recipient’s (the Host’s) body
  • There are two to three hundred bind points located on various parts of the Host
  • Hemalurgy, by its namesake, is connected with blood (heme) and death is always involved in the transfer of powers between Donor and Host (Chapter 13 in The Hero Of Ages)
  • Hemalurgy can be used to grant Feruchemical or Allomantic abilities as well as natural attributes
  • The Lord Ruler was constantly trying to develop new breeds of servants.  It was a testament to Hemalurgy’s complexity that, despite a thousand years of trying, he never managed to create anything with it beyond the three kinds of constructs he developed: Inquisitors, kandra and koloss (Chapter 44 in The Hero Of Ages)

Hemalurgic Spikesil_340x270.439605021_mvnz

  • Hemalurgic spikes vary in size but a small bit of metal works as well as a large spike
  • Hemalurgic spikes can be reused but with each use, it loses its charge and becomes weaker (see Hemalurgic decay)
  • If a spike is removed from one person, it keeps its Hemalurgic charge for a time, able to be used by someone else to gain the ability or power within that spike
  • Hemalurgic spikes are most commonly used in creating Inquisitors, koloss and kandra


  • Inquisitor with Kredik Shaw in the background
    An Inquisitor with Kredik Shaw in the background

    Spikes are literally stabbed through the Donor and into the Host in order to make Inquisitors

  • Hemalurgic spikes kill the original Donor or victim but not the beneficiary or Host when they are impaled in normally fatal places – like when driven directly through the skull of the Host
  • Only one attribute can be stolen per spike, per person and the power or attribute is gained depending on where the host is stabbed and which metal is used
  • Hemalurgic abilities also work alongside other abilities
  • For example, a Feruchemist with a Hemalurgic spike that grants Allomatic physical powers would be able to use both Feruchemy and a specific physical Allomantic ability – the Lord Ruler used this method and possessed many powerful abilities; his secret and means of controlling the Final Empire
  • Inquisitor spikes are made large to be intimidating but a small pin could also be as effective as a massive spike (Chapter 42 in The Hero Of Ages)
  • The granted power can be different from what the original user possessed if the spike is used to steal a group of powers (for example, Allomantic physical or mental powers) because the new user could place it in a different location (bind point) on their body
  • Hemalurgy can be used to steal Allomatic or Feruchemical powers and give them to another person.  However, a Hemalurgic spike can also be created by killing a normal person, one who was neither an Allomancer nor a Feruchemist.  In that case, the spike instead would steal the very power of Preservation existing within the soul of the person – the power that, in fact, gave all people sentience or awareness.  A Hemalurgic spike can extract this power, then transfer it to another, granting them residual abilities similar to those of Allomancy (Chapter 28 in The Hero Of Ages)inquisitor_2_by_thompsonbros-d7dxl9x
  • There is a sub-group of Inquisitors that I will call “quasi-Inquisitors
  • This group is very rare and many of its members are unaware of the Hemalurgic spike that has been stabbed through a Donor and into them, the Host
  • Normally, they are existing Allomancers or Mistborn.  They are stabbed with a Hemalurgic spike after it passes through another Allomancer (a Donor).  This would grant the Host Allomancer or Mistborn (quasi-Inquisitor) their existing abilities plus whatever ability they gained from the Donor (Chapter 45 in The Hero Of Ages)
  • An example of this is when Spook, an existing tineye, was pierced with a pewter spear during a fight after it passed through a thug who burned pewter.  Afterwards, he was able to burn both tin and pewter which enhanced his senses and made him stronger than ten men.  Once the pewter rod was removed from his shoulder, he lost all the abilities it gave him
  • A drawback to being a quasi-Inquisitor is that because they were pierced with a Hemalurgic spike, the god Ruin was able to speak to their minds.  Many quasi-Inquisitors thought they were crazy because of hearing the voice of someone from their past who had died – the voice of Ruin haunting their thoughts
  • Each Hemalurgic spike driven through a person’s body gave Ruin some small ability to influence them.  This was mitigated by the mental fortitude of the one being controlled (Chapter 75 in The Hero Of Ages)
  • In some cases – depending on the size of the spike and the length of time it had been worn – a single spike gave Ruin only minimal powers over a person.  He could appear to them and could warp their thoughts slightly, making them overlook certain oddities – as seen in Vin and Zane  (Chapter 75 in The Hero Of Ages)
  • Once the Hemalurgic spike was removed from the quasi-Inquisitor, they lost the extra ability it gave them and Ruin could no longer speak to their mind


  • In creating koloss, four Hemalurgic spikes, each charged with the same human attribute hold together five Donor bodies to create the one Host koloss


  • Kandra use two spikes, each charged with the same human attribute, to grant a Blessing to mistwraiths and transform them into sentient kandra

Hemalurgic Decay

  • Per the law of Hemalurgic decay, the longer the spike is outside a living body, the more the Hemalurgic charge diminishes – this was the case with Inquisitors as they had spikes that pierced through their eyes and protruded out of the back of their heads
  • Hemalurgy destroyed by taking abilities from one person and giving them to another—in reduced amounts — power is actually lost
  • Unlike Allomancy or Feruchemy, net power is lost through Hemalurgy in line with Ruin’s own appointed purpose — breaking down the universe into smaller and smaller pieces
  • Hemalurgy grants great gifts but at a high cost

Other Posts from “A Reader’s Guide to Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn Trilogy”:

Part I – Gods and Religion

Part II – Supernatural Powers

Part III – Supernatural People

Part IV – Groups of People

Part V – Allomatic Metals Part I

Part VI – Allomatic Metals Part II

Part VII – Feruchemal Metals or Metalminds

Part VIIIHemalurgic Spikes

Part IX – Events, Terms, Places and Titles of People

Part X – Creatures Part I: Koloss

Part XI – Creatures Part II: Mistwraiths and Kandra

Part XII – Characters


1.  Mistborn Wiki. Retrieved January 7, 2015, from http://mistborn.wikia.com/wiki/Mistborn_Wiki

2.  Sanderson, B. (2008). The Hero Of Ages (First ed.). New York: Tom Doherty Associates.

3.  Sanderson, B. (2007). The Well Of Ascension (First ed.). New York: Tom Doherty Associates.

4.  Sanderson, B. (2006). Mistborn (First ed.). New York: Tom Doherty Associates.


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