By Zusak Marcus
By Zusak Marcus
Before writing The Book Thief, author Marcus Zusak published three other novels: Fighting Ruben Wolfe, Getting the Girl, and I Am the Messenger. While in the process of writing I Am the Messenger, Zusak was already playing with the idea of telling a story about a child who stole books. It took Zusak a while to figure out exactly how he wanted his story to go.
For a while, his book thief lived in present-day Australia, but that didn’t seem quite right. Eventually, Zusak decided to set his story in Nazi Germany. Zusak thought it was especially important to show the significance and power that words had in that time period. Since its publication in 2005, The Book Thief has gone on to win multiple awards. It is a Michael L. Printz Honor Book and an ALA Best Book for Young Adults.
As the name suggests, The Book Thief tells the story of a girl with a particular habit of stealing books. The book is narrated by Death, who tells of his interactions with a girl named Liesel Meminger. The story begins when Liesel’s little brother dies on a train traveling toward Munich in January 1939. After her brother is buried, Liesel continues the journey to a small town called Molching. She moves into a home on Himmel Street with her two foster parents, Rosa and Hans Hubermann. As Liesel settles into life on Himmel Street, she meets a host of interesting characters and has various adventures. Liesel’s best friend is Rudy Steiner, who lives next door and plays soccer with her.
One day, a man named Max Vandenburg shows up on Liesel’s doorstep. Max is the son of a man who once saved Hans’s life. He is also a Jew. Even though it is dangerous, the Hubermanns decide to take Max in and hide him in their basement. Liesel keeps the secret and befriends Max, who is kind and has nightmares just like her. Meanwhile, she continues as a voracious reader. Liesel begins to steal more books. Most of them are from the mayor’s house after the mayor’s wife Ilsa fires Liesel’s foster mother from doing her laundry.
Eventually, Max is forced to leave the basement. Hans is drafted to the war as punishment for not being pro-Nazi enough. Rudy’s father Alex is also drafted. Hans returns eventually after a leg injury. One day the Jews from Dachau are marched through Molching and Liesel sees Max among them. She cries out and runs to talk to him, but is forced away when a Nazi soldier whips her. Liesel still manages to recite part of The Word Shaker, a book Max wrote for her, out loud. Her words give the prisoners courage as they continue their march.
In October, Molching is bombed. Everyone dies in the air raid except for Liesel. She is saved because she was in the basement at the time of the bombing, writing her story down. Blinded by grief, Liesel continues on as a survivor. At the end of the war, Max comes back. He too has survived the war and lost much. They share a special connection because of their experiences. Years later, Death comes back for Liesel. She is an old woman when she dies, and Death greets her soul like an old friend. He is constantly amazed and surprised by the human experience.
The narrator of The Book Thief, Death tells Liesel’s story from a unique perspective. He is drawn to Liesel because she is a survivor, and he comes across her three times. Death’s side notes and facts give an outside perspective on human nature and compassion.
Also known as the book thief, Liesel is the protagonist of the story. She moves to Molching at age 9, and lives there throughout the years of the war. During her time on Himmel Street, Liesel develops a deep love for her foster parents, the Jew they are hiding in the basement, and her neighbor Rudy. She also develops a knack for stealing books.
Tall and kind, Hans is Liesel’s beloved foster father. He plays the accordion and snaps witty comments at his wife Rosa. Hans also comforts Liesel when she has nightmares and teaches her to read.
Liesel’s foster mother, Rosa Hubermann loves to curse and complain. Despite this, she loves Liesel fiercely and is a good woman at heart who always knows how to handle a crisis.
Max is a young Jewish man who the Hubermanns hide for part of the war. He is a fist fighter who dreams about fighting Hitler. He befriends Liesel and writes her two books about the special influence she has on him.
Liesel’s next-door neighbor and best friend, Rudy is a kind and outgoing kid who always seems to be up to trouble. He is hopelessly in love with Liesel and is constantly thinking up ways to convince her to kiss him.
Another boy who lives on Himmel Street, Tommy has bad hearing and a twitching face. The kids make him play goalie when they play soccer because he’s not very good.
The mayor’s wife, Ilsa lets Liesel read in her library. Later, Ilsa fires Rosa, but continues to allow Liesel to steal books from her. She becomes a friend of sorts to Liesel and gives her the power of words.
A resident of Himmel Street, Frau Holtzapfel has a longstanding feud with Rosa Hubermann. Despite this, she makes an arrangement with Rosa for Liesel to read to her after the air raids start.
Rudy’s father, Alex is a tailor who is drafted to the war after he refuses to let the Gestapo take his son. He comes back to Molching after the war and shares his grief with Liesel. Like her, he is a survivor.
The Book Thief, which is set in Germany during World War II, portrays the horrors of war and the needless violence associated with it. War brings about death and destruction, and tears apart all sorts of lives. War brings out the worst in humans, but every once in a while it brings out the best, as people struggle to help each other through difficult times.
Reading and books play a crucial role in the novel. Liesel steals books because she is infatuated by the power of stories. Once she learns to read, Liesel truly understand the magic of a good book. Through her reading, Liesel also learns to write and become a storyteller herself.
Liesel’s love for her family and friends on Himmel Street is what motivates her to push through her experiences. Love is a binding force that brings Liesel closer to those around her, and that makes her mourn those she has lost, such as her younger brother and biological mother.
Courage comes out in all sorts of situations in The Book Thief. Hans and Rosa display their courage by taking in a Jew and resisting the Nazi way of life. Many others show courage through their resilience throughout the war. There are smaller forms of courage too—Liesel stealing books and Rudy standing up to bullies. Each moment of courage proves that no matter the situation, a person has the power to take control over his own destiny and fight back against oppression.
Death is in awe of Liesel not only because of her resilience, but also because of her childhood innocence. As a kid, Liesel can see the world in a unique way that adults cannot. Unmarred by the pressures of adult life, Liesel escapes into her books, describes the sky in creative ways, and never says no to a good bit of mischief. It is her childhood perspective that makes her stand out and understand things that an older person might not.
For Hans Hubermann, music is everything. Music brings people together and can evoke emotions that are indescribable. Music is also beautiful because it is a medium that allows for imperfections. Hans is such a good accordion player, not because his playing is perfect, but because it is soulful and honest and passionate. Hans tells Liesel never to forget about music in her life.
The ultimate message of The Book Thief is that words matter. They can be manipulated for evil: that is how Hitler was able to come to power in the first place. But words can also be reclaimed and used for good. Max finds strength in words when he writes his two books, and later, Liesel uses those same words to inspire Max on his march from Dachau. Liesel also finds great strength in her own words when she begins to write down her story.
Forgiveness is hard to come by in The Book Thief, but it is ultimately rewarding. At the end of the story, Liesel is able to forgive Ilsa for firing her Mama, and Ilsa is able to forgive Liesel for her unkind words. Liesel also forgives the people who have harmed her unknowingly; part of the human experience is making mistakes.
Above all else, Liesel is a survivor. It is this instinct to survive that first makes Death notice her. But survival means more than simply not dying. It means possessing a will to live and move forward, to overcome even the worst of experiences. Max possesses this quality as well, and this is what makes him such a fighter.
Although war is filled with tragedy and destruction, Death makes sure to notice the beauty as well. Death pays attention to the colors of the sky, and the small moments of human connection and happiness. The message is that there can be beauty in everything, and humans are exceptionally good at seeking it.
The prologue begins with the narrator, Death, introducing himself. Death assures the reader that he can be cheerful and agreeable. Above all else, he is fair. Just don’t ask Death to be nice. When he comes for people at the end of their lives, Death always pays attention to the color of the sky. Focusing on colors helps him to relax and de-stress. Noticing colors distracts Death from the difficulties of his job, which he cannot stop, because there is no one else to replace him. He says that what he needs distraction from are not the people who die, but rather the survivors. He doesn’t like to pay attention to them, but every now and then there are survivors that Death has trouble ignoring. One such survivor is the book thief, which Death saw three times.
The first time Death saw the book thief, everything was white from the snow. A six-year-old boy had just died on a train, and as Death scooped up the little boy’s soul, his older sister watched. Later, the girl and her mother stood with the corpse in the snow while two guards on the train figured out what to do. The second time Death saw the book thief, the sky was black, and he had come for a 24-year-old man whose plane had just crashed. Death arrived at the scene too early—the man was still clinging to life. A boy arrived at the site of the plane crash, followed by the book thief. Even though it had been years since the girl’s brother died, Death still recognized her. The book thief’s friend placed a teddy bear on the man’s chest, and Death went in and carried the man’s soul away.
The last time Death saw the book thief, the sky was red. Bombs had been dropped, and bodies and souls were stuck everywhere. Death was just about to leave when he saw the book thief kneeling on a mountain of rubble, holding a book. He wanted to crouch down and apologize to the girl, but that is against the rules. Instead, Death watched as the girl dropped her book and howled. Death is often reminded of the girl, and he invites the reader to come with him, so that he may tell her story.
In order to understand how the book thief ended up howling on a mound of rubble under a red sky, it is important to start at the beginning. The story begins with the death of the book thief’s brother. The book thief, whose name is actually Liesel Meminger, was traveling with her brother and mother to a town outside of Munich, Germany. It was January 1939, and Liesel was 9 years old. As the reader already knows, Liesel’s younger brother did not complete the journey. When the boy died, his mother carried him out into the snow. She and Liesel waited two days before burying the boy in a nameless town. After the small funeral, Liesel stayed behind in the graveyard. She picked up a dropped black book with silver writing: her first steal. Liesel could not read, but she kept the book. For her, it symbolized the day she lost her brother as well as the day she lost her mother.
Liesel continued on the train to a street called Himmel in a town called Molching (pronounced “Molking”) on the outskirts of Munich. There, her foster parents were waiting for her. They had been expecting both a girl and a boy, but of course, Liesel’s brother was not there. When she arrived, Liesel refused to get out of the car. Her foster mother, Rosa Hubermann, cursed and asked what was wrong with the girl. Her foster father, a tall and kind man named Hans Hubermann, was the one who eventually convinced Liesel to come inside.
Liesel knew very little about her real father. All she knew was that he was a communist, although no one would tell Liesel what this word meant or why it was bad. After a while, Liesel settled into her new home on Himmel Street. Rosa loved Liesel, but expressed it in a funny way, by hitting her with wooden spoons and cursing a lot. She often called Liesel saumensch, which means dirty pig for a girl (a boy is called a saukerl). After a few weeks Rosa insisted that Liesel call her “Mama” and Hans “Papa.” Liesel would wake up every night from nightmares about her brother dying. Hans would always come in and would stay in the room the rest of the night, sleeping in an old chair. Sometimes he would play the accordion for Liesel.
Liesel went to school but had to sit with the younger children because she couldn’t read. When she turned 10, Liesel joined Hitler Youth like all the other German children of that age and older. In the evenings, she helped Rosa with her wash and ironing business by carrying clothes to the houses. Himmel Street was a relatively poor street, and a cast of interesting characters lived there. One such person was Rudy Steiner. Eight months older than Liesel, he quickly became her best friend. Rudy stuck up for Liesel and constantly tried to get her to kiss him. Rudy was also famous in town for the “Jesse Owens Incident.” In 1936 he was obsessed with Jesse Owens, the black American who won the gold medal in the 1936 Olympics for the 4 x 100 m relay. One night, Rudy painted himself with black charcoal, biked to Hubert Oval, and pretended to be Jesse Owens. After, his father had to explain politics to Rudy as best he could, telling Rudy why it wasn’t good to pretend to be black or Jewish or anything other than Aryan.
The Jesse Owens Incident was a defining moment for Rudy. Liesel had a defining moment as well one night. She woke up from her nightmare and discovered she had wet the bed. Hans came in and stripped the bed, where he discovered Liesel’s stolen book under the mattress, The Grave Digger’s Handbook. Hans and Liesel began reading the book every night, and Hans helped Liesel practice the alphabet. Soon they started reading during the day also. When the weather was poor, they would go down into the basement to read, and Liesel would paint the words she didn’t know on the wall.
In September-November 1939, two significant things happened: World War II began, and Liesel became the heavyweight champion of the schoolyard. Liesel got moved from the little kid class at school up to her age group. But even though she was improving greatly with her reading, Liesel was still very behind. One day she was supposed to read in front of the class but couldn’t do it. Instead, she started reciting a passage she had memorized from The Grave Digger’s Handbook. At break, the other kids taunted Liesel and called her stupid. After one comment too many, Liesel started punching a boy named Ludwig Schmeikl. A boy named Tommy Muller who had bad hearing and twitched seemed to be smiling, so Liesel started punching him too. By the end of the day, Liesel had made a reputation for herself as a kid not to be messed with.
Liesel stole her second book on April 20, 1940. It was 463 days since her first steal. The events of the 4 or 5 months before Liesel’s second book stealing created a change on Himmel Street. In December of 1939, Liesel finished reading The Grave Digger’s Handbook. On Christmas, she received two more books: Faust the Dog and The Lighthouse. Her foster parents could barely afford gifts, but Hans had traded cigarettes with some gypsies for the books. Liesel was happy, but the happiness did not last. The discontent started with the washing; as the economy got worse, Rosa was beginning to lose customers.
Another thing that happened in early 1940 was that Liesel’s class in school started learning about letter writing. Liesel asked Hans if she could write a letter to her mother. He agreed, but that night Liesel overheard Hans and Rosa talking about the letter. They didn’t know where Liesel’s mother was or what “they” had done to her. Liesel didn’t know who the “they” was supposed to be. Liesel kept checking the mailbox for a response to her letter, but none came. When her birthday came around, Hans and Rosa could not afford a gift. Liesel decided to give herself her own gift by taking a little of the money from the laundry service to send more letters to her mother. When Rosa found out, she beat Liesel for a while but then said, “I’m sorry.” Liesel realized she would never see her mother again.
April 20, 1940 was Hitler’s birthday. To celebrate, the town of Molching had a big book burning. Hans and Rosa’s biological children, Hans Jr. and Trudy, came to visit for the holiday. Hans Jr. was a staunch Nazi who argued with his father about politics. Hans did not like Hitler, and his membership application to the Nazi party had not been accepted. Hans Jr. told him that he wasn’t trying hard enough to prove his loyalty, and that he was either with the Fuhrer or against him.
At the celebration for Hitler’s birthday, a man gave a speech about Germany and about getting rid of the evils of the Jews and the communists. The mention of communist made Liesel think of her missing father, her mother, her dead brother. After the book burning, Liesel waited on the steps of the church for her Papa. When he found her, Liesel asked Hans if it was the Fuhrer who took her mother away. Hans wanted to lie but found he couldn’t. He said yes, Hans thought Hitler might have taken Liesel’s mother away. Liesel said that she hated the Fuhrer, and Hans slapped her in the face. He told Liesel she could say such things at home but she could never, ever say something like that in public. He made Liesel practice her Heil Hitler.
15 minutes later, Liesel and Hans began to walk home. Hans stopped to talk to an acquaintance, and Liesel wandered toward the remains of a bonfire. There were still some items that hadn’t burned. Liesel stole one of the unburned books and hid it under her shirt. As she walked home with Hans, the book, still warm from the fire, burned under Liesel’s uniform. Liesel noticed another person by the town hall, and realized with dread that the person had been there the whole time and had seen her steal the book.
Nearly halfway back to Himmel Street, Liesel bent down and pulled the stolen book from her uniform. It had gotten too hot to carry. Hans grabbed the book, titled The Shoulder Shrug, and told Liesel he didn’t need to trade cigarettes for books any more since she was so intent on stealing. He also got a strange expression on his face: he had an idea about something. When Liesel asked what was going on, Hans didn’t answer. He did tell Liesel she could keep the book though. It would be their secret, and they would read it together, as long as Liesel promised not to steal more books. What Liesel didn’t know was that Hans decided to trade some cigarettes for another book: Mein Kampf, Hitler’s autobiography. This was all part of his secret idea.
Liesel spent the next few weeks paranoid that the person who saw her steal the book would come after her. This person was the mayor’s wife. Liesel kept coming up with excuses not to deliver Rosa’s washing and ironing to the mayor’s house, but eventually she was forced to go. The mayor’s wife opened the door and had Liesel come inside. Rather than lecture Liesel, she brought the girl inside to a room full of books and let Liesel sit and read. Liesel left the mayor’s house dazed and elated. However, the happiness wore off as Liesel realized she had forgotten to say thank you. She ran back to the mayor’s house just to say thanks.
For a change of scenery, Death directs us to another story that was happening at the same time away from Liesel and Molching. It was the story of Max Vandenburg, a Jew who was in hiding a few hundred miles northwest, in a town called Stuttgart. Max sat on his suitcase, hungry and afraid. A man woke him up and gave him a copy of Mein Kampf. Inside the book were a key and a map with instructions.
By the end of 1940, Liesel and Hans had made it most of the way through her stolen book, The Shoulder Shrug. Liesel continued to play soccer in the street with Rudy and the other kids, and she also continued to read at the mayor’s house when she went to pick up the washing. One day Liesel picked up a children’s book and noticed that the name Johann Hermann was written inside it. Liesel asked the mayor’s wife who Johann was and discovered it was Frau Hermann’s son, who had died while fighting in World War I. When she left that day, Liesel told the mayor’s wife she was sorry.
Around this time, Liesel and Rudy’s hunger drove them to more stealing. They saw an older boy eating an apple and asked where he got it. The boy took them to Arthur Berg, a teenager who took a group of kids to raid local farms. Liesel and Rudy worked together to steal apples. They decided not to share their goods with their families because they would not approve of the stealing. That first night Liesel ate so many apples that she vomited later, but she couldn’t have been happier about it. Later Liesel and Rudy stole a basket of food from a boy delivering it to the priests. They also sold some chestnuts for coins they spent on candy.
Back to Max Vandenburg: the Jew took a train from Stuttgart to Munich and read the copy of Mein Kampf on the way. He thought back to his childhood friend Walter Kugler. It was Walter who had arranged his passage. Mein Kampf means “My struggle” in German, and Max thought about the irony that it was this book of all things to save him.
Max Vandenburg arrived at Liesel’s house late one night and asked Hans Hubermann if he still played the accordion. Hans replied that of course he did. Hans had learned to play the accordion from a German Jew named Erik Vandenburg during the First World War. It was Erik Vandenburg who had saved Hans’s life during the war. Their commander often called out rand questions like “who comes from Pasing?” and “who’s good with mathematics?” to get men to volunteer for terrible chores such as cleaning the bathroom with a toothbrush. One day, the commander called out “who has clean handwriting?” Naturally, nobody volunteered. However, Erik Vandenburg didn’t want his friend to go into battle so he told the commander that Hans had clean handwriting. That day, Hans spent his time writing letters while everyone else in his unit went to battle. No one in his unit came back. That was the first time Hans Hubermann cheated Death.
After the war, Hans visited Erik’s family and told them the story of how Erik had saved his life. He gave Erik’s widow his business card and said to call him if there was ever anything he could do to help. Two decades later, Erik’s son, Max Vandenburg, arrived at the Hubermann door. Max grew up in Stuttgart, where he enjoyed a good fistfight. The boy he fought the most was Walter Kugler, who later became Max’s best friend. In 1938, when things started getting bad for the Jews of Germany, Walter helped Max into hiding and eventually convinced the Hubermanns to take him in.
The morning after Max arrived, Hans took Liesel down to the basement for a lecture. He explained to Liesel that Max was a Jew and that his father had saved Hans’s life. He wanted Liesel to understand how dangerous a situation they were in, so he purposefully scared her. He told Liesel that if she told anyone about Max, even Rudy, even her teacher, then the Nazis would come and take her foster parents away forever. By the end of the conversation, Liesel was crying hysterically from the shock.
Max Vandenburg slept for three days in the extra bed in Liesel’s room. Liesel watched him sleep and realized that he had nightmares just like her. When Max woke up, he swore he would never sleep upstairs again. He had put the Hubermanns in enough danger as it was. Instead, Max moved into the basement. In the next few weeks, Liesel continued reading at the mayor’s house—she had started a book called The Whistler there. She also read in the basement with Hans, even though Max was now living down there.
As it got colder, Max started coming upstairs at night to sleep by the fire. He and Liesel both woke up from nightmares, and eventually they would have storytelling sessions around the fire about their pasts. Around this time, Liesel also decided she was too old for her Papa to come in every night during her bad dreams. On Liesel’s 12th birthday in February 1941, her foster parents gave her a new book: The Mud Men. Max wished Liesel happy birthday and apologized for not getting her anything. He looked so lonely standing there that Liesel went to give him a hug.
For a week, Liesel was kept out of the basement at all costs. During that time, Max painted over some of the pages of Mein Kampf and created his own book to give to Liesel. The book was called The Standover Man. Max painted crude pictures and told a story about a man who was always scared of men standing over him. His father used to stand over him, and when he lost a fight, the victor would stand over him. When he was in hiding, the man was always afraid when he woke up a bad man would be standing there. Luckily, it was always his friend. Then the man moved to a house where he slept for three days. When he woke, there was not a man standing over him, but a girl instead. Now the man lives in a basement and the girl is his friend. On her birthday, it was the girl who gave a gift to the man, by giving him a hug. It made him understand that the best standover man he’d ever known was not a man at all.
Part 5 begins with Death’s announcement that Rudy Steiner did not deserve to die the way he did. Even Death has a heart. But he’s being rude by spoiling the ending. So instead, Death returns to the story. All throughout spring 1941, Max continued living in the Hubermann basement. Liesel would bring him newspapers she found so he could read them and do the crossword. She also gave Max weather reports, since he could not go outside and see for himself. Sometimes, when Max was alone in the dark of the basement, he would imagine himself fighting the Fuhrer. They had a long fight, the lonely Jew versus the head of Germany. In Max’s visions, Hitler always won, even though Max told Liesel that he was the victor. Max also used his time in the basement to paint over more pages of Mein Kampf to make a sketchbook for himself.
In June of 1941, Liesel went to the mayor’s house to read as usual. This time, however, when it was time to go, Ilsa Hermann did not have the washing in her hand. Instead, she had a letter firing Rosa Hubermann. She told Liesel that she was sorry and that Liesel could keep The Whistler, the book she was reading. The mayor’s wife was the last of Rosa’s laundry customers, and Liesel was so furious that she refused the offer. She sat outside the mayor’s house for several hours and then knocked on the door again. When the mayor’s wife answered, Liesel said a lot of terrible things to her. Liesel told Ilsa that a lousy book could not make up for the fact that she was firing Liesel’s mama while she lived in a big mansion. She said Ilsa could do her own stinking washing. Worst of all, Liesel told Ilsa she was pathetic for not being over her son’s death. Later that night, Liesel read in bed with her Papa. She whispered that she thought she was going to hell.
That summer, Rudy attempted to get Liesel to kiss him several more times. He also faced many problems. At Hitler Youth, Tommy Muller could never march in time because of his poor hearing. This made the Hitler Youth leader, Franz Deutscher, furious. When Rudy stood up for Tommy, Deutscher made him run extra laps and do push-ups in the disgusting mud. Liesel and Rudy also began to steal again, but Arthur Berg had moved away. Another teenager named Viktor Chemmel replaced him as ringleader of the thieving group. Viktor Chemmel did not get along with Liesel and Rudy. Rudy got into an argument with Viktor over the amount of apples they got, and Viktor told Rudy he would pay for that. Which he did, later, when Viktor threw The Whistler into the river, and Rudy went to retrieve it.
Rudy was feeling very let down and needed a win in his life. So he and Liesel decided to do their own thieving, and to steal from the mayor’s house. Rudy kept guard outside while Liesel climbed through the open window of the library and stole The Whistler back. Rudy accidentally left Liesel’s shoes by the house and had to run back and get them, but the steal was a success. That night, Rudy said, “Goodbye, Book Thief.” It was the first time Liesel was given that name. Rudy got into various other mischief that fall, including stealing a big potato from a grocery store, getting a black eye from Franz Deutscher, the Hitler Youth leader, and skipping Hitler Youth altogether.
In 1942, Death became very busy. The war brought on more deaths and colors than usual, and Death ran around scooping up the souls of Jews and soldiers. They say that war is death’s best friend, but for Death, it is actually quite stressful and more work. To distract himself from the impossible task of collecting so many souls, Death turned back to moments of beauty, which lead him back to the book thief’s story.
In early 1942, Liesel turned 13, and Max Vandenburg became very sick. On Christmas Eve of 1941, Liesel brought snow inside as a present for Max since he always asked about the weather. The whole family had a snowball fight and built a snowman inside. In mid-February, Max collapsed by the fire. The Hubermanns put Max in Liesel’s bed. He was alive, but wouldn’t wake up. Liesel blamed herself for bringing in the snow. While Max slept, Liesel brought him thirteen presents such as a button, a description of a cloud, a ribbon, and a pinecone. She read to him every day and prayed that he would wake up. Death remembers he visited the house during that time, but when he went to take Max’s soul, Max fought back so he left. Liesel told Rosa Hubermann that if Max woke up, she should come yell at Liesel about something so she would know. Everyone would believe that, since Rosa was always yelling anyway.
During this time, Liesel and Rudy returned to the mayor’s house, and Liesel stole another book, called The Dream Carrier. Max was still asleep in mid-March, and Rosa and Hans began to discuss what they would do if he never woke up. Max’s death presented a logistical problem for them because there would be no way for them to get the body out without someone discovering their secret. Fortunately, Max did wake up. When it happened, Rosa went to Liesel’s school and pulled her out of class. In the hallway, she yelled at Liesel for stealing her hairbrush, but then she bent down and whispered that Max had woken up. She handed Liesel a toy soldier, Max’s favorite of her gifts.
One day Liesel was playing soccer on the street when she saw a group of Nazis. They were going door to door to check basements and see if they were deep enough to be shelters for air raids. Liesel had to think of a way to get back to the house to warn her family and Max in time. She intentionally ran into a bigger boy and scraped her knee. Rudy went to get Hans Hubermann, and as her Papa carried her, she whispered that the Nazis were checking basements. There was not enough time to do more than yell down a warning to Max and pray. The Nazi officer went in and inspected the basement. He did not see Max, who had hidden behind some paint drop sheets under the staircase.
The war came closer to Molching in the summer of 1942. Hans Hubermann was a painter, and the threat of bombs brought on more work for him because everyone wanted their shutters painted black to disguise their houses. Liesel often went with Hans as he worked, and he would bring his accordion to play on breaks. Nobody could play the accordion quite like Hans could. While Liesel worked, Rudy ran. He was training for a Hitler Youth competition to win 4 gold medals, like Jesse Owens had in the 1936 Olympics. On the day of the competition, Rudy won 3 medals but on the fourth race he had two false starts and was disqualified. Later, he told Liesel he did it on purpose, but he never told her why.
Liesel finished The Dream Carrier and went back to the mayor’s house to steal her next book: A Song in the Dark. A week later, Rudy found Liesel and told her to come with him to the mayor’s house. A book called The Complete Duden Dictionary and Thesaurus was hidden under a tree near the window. It had obviously been put there on purpose, but Liesel took it anyway. Inside the dictionary was a letter to Liesel from the mayor’s wife. It told Liesel that Ilsa knew she had been stealing books, but she was not angry. Even though Ilsa knew Liesel found her pathetic, she hoped one day the girl could enter the library in a more civilized manner than through the window. Liesel went to the front door but could not bring herself to knock.
The first time the air raid alarms went off, Liesel and her foster parents went to a basement shelter six houses down. They had to leave Max behind and prayed he would survive. In the basement shelter, 22 people from Himmel Street gathered in fear. When the alarm passed and the Hubermanns returned, Max told them that while everyone was underground he peaked outside and saw the stars. It was the first time he had seen the sky in 22 months. The next time the bomb sirens went off, Liesel read to everyone in the shelter. He reading kept everyone, even the adults, calm.
In the morning, Frau Holtzapfel came to the Hubermanns’ door. This was unusual, because Frau Holtzapfel had a longstanding feud with Rosa Hubermann and usually only came by to spit at the house. However, the woman said she liked Liesel’s reading and she wanted Liesel to keep reading The Whistler to her twice a week in her house. In exchange, Frau Holtzapfel would give the Hubermanns her coffee ration. The two women agreed on the exchange without asking Liesel her opinion.
Some time later, a convoy of Nazi soldiers marched the Jewish prisoners from Dachau through Molching. These Jews were all starving and miserable. Liesel and Rudy found Hans and sat with him in silence while the march passed. Some of the prisoners avoided the gaze of the onlookers, while others looked imploringly at the townspeople, perhaps hoping for some mercy. Toward the end of the line, an older man with a beard kept falling, but the Nazis would hit him until he got back up. When he reached Hans’s paint cart, Hans gave him a piece of bread. The Jewish man thanked Hans profusely, but the Nazis saw. They whipped both the man and Hans until the man continued walking. After, Hans whispered, “What have I done?”
That night, Max Vandenburg said his goodbyes and left the Hubermann house for good. Since the Nazis had seen Hans acting as a “Jew lover” it was now too dangerous for Max to stay. Hans was supposed to meet Max six days later in the woods, but when he came to their meeting spot all he found was a note that said, “You’ve done enough.” The Hubermanns kept waiting for the Nazis to show up to take Hans away, but nobody came. When the Gestapo finally arrived weeks later, they were after somebody different. They had come for Rudy.
Rudy had become a standout in Molching not only as a great athlete, but a great student. The Nazis wanted to take him away to a special school to become an officer for the Reich. However, Rudy’s parents refused to let the Gestapo take him. Death contemplates that if Rudy’s parents had not resisted, Rudy’s father Alex Steiner would not have suffered the same punishment as Hans Hubermann, Rudy would have gone away to school, and maybe he would have lived. But as fate would have it, Rudy stayed in Molching.
People such as Alex Steiner and Hans Hubermann, who insulted or resisted the Fuhrer, had to be punished somehow. For these two men, their punishment came by being drafted to the war. The night before Hans left for the army, he and Alex Steiner got very drunk. On his way home, Hans accidentally knocked on Frau Holtzapfel’s door by mistake. When he finally made it to the right house, he passed out in the basement. In the morning, Rosa dumped a bucket of cold water on his head and yelled at him to get up. Hans and Liesel had a very tearful goodbye. Hans hugged Liesel and made her promise to look after Mama and keep reading in the shelter if there were more raids.
After his father left for the war, Rudy became increasingly angry. He set out one night to steal something but found he was better at leaving things behind than stealing them. Liesel told Rudy that at least he only lost his father. Liesel had lost her brother, her mother, Max, and now Hans. Rosa began to sleep at night with the accordion on her lap, but she never played it.
Neither Alex nor Hans was sent to the front lines. Since Alex was a tailor, he was sent to an army hospital in Austria to sew. Hans was sent to the Air Raid Special Unit, which was arguably the worst job in the war. The unit had to stay aboveground during air raids and put out fires. They were also responsible for collecting bodies after the bombs went off.
Toward the end of 1942, there was another march from Dachau. This time, Liesel and Rudy biked ahead of the parade and dropped bread on the road. They hid to watch as the Jews went by and picked up the bread to eat. Liesel also checked their faces to make sure that none of them was Max. The marching Jews picked up the bread, and it felt like a small success. A few days before Christmas, Rosa gave Liesel her present. Max had left behind his sketchbook and asked Rosa to give it to Liesel when the time was right. Inside, was a second book he had created, called The Word Shaker. The book was about a girl who climbed trees and understood the true power of words. That night, Liesel dreamed about the tree.
The next time Liesel went to steal a book from the mayor’s house, there were cookies. They were leftover from Christmas and had been there for two weeks. There was no note, but Liesel was sure the cookies were for her. This time, Liesel wrote “thank you” on a note on the drawer and held a book called The Last Human Stranger. Ilsa Hermann entered the library. Liesel had always assumed it was the mayor’s library, but now she realized the room belonged to Ilsa. They exchanged a few words until Rudy called Liesel from outside and she left.
In January 1943, Liesel went to Frau Holtzapfel’s door to read as usual, but someone else was outside. The man was Michael, Frau Holtzapfel’s son. He had just returned from Stalingrad, where he had watched his brother Robert die. Robert’s legs were blown off in the battle, and it took three days for him to pass away. Michael also informed the Hubermanns that their son was fighting in Russia as well, but as far as Michael knew, Hans Jr. was still alive. Liesel read to Frau Holtzapfel, but she didn’t seem to hear. She was too busy weeping.
One day in the army, Hans sat down in the truck that was transporting his unit. A man named Reinhold Zucker yelled at him to switch seats. Reinhold Zucker was a young man who was angry at Hans for beating him at cards. Hans did not want a fight, so he switched seats with Reinhold. Minutes later, the driver lost control of the truck, and the vehicle toppled over. Hans’s leg broke in the accident, but Reinhold Zucker was killed. Hans realized that had he not given up his seat, he would have been in Reinhold’s place. This was the second time he cheated death. Because he had a broken leg, Hans was allowed to leave the army and return home to Himmel Street.
Everyone was happy to have Hans return, but for Rudy it was bittersweet. Why had Hans returned home but not his own father? It didn’t seem fair. Rudy set out one night with a toolbox full of thieving supplies. The toolbox also included a teddy bear, of all things. Liesel saw Rudy from her window and went out to join him. They ended up sitting together and talking rather than stealing.
A few weeks later there was another air raid, but Frau Holtzapfel was so caught up in grief that she refused to leave her kitchen. Her son Michael went to the Hubermanns for help, but no one could convince her to come so they had to go into the shelter without her. Michael wept in the shelter and blamed himself for wanting to live when he shouldn’t. At the last minute, however, Frau Holtzapfel appeared.
A few hours after the bombing stopped, Rudy and Liesel noticed a small fire by the river. They went to investigate and saw a crashed plane with an American pilot. Rudy placed a teddy bear on the pilot’s chest. When Death came to take the pilot’s soul away, he saw Liesel for the second time. Though it had been years, he still remembered the girl from the day her brother died on the train.
Death again offers a glimpse of the ending. He doesn’t know whether he does this to soften its blow for the reader, or else to prepare himself for telling it. He says that on the night the world ended for Liesel Meminger, it was raining. The bombs were off target—no one had intended to bomb Himmel Street. But that’s where the bombs hit. Everyone on the street was sleeping. Everyone except for Liesel, that is. She was in the basement writing her story. She was the only survivor. After, the air raid unit pulled her out of the rubble. She screamed “Papa!” and clutched the book that had saved her life.
But Death is getting ahead of himself again. The first 97 days after Hans Hubermann returned to Molching, everything was fine. On the 98th day, however, there was another march of the Jews of Dachau. The parade came twice in 10 days, and soon after, a man was found dead in Frau Diller’s candy shop. That man was Michael Holtzapfel. He had hanged himself because of his guilt for wanting to live. Frau Holtzapfel ran sobbing into the street and sat there screaming. She had lost two sons in six months. Hans Hubermann sat with her the whole time. That’s just the type of man he was.
Soon after, there was another march from Dachau. Liesel searched the faces of Jews for Max as usual. However, this occasion was different. On this day, Max’s face was there in the crowd, looking back. Liesel screamed for him and ran to join the crowd of Jews. She grabbed his hand and they talked for a few minutes. Max told Liesel he had been captured a few months before. A Nazi noticed Liesel in the crowd and shooed her away. But Liesel ran to the back of the parade, and looped back around to Max through the crowd. Liesel stopped next to him and started to recite words from The Word Shaker. Several of the Jews stopped and listened to her. However, the Nazi soldier came back, and this time he whipped both Max and Liesel until Liesel fell back. Liesel cried and screamed Max’s name.
Rudy saw Liesel and jumped on top of her to protect her from more punches. He held her down and their bodies were intertwined until the parade left. When the Jews were gone, Rudy found Rosa Hubermann and told her what happened. She understood without asking that it was Max. For three days, Liesel didn’t leave the house. Rudy checked every day to ask if she was still sick. On the fourth day, Liesel came out and told Rudy everything about Max hiding in their house.
In mid-August, Liesel went to the mayor’s house to steal another book. She told herself she was doing it to cheer herself up. But when Liesel got to the library, she was so angry about everything that had happened that she ripped one of the books to shreds, chapter by chapter and page by page. She left a note for the mayor’s wife apologizing for stealing and wrecking her property. She said she was just so angry and afraid that she wanted to kill all of the words. Liesel thought she would never see the mayor’s wife again, but three days later Ilsa appeared at her door on Himmel Street. She told Liesel that she was impressed with the letter and that if Liesel was not going to read anymore, she may as well try writing. She gave Liesel a little black journal in which to write her own story.
Liesel wrote ten pages every night. She started with her brother dying on the train and continued on from there. On the tenth night, Liesel was in the basement writing when the bombs hit. Death came to Himmel Street and collected the souls of all its inhabitants. Rudy was asleep next to his sister, and Rosa was caught mid-snore in the moment of her death. Hans’s soul met Death standing up…the best souls always do. Liesel was in shock after the raid. Her rescuers tried to keep her from the bodies, but Liesel saw the line of corpses. She ran to Rudy and gave him the kiss she would never agree to in his life. She said goodbye to her loved ones, ending with her Papa, the one she loved most of all. Liesel knelt in the dirt, weeping. Nobody noticed her book, and Death picked it up and carried it with him.
Many years later, Death went to Sydney, Australia to pick up the Book Thief’s soul. She was an old lady by then, and her last thoughts were of her husband and children. But she had a few other visions as well.
After the bombing, the mayor and his wife picked up Liesel from the police station. There was nobody else for her. Alex Steiner returned home when the news of his family’s death reached him. He lamented that if he had only let Rudy go to that school, his son would still be alive. Liesel was embarrassed, but she told Alex Steiner that she had kissed Rudy after he had died. She thought he might like to know that. When the war was over, Alex Steiner reopened his shop, and Liesel helped him work there. One day, a man walked into the shop asking after Liesel. It was Max. He had survived and come back for her. Death has seen many things in this world, good and evil. But one thing sticks with him: he is haunted by humans.
After Offred returns home from Jezebel’s, she doesn’t go to bed. This is the night that Serena Joy has arranged her coupling with Nick. At midnight, Serena Joy takes her to the kitchen and instructs her to go up to Nick’s room over the garage. It is hot and humid, and the search lights have been turned off, either because of a power failure or because of Serena Joy’s planning. Nick opens the door to his apartment. It has a fold-out bed and minimal decorations and furniture. There are no preliminaries and without saying anything, Nick turns out the lamp and begins to undo Offred’s dress. A storm begins outside, and they make love through the thunder.
Only that’s not how it happens. What really happens is that Nick gives Offred a drag of his cigarette and tells her that he gets paid for this, and that it’s nothing personal. They quote some old movies, and Offred begins to cry. Nick comforts her and tells her “No romance.” They make love, but there is no thunder. Offred only added that to cover up the sounds she made, which she is ashamed of.
In actuality, it didn’t happen like that either. Offred isn’t sure exactly how it happened. She is reconstructing again, trying to approximate how love feels. After, she thinks what she has done is a betrayal to Luke. Not the act itself, but her body’s response to it. She wishes she were a shameless person so she would not have to feel this way.
Offred wishes her story was different, and that it was happier. But she is committed to telling the truth, so she continues. She continues going back to Nick, on her own terms, without Serena Joy’s permission. This is risky and reckless but she felt her life so terrible that she had little to lose even if discovered. Nick doesn’t speak much, but Offred tells him things about her former life, including her true name. Ofglen continues to pester her to spy on the Commander, but Offred is not interested. She is too preoccupied with her romance with Nick.
One day, Offred and Ofglen attend a women’s salvaging. Salvagings are public executions, and they are always divided by gender. Female executions are rare—Offred supposes the women have learned to be more obedient than the men. There are two Handmaids to be executed, and one Wife. In the past, the women used to be told their crimes prior to the execution, but Aunt Lydia tells the crowd that the new policy is not to reveal the crimes. Offred is left to guess what these women have done wrong—the Handmaids probably tried to escape, and the Wife either tried to kill her Handmaid or committed adultery.
After the hangings, there is one more execution, called a particicution. The Handmaids are asked to form a circle, and a drunk and bruised Guardian is brought in the center. Aunt Lydia explains that this man was convicted of a brutal rape. The Handmaids are allowed to attack him to death. When Aunt Lydia blows the whistle, Ofglen runs forward and gives the man several sharp blows to the head. Offred is appalled by her brutality, but Ofglen later explains that the man was not a rapist, but a political dissident and part of the Mayday network. Ofglen was merely trying to knock him out to put him out of his misery.
In the afternoon, Offred goes out for shopping, but Ofglen is not at the corner. She has been replaced by a new Handmaid. Offred tries to use the Mayday signal on the new Handmaid, but the new woman warns her not to use such words. She knows the signal, but she isn’t part of the network. She tells Offred that Ofglen was discovered and hanged herself before the government could take her away. Offred realizes that the government could discover her as well, although she’s technically done nothing wrong other than listen.
Back at the house, Serena Joy meets Offred at the door. She has discovered lipstick on her cloak from Offred’s night at Jezebel’s and is furious about the betrayal. She sends Offred to her room.
Offred waits in her room and contemplates the different ways she could attempt to kill herself. She feels the presence of the Handmaid before her, the one who hanged herself, in the room. She hears the black van approaching the house, and knows the Eyes have come to take her away. Nick opens the door, and Offred wonders if Nick was an Eye all along. Instead he embraces her and calls her by her real name. He tells Offred that the men are Mayday and that they will bring her to safety. Offred is still suspicious and thinks he could be lying, but she has no other choice but to go with them.
Serena Joy and the Commander stand in the hallway as Offred leaves. Serena Joy asks what Offred has done—this arrest is clearly unrelated to Offred’s affair with the Commander. The Eye says she is guilty of violation of state secrets. This puts the Commander at risk as well, since he was the one who could have told her any secrets. Offred enters the van, not knowing whether it is going toward darkness or light.
Shortly after Betsie’s death, Corrie learns that she is to be released. She is forced to sign a release saying that she was treated fairly and the conditions were excellent at Ravensbruck; then they give her meal vouchers, her valuables, and put her on a train to Berlin. Corrie has a hard time functioning after being institutionalized and learns that her money cannot be used in Berlin. She finally gets to Holland, where she stays in a hospital in Groningen until she can travel further into the country; she enjoys having hot baths and clean sheets for a few days. When she is finally able to hitch a ride to Willem’s house, she finds that he is still seriously ill, and no one has received word about his son Kik.
When Corrie is finally able to return to Beje she finds that Toos has been running the shop while she has been gone. Nollie and her daughters come to see Corrie and the reunion is highly emotional. Corrie feels as though she is of little use back at home, so she rejoins the underground, though her instincts and reactions are not what they used to be. A woman named Mrs. Bierens wants to help Corrie to open the rehabilitation home that was Betsie’s dream and offers her home to use. In May 1945, Holland is liberated, and in June a woman named Mrs. Kan is the first resident of the home. Corrie finds that she has a hard time forgiving her own neighbors for betraying their friends and also cannot forgive the guards from the camps. She opens Beje to members of the Nazi party who no longer want to be involved with it. When she begins doing speaking engagements she meets a former guard and is unable to shake his hand even after telling her that he is Christian; she realizes her lack of forgiveness makes life hard to live. As Corrie continues traveling she spreads the story, as Betsie’s story, and helps to make her sister’s dreams come true.
Travis is so sad about Old Yeller that he cannot eat, sleep, or cry and feels empty inside. Travis spends a lot of time thinking about how Old Yeller helped his family and Mama tries to talk with Travis about it to make him feel better, but it does not work. Lisbeth reminds Travis that the puppy is part of Old Yeller, but Travis only thinks that the puppy has not helped to keep his family alive like Old Yeller did; he feels bad for shooting his dog when he did not even do anything to deserve it. Soon the rain comes, and the hydrophobic plague is washed away from the land. Papa comes home in the morning, thinner than he was when he left but happy to have money and a horse for Travis. Travis appreciates the horse, but Papa can tell something is wrong with him. Papa gets the story from Mama, and after dinner, he walks down to the creek with Travis and tells him that he knows about Old Yeller. He tells Travis that he did exactly the right thing, just as a grown man would do, and he is proud of him. Papa tells Travis to think about the good parts of each situation because if he dwells on the bad then all of life will be bad. Travis understands what his father is saying, but he is still sad. A week later, Travis hears Mama yelling at the puppy for stealing cornbread, Little Arliss crying because Mama hit the puppy, and Papa laughing at the whole situation; Travis feels a little better. When Travis returns from riding his horse he sees Little Arliss playing naked in the water with the puppy and Travis starts laughing uncontrollably. He decides that he will bring Little Arliss and the puppy squirrel hunting because if the puppy is going to act like Old Yeller he may as well be of use.
Vin is in her room, piles of paper all around her on the floor. She continues to sort through the pages, rearranging them as she rereads different parts. She even starts to take notes of some quotes that she wants to remember. OreSeur watches her, commenting that she should use the desk instead of the floor. Elend walks in, and he is amazed that she is researching. He is also impressed with her penmanship, based on the pretty letters in her notes. Elend takes Vin with him to meet the messenger that has come from his father’s army. Vin is shocked to find that this messenger is also the man that was following her, the watcher. The messenger’s name is Zane, and he acts like an ambassador. Later, Vin and OreSeur wait outside for Zane. The two Mistborn spar, jumping from one rooftop to another. Zane says that Vin is different from the rest. She shouldn’t allow herself to be used by them. Vin doesn’t know what he means. When Zane leaves, Vin is sure she wants to spar with him more.
Zane comes back to his camp, or his father’s camp. He has a guard summon is father to the strategy tent. While waiting, he gives one of the soldiers strategic positions of the forces in Luthadel. Straff comes in and Zane tells him about the day’s activities, including what was said between Zane and Elend. They talk over a cup of tea. Straff, being a tineye, burns tin and smells poison in the tea he’s drinking. He knows Zane is always trying to poison him. He defiantly drinks the tea anyway and dismisses Zane. After, Straff summons one of his mistresses, a woman named Amaranta, who prepares a concoction of medicines in a special tea for Straff. He drinks the new tea, hoping he’ll live again this time.
Sazed has traveled six weeks worth of distance in six days, using his metalminds from time to time. Whenever a metalmind runs out, he leaves it on the ground, trying to lessen the amount of weight he has to carry. He notices several pillars of smoke ahead, sure sign that there is an army or camp of some kind. He is surprised to see that the army camp is made up of koloss, a dark blue kind of monster barbarian, once controlled by the Lord Ruler. Sazed is found by a koloss patrol. They force him to come down from the tree he was hiding in and follow them into the camp. Sazed is surprised once again to see that the man controlling these koloss is Jastes Lekal, a one-time friend of Elend Venture. Jastes says that he plans to conquer Luthadel as his own. He ends up letting Sazed go, under the condition that Sazed tell Elend about what he has seen. Sazed leaves, feeling even more urgency about getting to Luthadel.
Elends meets with his advisors–Ham, Breeze, Dockson, and Vin. Tindwyl is there, too. They try to talk Elend out of this plan he has to go into his father’s camp and trick him into fighting Cett. They don’t think Elend can con someone like that, but Elend is insistent that he can manipulate his father any time he wants. Plus, Elend argues, he’ll have Vin with him, in case Straff tries to take his own son hostage. Vin, listening in to the conversation, discovers through bronze that Breeze is soothing Elend to make him more confident. After the meeting, Tindwyl chastises Elend for not acting more like a king. Kings cannot doubt themselves. They must always feel that they are the right man for the job and convince others of the same through sheer confidence. The discussion is interrupted when Elend gets word that Cett’s daughter has arrived in Luthadel, looking for Breeze.
Cetts daughter, Allrianne, has left her father’s camp and come to Luthadel to see Breeze, whom she affectionately calls Breezy. Breeze is completely embarrassed by this, but the rest of the group gets a good laugh at his expense. Allrianne says she hated staying in her father’s camp; she needs comforts only a city can bring, like fresh water and a bed. After Allrianne leaves to freshen up, the group decides it may be beneficial to keep her. It may prevent her father from attacking too soon.
Vin, hides, suspended in the mists, just above Keep Venture. She spies on Ham as he walks across a courtyard. As she follows him, as a predetermined time, OreSeur jumps from behind some boxes and howls, scaring Ham. Ham reacts by flaring pewter. This confirms to Vin that he is not the kandra imposter. Vin admits to Ham that she is out of atium, meaning she’ll die the next time she fights a Mistborn with atium. She wonders is there is a secret to killing someone with atium. Ham doesn’t think so, although there have been some theories about how to do so. It may be possible, for example, to surprise them somehow. After that, Vin has a heart-to-heart with OreSeur. They talk about the way kandra are often treated, beaten by their own masters. They spot someone approaching the keep’s walls. It turns out to be Sazed, who has returned with, as he puts it, “problems and troubles.
Sazed is telling the group in the kitchens late at night, what he saw in the Koloss camp. They are not happy to know that a third army is on its way to Luthadel. Sazed does not know how Lekal is controlling the creatures, but the group does know that 20,000 koloss could beat an army of at least four times that many humans, meaning there is nothing stopping them from reaching and taking Luthadel. Finally, Sazed also share his fear regarding the mist killing people. He thinks something was released when the Lord Ruler was killed, although he never personally saw the mist kill anyone. Cett’s daughter comes walking in, half disheveled, asking what’s going on. They dismiss her and the group breaks apart, everyone either going to bed or to some corner to thin. Vin takes OreSeur outside to patrol. Back in his room, Sazed meets Tindwyl, an old friend of his. She criticizes him for returning and having strange theories about the mist.
Vin is outside, thinking about the beating she hears to the north, just like the writer of the log book, the supposed Hero of Ages. Zane finds her, and again he tries to convince her to leave Elend and Luthadel, claiming that she is being used by them and that she can do much better on her own, free to do as she pleases. Vin insists that she is very happy doing what she is doing and that no one is forcing her to do anything.
Vin is woken by a quiet bark of warning from OreSeur. She reacts by jumping out of bed, reaching for a dagger, and downing a vile of metals. She does all this before she realizes that the person that was “sneaking up on her” is actually Tindwyl the Terriswoman. Tindwyl obligates her to go shopping with herself and Allrianne, something Vin knows she will detest. They take a carriage to the market, the three women and OreSeur, who everything still assumes is just an ordinary wolfhound, along with Spook, who is forced to go to carry the girls’ bags. Vin manages to find a dress that she likes, and Tindwyl arranges for the dress to be made special for a Mistborn. Meanwhile, a someone has identifies Vin and a large crowd has gathered outside the storefront. Vin reluctantly goes outside to talk to them. They obviously worship her, calling her the Heir to the Survivor–Kelsier. She tries to say something that will inspire hope, but she feels that she is really just lying to them. Meanwhile, Elend is at the wall when Straff’s men attack. The guards and archers on the wall are in a total panic, and they barely kill a few of the invading wave before it retreats to the Venture camp. This was a test, just to try out Luthadel’s defenses, it is explained to Elend. Straff is sending a message, just before Elend is supposed to go out to the camp and talk to his father.
Vin opens the box sent from the dress maker, happy to find that the new dress is very well designed for a Mistborn, allowing her to move and fight freely. It even has secret hiding places for her daggers and some vials of metal. OreSeur does not think going is a good idea, since Vin and Elend would be alone in Straff’s army camp. Vin knows she must go anyway. Elend and Vin ride into the camp. Over the meal, Elend tries to manipulate Straff, but the man seems to catch on too quickly. Then he sends Vin out of the tent, so they can talk alone, father and son.
Straff and Elend talk inside, and things don’t seem to be going very well for Elend. Straff says he’ll just have Elend killed and demand Luthadel to open the gates to him. Elend says that if he is killed, Vin will kill Straff. Vin is outside, listening. She begins to manipulate Straff’s emotions, making him feel afraid. Finally, she smoothes away everything–every emotion he has, leaving him feeling empty and dead inside. The trick works, and Elend and Vin get out of the camp safe. Meanwhile, Zane has a little chat with Vin outside the tent, telling her that she is nothing but a knife to Elend. After they are gone, Straff commands Zane to kill Vin. Back in Luthadel, Elend learns that the assembly has voted to remove him as king.
The group meets together to see what they’re going to do about the assembly’s vote. They try to figure out if the assembly already has someone else in mind to put on the thrown, or if they simple want to send a warning to Elend because he has been ignoring them of late. The discussion leads to an argument between Breeze and Ham, as always, and Vin gets a taste of kandra humor when OreSeur whispers that he could always eat one of them and solve the argument. Later, Elend gets another lesson from Tindwyl about how a proper kind should act.
At night, Vin and OreSeur have a talk. OreSeur doesn’t think it’s healthy for Vin to keep herself awake for long periods of time, burning pewter to stay strong. He also doesn’t like the way Vin treats Zane, who should be her enemy. In the middle of the conversation, Vin realizes that she’s figured out what the Deepness is.
Sazed is in his room, studying and transcribing the rubbings he found. He knows that these few pages of transcribed text could keep him busy for months or even years. Vin enters through his window and wants to talk to him about the deepness. Sazed talks about if the deepness is even real or if it’s just a made-up story, some propaganda spun by the Lord Ruler. Vin says she thinks it’s real and tells Sazed that she thinks it’s actually the mist itself. The log book and the rubbings don’t say the mist actually killed people but that people died because of the mist. That could be because a permenant mist that covered the ground would kill crops and live stalk, leaving people to die of starvation. Vin also tells Sazed about the mist spirit that has been following her.
The assembly gathers, and Elend gets an opportunity to explain what he has done with his father. He uses twenty minutes to tell of the situation with the two armies and how his meeting with Straff went. He tells them that he used Vin’s power to threaten Straff, a move that may protect the city for some time yet. Meanwhile, Vin tries to pay attention to Elend’s meeting. She sees Zane in the crowd, and he smiles at her. They then have nominations for who should run for king. Elend and Lord Penrod are nominated, and, lastly, Cett is nominated. The man reveals himself to be in the crowd.
Vin sits in her room, studying the stacks of papers she has there. OreSeur is there with her, and they talk about the religious beliefs of the kandra. They practically worship the Contract above all else, the agreement they have with their human masters. Meanwhile, Elend discovers that some of the wells in Luthadel are being poisoned by someone, probably one of the armies outside. Vin talks to Dockson, and in the conversation, she determines that he can’t be the spy. She and OreSeur turn their attentions toward a new option: Demoux, a captain of the guard.
Elend works to find a way to convince the assembly to name him king again, while Vin wants to tell him her theory about Demoux. Tindwyle gets upset with Sazed when she finds out that he helped write part of the laws Elend put into place a year ago. Vin leaves the group and finds Zane, who immediately attacks her. She thinks he wants to spar, like before, but the fight becomes aggressive and Vin must fight him to survive. Zane tells her that he was ordered to kill her and that this attack was a warning. There are also many refugees coming from the koloss army, on their way to seek refuge in Luthadel. After giving his two warnings, Zane leaves.
Vin tries on another custom-made dress. Tindwyl tells her that Elend has nearly learned as much as he can from her; he’ll now have to learn to be a good leader through experience. Elend prepares his armored escort and carriage to go and see Cett. Breeze decides not to go, since he and Cett have history, which would only make the situation worse. When Elend and Vin actually enter the keep Cett is staying in and talk to the man, they discover just how sincere he is. He doesn’t want his daughter back, trusting that Elend will take good care of her. Cett wants Elend to step down from the election for king, and in return he won’t have Elend killed when he is made king. They also talk about the fact that no atium was found in all of Luthadel. Finally, Cett dismisses the two.
Sazed wanders through warehouse full of refugees from the koloss attacks, trying to help and health where he can. Tindwyl comes in and talks to him. She wants to see what he’s found–the rubbings he’s been transcribing. Meanwhile, Breeze has been listening in on the conversation, soothing both people in a way that would make them more friendly to each other. He walks among the refugees, trying to sooth away bad emotions and make them feel better. Elend and Ham come in, and Elend wants to make sure all the people have the clothes they need. Later, Breeze goes into the keep and has a secret meeting with Clubs. Though they always seem to hate each other, they drink together and talk; they’ve struck up a strange companionship. Allrianne walks in and tries to steal Breeze away. Vin, watching from outside, discovers that Allrianne is a rioter, since she was rioting Breeze’s emotions. She and OreSeur then go to find Demoux, still certain that he is the kandra spy. They find him in a little meeting of the church of the Survivor. He can’t be a spy, Vin decides. Then who is?
Sazed and Tindwyl sit together in the study, pouring over the rubbings, searching their metalminds for any references to the deepness or Hero of Ages. It’s morning, meaning they’ve been at it all night long. Tindwyl knows the course of actions Sazed takes is different from what the keepers want, but she is willing to stay with him and study these things further. Meanwhile, Elend and Ham walk along the wall. Ham comments that Elend looks more kingly than ever. As they walk, Elend announces that he has an idea to help Luthadel’s situation.
Vin, Elend, and the rest of the crew arrive early for the day of the election for king. Before the voting begins, Vin, trying to figure out what Elend has up his sleeve, discovers that he has joined the church of the Savior, in an effort to curry votes from the skaa members of the assembly. Suddenly, a groups of allomancers attack Elend and Cett. Vin manages to fight off the men, getting badly hurt in the process. After the fighting, the vote is moved to a more secure location, and the assembly members each announce their vote. Surprisingly, Penrod, a nobleman from the assembly is chosen the new king. Elend hands over his crown and leaves.
Straff Venture is angry that Zane sent a group of his allomancers to their deaths while Vin still lives. Zane promises that he has a plan to take care of her. Meanwhile, Straff meets with Penrod, the new king of Luthadel. Penrod is planning to give Luthadel to Straff, opening the gates to him and handing over the kingship. Straff, on the other hand, doesn’t want to enter the city while Vin still lives. Later, Zane tells Straff that he has been poisoned again. Zane leaves, and Straff is forced to ride hard back into the camp so his mistress can make him another antidote tea.
Vin awakes to see that Elend is with her. He tells her that he is not king, and he reports that OreSeur, who was badly hurt in the fight, is currently digesting a new set of bones. Vin feels that Elend is now scared of her somehow because of the way she fought those allomancers. Vin goes back to sleep, and awakes to find Zane there. He accuses her, saying that she could have killed those attackers easily had she not been so distracted with protecting Elend and other innocents. Later, OreSeur visits Vin, in another dog’s body. They talk more about the Contract that binds all kandra. Vin uses brass and duralumin to push strongly on OreSeur’s emotions. Even though he at first does not react at all, with enough force, Vin hurts him very badly, and she felt like she were controlling him for a moment. She apologizes for hurting OreSeur, and he leaves to get some rest. Vin promise to never tell anyone what she’s discovered about kandra.
Sazed and Tindwyl continue to talk about the things they are learning. Something doesn’t make sense about the rubbings, written by Kwaan. It seems that Kwaan did not trust Alendi, but he also knew Alendi was a good man. But if Kwaan knew Alendi was good, why did he have his nephew, Rashek, to mislead or even kill Alendi? Elend comes in and asks for advice. After a discussion, he decides that being king isn’t about a title, but about doing something to help others. He returns to his closet and retrieves the white suite, the one made for a king.
Elend is hard at work, helping the people. He’s sending men out to dismantle the wooden parts of keeps and houses to use as firewood. The many refugees are cold and hungry, and he wants to help them. Someone comes with news that one of the gates under the river has been broken. That is how someone has been getting into the city and poisoning the wells. Also, other reports say that an Inquisitor is lurking about the city. Elend decides to go out and talk to Jastes, with the koloss army, himself. He rides out and meets Jastes, unable to make any kind of deal. On the way out, Elend manages to fight and kill one smaller koloss, earning the sword and pouch as his own. He looks into the pouch and discovers how Jastes is controlling the koloss. He’s paying them.
Vin sees Elend, now returned from his meet with the koloss army, inured and resting. Zanes comes and says that Cett was the one that planed the attack at the voting ceremony. Vin gets angry and decides to attack Cett. Zane and Vin attack the keep that Cett has been staying at in Luthadel. Together, they kill guards and hazekillers. Fueled by rage, Vin kills quickly, working her way to Cett’s room. She realizes that Zane is using atium, while she has none, and yet she’s killing just as easily as he is. They finally get to Cett’s room, where he is with his son. Vin fights them at first, but when she discovers that neither of them is an allomancer and that Cett doesn’t have a single allomancer with him, she leaves them behind, injured and scared.
The crew sees that Cett’s army is now leaving, a result of Vin’s attack on his keep the night before. Elend does not know why Vin attacked Cett like that. Some in the crew think she’s crazy, but Elend just sees her as determined. They also discover that the “coins” Jastes has been using to control the koloss are fake, wooden coins painted gold. Elend goes to find Vin, who is hiding in the city. He finds her with OreSeur’s help. She says she must leave Luthadel and go north, to Terris. Elend says he trust her to do the right thing. They have one large bead of atium, and Vin gives it to OreSeur to hold for her.
Sazed and Tindwyl compare notes, studying the rubbing and other references they’ve managed to find. Tindwyl admits that she doesn’t believe in these prophecies, her interest in them being purely academic. Sazed, on the other hand, thinks Vin might actually be the next Hero of the Ages. While they talk, they discover that someone–or something–has torn a piece from one of the transcription pages. Vin comes in, while they try to figure out at what point were they both gone or occupied to not have seen an intruder going through their things. Vin asks Sazed how she can know if she’s in love. They talk about trust. After Vin leaves, Elend comes in and starts asking similar questions. Elend thinks he and Vin are too different to make a couple, but Sazed says that, to him, they are more alike than they think. After Elend leaves, Sazed realizes that Luthadel is going to fall soon; he needs to get both Elend and Vin out of the city before that happens.
Sazed calls a meeting with the members of the crew: Dockson, Breeze, Ham, and Clubs. He doesn’t invite Elend, Vin, or Spook. They talk about how the city is sure to fall. Straff apparently is in no hurry to take Luthadel. Instead, he’ll back off and let the koloss attack the city first. The koloss will win and enter the city, pillaging as they go. Then, with the koloss weakened and tired from the fight, Venture will ride in like a hero and save the city, defeating the koloss and taking Luthadel for himself. Sazed says that Elend and Vin need to get out of the city before these things happen. He wants Spook and Tindwyl to go with them. The rest of the group will have to stay and fight and die. Meanwhile, Vin feels she must follow the drumming she hears all the time. In Straff’s camp, Zane is attacked by his father’s men. He defeats them, but spares his father. He leaves, saying that tonight he will take Vin with him and leave Luthadel. He tells Straff that he should wait for the koloss to attack and then take the city.
Vin is in her room with OreSeur when Zane visits. He wants her to come with him, but she says she can’t because she doesn’t want to leave Elend. When Zane sees that she won’t go, he attacks her. They fight. When Zane starts to burn atium, Vin asks OreSeur for the large bead, a bead Zan had given her before. OreSeur doesn’t respond to her command. Vin discovers that OreSeur is not OreSeur. He is TenSoon, Zane’s kandra. Of course! There was no other spy. The bones they found were TenSoon’s and he had killed OreSeur! Zane corners Vin, but Vin uses a massive soothing to take control of OreSeur/TenSoon and attack Zane from behind. She then cuts the bead of atium fro TenSoon. But this is another trick. The bead is lead, with only a thin layer of atium. Soon, Vin is left helpless against a Mistborn killer with atium. Vin decides that Zane can see what she’s about to do, or, rather, what she plans on doing. If she attacks without thinking, though, she can, see in Zane’s reaction what she is going to do, only to change it at the last possible second. The trick works, and Vin defeats Zane. After Zane dies, she thanks OreSeur/TenSoon for helping her win. His contract is void, and he must return to his people. Vin goes to find Elend.
Elend is in his study when Vin comes in, bloody from her fight with Zane. She tells him that she killed him. He calls for Sazed, who comes to help with the wounds. While she is there, on the ground, she asks Sazed if he knows any wedding ceremonies. Of course, he knows hundreds. Vin asks which one is the shortest, and Sazed recalls one that only requires a declaration of love between the bride and groom before an ordained witness. Vin and Elend both say that they love each other, and Sazed declares them married. The wounds are clean, and Sazed sends Vin to get some rest. He also gives them a fake map to find the Well of Ascension. If the couple follows the map, they’ll be gone from Luthadel for a long time.
Elend and Vin prepare to ride out of the city. Tindwyl decides to stay in Luthadel. Spooks gets ready to go, and Allrianne will ride out, at Breeze’s insistence. So the four of them ride out, Vin quickly having to fight pursuers from Straff’s army. Once they are free, Allrianne breaks off to find her father’s army. Meanwhile, some of the crew watch as the escape, now sure of their own coming doom. Straff Venture hears of the escapes, but he has problems of his own now. He’s getting sick, which he knows is the result of poisoning from his son, Zane. He sends for his mistress, Amaranta, to fix him an antidote, but he discovers that she isn’t preparing what she normally does. She is actually killing, as she has for a long time. There never was any poison. Zane never tried to kill his father. But Amaranta, in her constant fixing of teas for Straff, has been causing him to become addicted to a rare drug. Without that drug, Straff will die. Straff, in a rage, kills Amaranta and then swallows as much powder from her medicine cabnet as he can, hoping to accidentally swallow some of the drug he needs before he loses consciousness.
Allrianne has made her way to her father’s camp, with the help of some bandits she’s tamed with her rioting. Her father, Cett, is not happy to see her. She convinces him to go back and join the winning party in the battle that is to come, although Cett promises that will likely be Straff. Meanwhile, Elend wakes up on the third morning out of Luthadel. He and Vin share a tent now, and he finds himself surprisingly comfortable on the hard ground, with Vin next to him. They get up and prepare the fire. It’s just the three of them: Elend, Vin, and Spook. Meanwhile Straff wakes up in bed. His men have taken care of him, and they’ve isolated the plant he needs to stay alive. When he hears that Vin and Elend have left the city, the men ask if they should attack now. Straff says no; they should pull back and wait for the koloss. Sazed meets with the others to plan a strategy for when the koloss attack. They plan to have a group of men at each gate. Saze and Tindwyl get a little time together, but then the warning drums begin to beat.
Vin is thinking about how the mist is staying later and later every day, instead of just disappearing with dawn, when she feels the pulsing of the mist spirit coming from Elend’s tent. She runs in, just in time to see the outline of that spirit lift some kind of knife to attack Elend, who is sleeping on the ground. She attacks the spirit and it disappears. Elend wakes up and never knows what was happening. She leaves Elend to sleep a little more and goes out to speak with Spook. He thinks someone is following them. Meanwhile, Sazed and the crew get ready, since it looks like the Koloss are about to attack. Men are at each gate, with one crewmember there to help. Straff sees that the koloss are attacking, but he tells his men to wait. Vin and Elend attack the camp of people that have been following them. It turns out to be Jastes. He’s lost control of the koloss, so he just left them. Elend kills Jastes because of his crimes against Luthadel. Vin discovers that the drumming sounds are getting softer, meaning the well is to the south, in Luthadel, and not in the Terris mountains.
Breeze works at his assigned gate, soothing soldiers by the dozen, helping them to be brave and fight well. The koloss pound at the door, while men atop the wall rain arrows down on the attackers. The koloss throw rocks up in return, smashing archers. Meanwhile, Vin runs towards Luthadel, burning pewter. She knows she will run out of pewter long before reaching Luthadel, and she wonders if the effect will kill her. But still she keeps running. Breeze and Clubs talk while the koloss continue to beat the gate. They blame themselves for being stupid enough to be in this mess, and they blame Kelsier for getting them into such responsibilities. Just then, the gates burst open. Meanwhile, Sazed gets word that Breeze’s gate had fallen. He doesn’t think he can really help. He notices that there is a crowd of skaa standing behind the defense force. When Sazed confronts them, telling them that they should flee to safety inside the city, the skaa answer that they are there to witness the fall of the koloss at the hands of Vin, who they are sure will return and make her appearance at Sazed’s gate. Then the gate breaks. Sazed musters his stored strength, growing in size, and faces the lead koloss, shouting for the men to fight. Vin, half collapsing and out of pewter, reaching a small village. At first she thinks to ask for pewter, but then she remembers how she used to travel with Kelsier on a path of metal bars in the ground. She asks for horseshoes, using them to “walk” by leaping, placing horseshoes ahead of her and pulling the ones behind to place further. In this way, she uses the horseshoes like stilts to help her travel in the air.
Outside Luthadel, Straff Venture sees that the koloss have now broken into the city gates. His men are ready to attack the koloss from the rear, but Straff decides to wait longer. Sazed, fighting the koloss, realizes that they need to get the gate closed again in order to survive. Using strength and weight, he manages to fight off the koloss and get the gate closed again. While getting a little break, a messenger comes and says that Tindwyl’s gate fell over an hour ago. Meanwhile, Clubs and Breeze are attacked and forced to run. Clubs is killed, while Breeze hides in a building. Dockson contemplates the root of their failure. He attacks a koloss, only to be cut down. Straff decides not to swoop in a save the city while the koloss are weak. Instead, he’d rather wait for the koloss to kill everyone and burn the city. Then Straff will move in. Meanwhile, Sazed fights on, wondering what happened to Tindwyl. He feels he is going to die, but then Vin arrives and starts killing koloss. Breeze is found by Ham and some others. They want to try to escape.
Vin continues killing koloss, several at a time. Sazed, outside Lord Penrod’s keep, begs the newly appointed king to go with them as they try to escape. Penrod insists on staying inside his keep. Vin continues to fight the koloss, but now she is almost completely out of pewter, steel, and almost every other metal. In desperation, to save some skaa from certain death, she super-soothes them, like she’d done to TenSoon, controlling the koloss with her mind. Sazed is standing outside Penrod’s keep when Vin walks up with koloss in tow. She orders Penrod to gather his men and put out the fires in Luthadel. Vin will take care of the koloss throughout the city. Later, Sazed finds Tindwyl’s dead body among the slain soldiers. He feels that all the faith, all the religions, he has always treasured is now useless. His life, he believes, has been a sham.
Straff wakes up and takes a sample of the drug he needs to stay alive. He gathers his men, expecting to be able to take the city now. But the koloss come out with the remaining soldiers of Luthadel. Vin jumps from among the koloss, sailing through the sky with a giant sword, cleaving Straff and his horse in half on impact. Allrianne watches these events from her father’s camp. She charges after them to help Luthadel’s army, forcing her father and his men to ride after her. Straff’s army surrenders, and Janarle, Straff’s general, is named the new Lord of the Venture army. Janarle, Penrod, and Cett all swear loyalty to Elend as their Emperor. Vin, needing rest, leaves Sazed in charge of the Empire until Elend can return to Luthadel.