By Larsson Stieg
By Larsson Stieg
Stieg Larsson was born in Sweden in 1954. He grew up living with his grandparents in a rural community where he had to use cross-country skis to get to and from school; he loved it there, much more than the urban environment he lived in with his parents after the death of his grandfather. Larsson started out with an interest in science-fiction and, in the 1970’s, he wrote many short-stories, edited fanzines, and became of the Swedish science-fiction fan club called Skandinavisk Forening for Science Fiction. Larsson also worked as a journalist and had strong political convictions which led to his creation of the Swedish Expo Foundation, aimed at counteracting the growth of white power in schools. In the early 1990’s Larsson worked to expose extreme right-wing and racist organizations in Sweden by documenting the research he discovered and having it published.
Larsson died of a heart attack in 2004 and, after his death, the manuscripts for three novels were discovered. The novels had been written for some time though he never made a move to have them published until just shortly before his death, as he wrote them for his own enjoyment. Posthumously the novels were published; the first of which, “Men Who Hate Women”, was published in the US as “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and earned Larsson the Glass Key Award in 2005. Subsequently the second and third novels, “The Girl who Played With Fire” and “The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” were published in 2006 and 2010, respectively. Reportedly, there also a great deal of a fourth novel found as well as the outlines for a fifth and sixth, expecting to culminate in ten novels total. The novels are now being adapted to film.
Throughout the series Lisbeth Salander is seeking revenge for “All the Evil” and the events that came from it. She was framed by her own father, his colleagues, and even her doctor, in a way that would give her a bad reputation and shape the way she lived her life. She is determined to get revenge on the people who wronged her in the past and forced her to life her life in solitude and secrecy. She also seeks revenge on those who have degraded her, like Nils Bjurman. Rather than just kill the people she wants to punish she uses her extreme intelligence and technological savvy to not only get back at them but to make them feel as she has felt.
Justice is a theme central to the series as Blomkvist, Salander, and their friends at Millennium and Milton Security are constantly investigating cases in a means to seek justice. Most of the series deals with Salander’s secretive past and the exposure of the men who were responsible for making her life hell. The third novel deals with justice the most as it involves proving Salander’s innocence in so many areas of her life that have been fabricated and covered up by members of the Section, an elite secret unit of Sweden’s Sapo.
Everyone has sex in this novel, especially Blomkvist who seems to be a sort of lady’s man. In the first novel, Blomkvist has a sexual relationship with Berger, Cecilia, and Salander, Salander is raped by her guardian Nils Bjurman, and they find out that Harriet was raped by her father and brother when she was younger. In the second novel, Blomkvist has sex with Berger and Harriet, and Salander has sex with George and Mimmi. In the third novel, Blomkvist has sex with Berger and Figuerola and Salander has sex with a married man while on vacation. Also, one of the main plots in the novel involves the sex trade in Sweden.
There are many ethical issues in the series, including rape, murder, Nazi-ism, lies, deceit, violence against women, and casual sexual relationships. While the main characters of Blomkvist and Salander may not seem to be the most ethical characters due to their liberal view of sex, their invasive investigative strategies, and their propensity for lies and revenge, they are much more ethical than the corrupt and often violent men that they work to bring down and expose. Salander, at one point, mentions to her lawyer Annika Giannini that she does not expect her to do anything illegal but does expect her to turn a blind eye to her own illegal activity.
There is a large amount of violence in this series, especially violence against women. Early in Salander’s life she dealt with watching her mother being abused by her father, after she was institutionalized she was forcibly strapped down for nearly half of the time she spent there, and she was raped by her guardian, Nils Bjurman. A group of men that Blomkvist and Salander are trying to bring down operate the sex trade in Sweden and have interest in violent pornography. Salander also steps into the property that she inherited from her father only to find that women were held there against their will and often killed.
Technology is central to Lisbeth Salander’s life. She is a hacker who goes by the hacker name of Wasp and she uses her skills to break into the computers of anyone she wants information on.When Salander and Blomkvist are not able to communicate with one another freely they do it discretely by leaving messages for one another on his computer which she has hacked in to. Also when she is in the hospital he sends her PDA in to her where she can communicate with almost anyone and also use the internet for research purposes. Everything in the series revolves around technology: Milton Security, email, computers, PDA’s, cell phones, video recorders, multimedia, etc.
Salander has never been able to rely on her own identity because there are too many negative assumptions and lies that go along with it, so she often goes by alternative identities, such as Irene Nesser. The ability to change her identity at the drop of a dime helps Salander to get information she would otherwise not be privy to, to move around undetected, and to transfer all the money belonging to a corrupt financier, Wennerstrom, into her own bank account. For a long time, Salander was living her life as the person that everyone thought she was, and it is not until she is vindicated that she can finally live life as herself.
There are many family connections within this novel and very few of them are positive. In the first, the extended Vanger family is being investigated for the disappearance of Harriet Vanger some forty-years earlier. It turns out that Harriet was being raped by her own father and brother. In the second and third novels, it comes out that Salander tried to kill her own father after watching him abuse her mother for years and in return he ruined her life by fabricating a police report and throwing her into a mental institution. She also learns that a giant blond man who is trying to kill her is her brother, Niedermann. The only positive familial relationship seems to be between Blomkvist and his sister, Annika.
Nearly every character in the novels is a criminal in some form. The lesser criminals are trying to expose those who are guilty of greater crimes. There are people guilty of lying, cheating, spying, breaking and entering, planting false evidence, murder, rape, sex trafficking, kidnapping, attempted murder, assault, participating in child labor, child pornography, drug trafficking, and technological warfare. There are criminals representing nearly every area of illegal activity imaginable. The good guys and bad guys are separated by those who commit crimes for the greater good and those who commit crimes out of pure corruption, deceit, and violent tendencies.
Lisbeth Salander lives in isolation for half of her life. After being committed to the mental institution, Lisbeth realized that she was being treated unfairly and was given a bad reputation. Once she was released into foster care and then guardianship she became a loner and lived up to the bad, and false, reputation that she was given. She did not ever allow herself to get close to anyone and had several one night stands. When she met Blomkvist she was taken aback by how sincere and kind he was toward her. Every time someone seemed helpful or nice Lisbeth assumed that they had an ulterior motive. She kept herself away from society, and immersed herself in a world of technology and spying so she would not have to feel the neglect and betrayal that she suffered at the hands of her own family.
Lisbeth is a highly intelligent hacker with a knack for investigation and a thirst for revenge. She is pegged in the media as a psychotic serial-killer who is a lesbian and into S&M. Salander tried to kill her father when she was twelve years old after watching him abuse her mother for years. He was a very powerful man who had Lisbeth locked away and deemed insane and who eventually tries to kill her. She lives most of her life in isolation and trusts no one after being betrayed by her own family. She eventually learns to trust a handful of people who prove their worth when they risk their own lives to bring down the people who are trying to destroy her.
Blomkvist, also referred to as “Kalle”, is a journalist who does investigative reporting and is quite the lady’s man. He is quite ethical, despite his propensity for sex and spying, and is a die-hard friend to Salander even when she does not want him to be. He has a strong desire to expose people who are committing wrongful acts, such as a corrupt financier, a rapist/murderer, sex traffickers, and dishonest members of the government. He is the publisher of Millennium magazine, which focuses mostly on government and economic issues. He finds out the truth about Salander’s life and works hard to take down the men responsible for “All the Evil” that got her locked up.
Erika Berger is the editor-in-chief of Millennium, though she briefly works for SMP. Berger and Blomkvist have had an ongoing affair for over twenty years despite her marriage to Greger Beckman; in fact, her husband has no problem with the affair. Erika remains a good friend to Blomkvist and is eager to help him in any investigations he may be working on, including Salander’s case. Salander intensely distrusts and dislikes Erika because of her relationship with Blomkvist but in the end is forced to admit that Erika is her ally and is completely trustworthy. Erika is responsible for printing many stories that blow the cover on corrupt activities.
Armansky is the head of Milton Security, the company that Lisbeth Salander does her freelance investigative work for. He does not always have the relationship with Lisbeth that he develops by the end of the series. He does not find her trustworthy, and believes the rumors about her, but she is a great investigator so he keeps hiring her. When Armansky finally sees who Salander really is he works with Blomkvist to expose the Section and the elaborate betrayal of Salander that they set into motion when she was only twelve years old. Despite his initial skepticism, he proves an invaluable ally.
Nils Bjurman is the guardian who is assigned to Salander after her original guardian, Palmgren, is assumed dead. He is into violent pornography and sexually abuses Salander on more than one occasion. She gets back at him by tattooing “I am a pig, a pervert, and a rapist” on his stomach and video-taping her rape. He is murdered by Niedermann when it becomes apparent that he knows too much about Zala and has connected Zala with Salander. Bjurman makes a final appearance in at Salander’s trial when the video of her rape is shown to the court, proving that Salander is not lying about her life story. The video is so gruesome that the judge cannot watch it.
Mimmi is a good friend of Salander and is a sociology student. She is a lesbian who works at an erotic clothing store called Domino Fashion and she and have a sexual relationship. Mimmi does not learn about Salander’s past until the second book. She had been living in Salander’s old apartment when it was raided, and she was taken into for questioning about Salander’s whereabouts.Mimmi remains a good friend to Salander throughout the series though when Salander is on trial Mimmi is staying in Paris with her parents where she is attending school.
Annika is a lawyer and the sister of Mikael Blomkvist; she is married and has two children. Generally her legal expertise centers on women’s issues but during the final book she reluctantly agrees to serve as Salander’s lawyer in her murder trial. Annika is annoyed with having to visit Salander in the hospital all the time, especially when she will not reveal any personal details about herself and she and Blomkvist keep many secrets between the two of them. Annika proves to be invaluable in the courtroom and has Salander cleared of all charges and released from her guardianship.
Zala is first revealed to have something to do with sex trafficking, as discovered by Dag Svensson. Eventually it is learned that Zala is a very powerful man who gets away with anything he wants because of all the government secrets he knows; he is also Lisbeth Salander’s father. After Salander tried to burn Zala alive for abusing her mother, he had a false police report written and had her committed to St. Stefan’s Psychiatric Center where Dr. Teleborian worked with him to ensure that she would be seen as extremely mentally ill and never escape the stigma. He catches up to Salander, shoots her three times, and buries her unaware that she is still alive. She axes him in the face, and, when he is in the hospital, he is killed by a member of the Section because he knows too many secrets.
Niedermann is also referred to as the blond giant. He is responsible for the murders of Dag Svensson and Mia Johansson after they discover Zala’s involvement in the sex trade. He also murders Nils Bjurman after he sees that he has made the connection between Zala and Salander.Niedermann works closely with his father, Zala, to kill his sister, Salander, though she escapes death.He is on the run for a very long time while his father dies, and Salander recovers and stands trial but he is found by Salander at the end of the series when she is exploring a property left to her by Zala.Salander leaves him at the mercy of a vicious motorcycle gang and the police.
Bublanski is in charge of the investigation into the murders of Dag, Mia, and Bjurman.At first the evidence points to Lisbeth Salander and that is what he believes, but eventually he realizes that she is being framed. Bublanski and a few others work very closely with Blomkvist in the investigation into the Section and their massive cover-up that led to Salander being institutionalized. He is a very moral and ethical character who proves to be a very powerful and trustworthy ally for team-Salander.
Palmgren is Salander’s original guardian when she is put under guardianship. They have a very close relationship and he is one of the few people that Salander finds herself able to trust and confide in. When Palmgren suffers a stroke, Salander thinks that he has died and she receives Nils Bjurman as her new guardian. In the second book, Salander finds out that Palmgren has been alive the whole time and is living in a rehabilitation center. He always works to protect Salander as is evidenced by the fact that he got her the job at Milton Security, and he testified strongly in her favor at her trial; he delivered evidence that another doctor at St. Stefan’s tried to stop Dr. Teleborian from abusing her.
Dr. Teleborian was the head psychiatrist at St. Stefan’s Psychiatric Center to which Salander was committed when she was twelve years old. He gave her drugs that would affect her mood, strapped her to her bed almost half of the two years that she spent there, and fabricated false reports that labeled her as mentally unstable. Teleborian has been working in cahoots with the Section but that is not the worst of it, he is also into child pornography. When Salander hacks his computer she finds over 9,000 pornographic images of children and learns that he belongs to a network of people who trade child pornography with one another.
Figuerola is a member of the branch of Sapo known as “the Unit” which serves to protect the constitutional rights of the Swedish people. Figuerola is very intense and passionate, she loves working out and reading, and she works very hard to help Salander’s case even when it involves risking her own life. She develops a sexual relationship with Blomkvist which quickly turns into something more for her, and surprisingly seems to turn into something more for him, as well. She has a problem with his relationship with Berger but Berger promises to stay out of the way as long as they want her to.
Henrik Vanger is the patriarch of the extended Vanger family and former head of the Vanger Corporation which is, during the first book, run by his nephew Martin. He hires Blomkvist to investigate the disappearance and assumed death of his niece Harriet which occurred some forty years earlier and to write a Vanger family biography. Vanger is suspicious of his family, especially his three Nazi brothers who dislike him because he married a Jewish woman and he thinks that a family member is responsible for Harriet’s disappearance. If Blomkvist can solve the case, then Vanger will be sure that he receives the information he needs to take down corrupt financier, Wennerstrom.
Dr. Jonasson is responsible for keeping Salander alive after she is shot three times by her father, Zala. Dr. Jonasson has heard of Salander’s reputation and knows that she is the prime suspect in three murders, but he does not care, his only job is to dig the bullet out of her brain and keep her alive. Dr. Jonasson quickly realizes that Salander is not what the media is portraying her to be and keeps her safe from harm while she is in his care, even refusing to allow Dr. Teleborian anywhere near her. At the request of Blomkvist Dr. Jonasson sneaks Salander’s PDA to her while she is in the hospital so they can keep in contact.
Lisbeth Salander is sitting by a hotel pool and watching the lady who is staying in the room next to hers; she hears the woman’s husband beating her every night. Salander is in St. George, Grenada while Mikael Blomkvist checks her apartment in Stockholm again to see if she is there because she has been avoiding him ever since she saved his life. Salander is a world-class hacker who goes by the hacker name “Wasp” and helped Blomkvist write a book exposing a corrupt financier named Wennerstrom. Salander takes a shower and looks at herself naked in the mirror, admiring her new breast implants that she got while in Italy. In the lobby of the hotel, Salander learns that a hurricane will soon hit the island and the man who beats his wife is named Dr. Forbes; she arranges to have a background check done on him. Salander visits George, a sixteen year old that she met on the beach and helped with his algebra homework before developing a sexual relationship with him. At 2:00am Salander leaves George and sees Dr. Forbes on the beach, whom she assumes is up to something shady.
Lisbeth Salander is under guardianship and Nils Bjurman is her guardian. As he sits in a café, he thinks about how much he hates Lisbeth. Earlier in the year he raped her, thinking no one would care about her, and she responded by tying him up and tattooing “I am a sadistic pig, a pervert, and a rapist” on his stomach. She will expose him if he does not follow her demands so he plots a way to kill her. In the same café, Blomkvist is with Erika Berger, but he does not know who Bjurman is. Erika Berger is one of the many women that Blomkvist has had an affair with, but his affair with her has lasted twenty years. Bjurman does not recognize Blomkvist or know that he knows Salander, but he knows who he is from the news. He thinks about how Salander has a tape recording of him raping her that she will use against him. When he decided to kill her he did research and found that she has a twin sister; he also found a police report from when she was twelve that details the incident that led to Salander being institutionalized. From the report, he assumes that there is one man who hates her as much as he does. A blond man who was sent by the other man comes into the café to meet with Bjurman.
Lisbeth Salander follows Dr. Forbes around all day and receives her background check on him. She learns that his wife, Geraldine Forbes, is worth a lot of money, and they have no children. When the hurricane hits, Grenada that night around 11:00 the guests of the hotel convene in the storm cellar. Salander leaves her computer in the cellar but goes to George’s shack to get him and bring him to safety. After she picks up George the two see Dr. and Mrs. Forbes on the beach struggling, and Salander realizes that Dr. Forbes is planning to kill his wife for her money. Salander goes into the hotel, smashes a chair, and goes after Dr. Forbes with it. When she knocks Dr. Forbes out with the chair leg, he drops to the ground and Salander and George bring a bloody and unconscious Mrs. Forbes into the hotel. They see that the waves have taken Dr. Forbes into the sea and George agrees that he saw nothing happen. The next day they find out that Dr. Forbes’ body was found. Mrs. Forbes does not remember anything and is sad to find that her husband has died.
Salander heads back to Stockholm and her new apartment, which she purchased with the three billion kronor she stole from Wennerstrom. She checks her mail and finds that her mother left her some money and her belongings are waiting for Salander to pick up at the nursing home. Also, she has a letter from Blomkvist which she does not read. Salander goes to buy new furniture for her apartment under one of her fake identities, Irene Nesser. Blomkvist is in a meeting at Millennium offices with Erika Berger and Dag Svensson, who wants to publish a book and article about sex trafficking in Sweden. He has information about well-known public figures who participate in the sex trade, and he wants to expose them. The actual girls who are involved are of no interest to anyone because no one cares about prostitutes. They decide they will not only publish Svensson’s article, and book, but they will also devote an entire issue of the magazine to exposing sex trafficking.
Salander is at the Apelviken nursing home where her mother resided for the past ten years, though she suffered from strokes for nearly fourteen years. Many times when Salander would visit her mother she would not be recognized which disappointed Salander because she wanted to develop a relationship with her mother. Salander has a twin sister named Camilla whom she does not get along with and did not grow up with; after “All the Evil” happened they were sent to different foster homes. The last time Lisbeth and Camilla saw one another they were seventeen and got into a physical altercation. Salander is anxious to leave the nursing home and after picking up her mother’s belongings she leaves to go shopping for herself. Blomkvist and Erika Berger have dinner with Svensson and his girlfriend, Mia Johansson. Mia explains that while Svensson’s research has to do with the financials of sex trafficking, her dissertation involves the treatment of the girls involved. Salander realizes that when she left town she did not say goodbye to any of her friends nor did she say goodbye to George when she left Grenada; she is really bad with friends. Salander feels like her life is turning around now that she has a lot of money, breast implants, and has taken out all of her piercings except one in her eyebrow.
Salander heads back to Milton Security and lets herself into Armansky’s office. She hacks into his computer so she can access it from her own whenever she wants to, and continues to browse the files on his desk to see what he has been working on. Blomkvist and Erika Berger meet with Harriet Vanger whose uncle Henrik owns a share of Millennium, which she has agreed to take control of. That evening after the meeting Blomkvist and Harriet sleep together. Salander goes to see her friend Mimmi, Mariam Wu, that night and Mimmi is very happy and surprised to see her. Mimmi is a student of sociology and works at an erotic boutique; she and Salander met at a gay pride festival. Salander and Mimmi have had a sexual relationship though Salander is not gay, she is bisexual. She tells Mimmi about her breast implants, Mimmi is excited about them, and they have sex. Blomkvist watches 55-year-old Harriet sleep and thinks about their past; they started their affair one year earlier. Harriet has only slept with three men other than Blomkvist in her life and two of them were her rapist brother and father.
Carl-Magnus Lundin is the president of the Svavelsjo Motorcycle Club and is visited by the blond giant who gives him methamphetamine for he and his people to sell. He also gives Lundin an envelope with Salander’s personal information in it, including the address of the apartment she no longer lives in. Salander is to be kidnapped and brought to a warehouse to be killed. Salander does not want to see her old apartment so she visits it to decide what she wants to do. She would like Mimmi to move into it so she can keep it, and still use it as her permanent address. Salander decides that she will donate her inheritance from her mother to a women’s crisis center, which she knows would have pleased her mother. Erika has been missing Blomkvist and has figured out that he and Harriet are having an affair, which she plans to tease them about. When she calls him he is free for the night so she goes over to his house and they have sex. The blond giant goes off to meet Nils Bjurman, and Mimmi takes Salander up on her offer of the apartment. As Mimmi cleans and paints Lisbeth watches and then they have sex.
Salander goes to Milton Security to see Armansky who is less than pleased to see her. She tells him that she has not come for a job because she no longer needs the money, she just wanted to say hello.Armansky tells Salander that she is selfish and cares about no one but herself. While at Milton Salander learns that her old guardian Palmgren, whom she loved, is alive when she had thought him dead for the past couple of years since he had a stroke. She leaves her new number with Armansky telling him to call her if she has any unique cases, though she does not need the money. She heads to the rehabilitation center to visit with Palmgren. Palmgren is happy to see her though he can sense there is a problem with her new guardian though she does not elaborate. He feels bad because he could have gotten her out of guardianship, but he was afraid he would lose her if he did. Mia picks Dag up from the metro and sees that he has had a rough time trying to confront one of the men he will expose in his book. He also tells Mia that one of the girls she interviewed, Irene, was found dead. She was supposedly smuggled in by a man named Zala whose name terrifies everyone in the industry.
Salander visits with Palmgren once a week, and they play chess, something Salander is very good at.When Bjurman comes back to Stockholm, he looks at Salander’s bank statement and sees that she withdrew money, which means she is back in town; he calls the blond giant to let him know. Mimmi and Salander go out for drinks to celebrate Salander’s belated birthday and Mimmi gifts her a cigarette case. Dag visits with Blomkvist at Millennium offices and tells him about the hard time he is having tracking down the final man he must inform of the book, Bjork. Blomkvist tells him to send the man a letter telling him he has won something to lure him out of hiding; Dag thinks this is a great idea and he and Blomkvist go out for drinks. Salander happens to be at the same bar the men go to, and she avoids Blomkvist while she is there, happy that he has not seen her. At home, that night Salander looks through Blomkvist’s computer, which she hacked to his knowledge previously. She sees Mia’s dissertation and Dag’s book and also looks through Blomkvist’s emails. She finds one from Dag that mentions Irene’s death and that a journalist named Sandstrom mentioned that Zala may be responsible; Salander is chilled to the bone.
Salander stops into a café where she sees Bjurman speaking with a large blond man. When the blond man leaves, Salander follows him; he meets with a man with a ponytail and then the ponytailed man meets with a man in a jacket from the Motorcycle Club. Salander is worried and visits Bjurman’s house where she finds a gun that she had never seen before. She does some research which leads her to know that the man with the ponytail is Carl-Magnus Lundin, and the other man is Sonny Niemenen. She also does a computer search for Zala but can find nothing. When she hacks into the computers at Millennium she finds that the one Dag had been on has a folder called “Zala” but there is not much information in there; Salander wants to find him. Blomkvist is walking by Salander’s old apartment and sees her walking, being followed by the ponytailed man; Salander turns and swipes him in the face with her keys before she runs. Lundin chases her and Blomkvist tries to distract him and attack him but is thrown to the ground. Salander loses Lundin and Blomkvist finds her keys and purse. He tries to open her door but finds the key does not work, while Salander is watching from afar. Salander knows that Bjurman is trying to have her killed, and she is determined to get revenge.
Blomkvist wonders why Salander has men chasing her and also wonders why the nameplate on her old apartment says “Salander-Wu”. He has been emailing her, but she has not answered him. He asks her, in writing, if she wants him to send her purse and keys back to her and also says that he wants to be friends with her. That night Blomkvist has dinner with his sister, Annika Giannini. Dag calls while he is at dinner to say he and Mia will be going out of town, but he wants to get some pictures to Blomkvist first; Blomkvist offers to come by to pick them up. Salander goes to see Mia and Dag and asks why they want know about Alexander Zalachenko; they are shocked to hear his full name because they did not know it. When Blomkvist gets to the apartment there are neighbors all around, and he finds that Dag and Mia both were shot in the head. He calls the cops and they start investigating. At the police station, Blomkvist is treated as a suspect despite his alibi and the fact that he got there after the gunshots. He leaves the station finally at 3:00am and goes to tell Erika what happened.
Blomkvist gets to Erika’s Berger’s house at 5:00am and her surprised husband, Greger Beckman, answers the door. He tells both Erika and Greger that Dag and Mia have been killed. At Millennium offices, there is a meeting involving the staff to discuss the murders. There is a strong consensus that the murders must have something to do with the fact that Mia and Dag were investigating the sex-trafficking world and were going to be exposing very public figures as being involved. They decide that they will investigate the murders themselves and that sometime later they will publish Dag’s article.
Jan Bublanski and his team are in charge of the murder investigation; the team consists of Hans Faste, Jerker Holmberg, Curt Andersson, and Sonja Modig. There was a gun found at the scene, and it is thought to be the murder weapon. The murders seem to be executions. When Blomkvist gets to Millennium offices he deletes any files that may hold confidential information and sources on Dag’s computer and also locks all confidential files from his own computer. The forensics lab has examined the gun and tells Bublanski that it was the weapon used in the murder, and there are two sets of prints on it: Nils Bjurman and Lisbeth Salander. Faste has researched the suspects and learns that Salander is a prostitute with a history of violence who is under guardianship and works at Milton Securities, as a mad they assume; Bjurman is her legal guardian. Salander and Bjurman are both nowhere to be found, but the search continues. At Milton Securities Bublanski learns that Salander is actually brilliant and she also knows Blomkvist. Seeing as how Blomkvist is the one who found the bodies, Salander becomes the prime suspect.
Modig, the officer sent to find Bjurman, has found him in his apartment shot dead. When Bublanski learns this news he calls Andersson and Faste who are waiting outside of Lisbeth Salander’s old apartment. Salander is now the prime suspect not only in the murders of Mia and Dag but also of Bjurman. At Millennium Bublanski is questioning Blomkvist about Lisbeth Salander. Blomkvist states that Salander is the finest and most gifted researcher he has ever met. To Blomkvist’s surprise Bublanski tells him that she is not only under guardianship but is considered to be very mentally unstable and was institutionalized as a teenager; also, she is being charged with all three murders. Andersson and Faste break in to Salander’s apartment but are confused by what they see; everything belongs to someone named Miriam Wu. All of the clothing that they find in the apartment is much too large to fit Lisbeth Salander, and it seems that there is no evidence of her in the apartment at all.
Bublanski and Faste meet with Prosecutor Ekstrom and discuss what they have found so far. Miriam Wu has no police record at all, but they assume that she must be a prostitute because she has a lot of sex toys and erotic material in her apartment. Salander’s files indicate a possible prostitution career, but it is not for certain as the police never actually investigated the claims. They are not wondering if perhaps Wu and Salander were worried about the sex trafficking research and it led Salander to murder Dag and Mia; but they cannot support these claims as there is no evidence. Ekstrom gives a press conference and reveals that Salander is the prime suspect and has a violent past. At the scene of Bjurman’s murder, Bublanski and Modig look for Salander’s motive to kill Bjurman and wonder if his tattoo (“I am a sadist pig, a pervert, and a rapist”) has anything to do with it. At home, Blomkvist is confused because he realizes that he does not really know Salander at all but does not believe she could murder so easily.
Throughout the media Salander is being portrayed as a “mass murderer”. Blomkvist decides that he will turn Salander’s purse in to Modig, but he decides to remove the hammer because he thinks it will make her look bad. He tells Modig that he will do his own investigation alongside theirs in the hopes of proving she is innocent, or if she is, in fact, guilty to find out why. Modig tells Blomkvist that is fine, but he cannot withhold useful information from the police; she also tells him they suspect Dag’s laptop was stolen. Blomkvist and Malin Erikkson, a Millennium staff member, try to think of a list of suspects including all of the thirty-seven people who would be exposed if Dag’s book was published. Armansky is vacationing with his wife, Ritva, and has heard about the murders. He believes that Salander murdered the people, but he does not know why. He knows that Salander is perfectly sane so there must be a good reason.
Blomkvist needs to get in touch with Lisbeth Salander and decides he must write her a letter, but he will not send it to her he will save it onto his own computer in the hopes that she still hacks into it. He tells her that he is launching his own investigation, and he does not think that she is guilty, and also if she needs a lawyer his sister Annika will help her. He wants her to tell him how Bjurman could be connected to Dag and Mia. While Armansky thinks that Salander is guilty he wants to know why so he assigns to of his employees, Sonny Bohman and Niklas Hedstrom, to work as consultants to the police.Dr. Peter Teleborian is brought into the investigation; he is the doctor who oversaw Salander’s treatment at St. Stefan’s Psychiatric Clinic and is also one of the most famous psychiatrists in the country. He is not surprised by the accusations because she has proved to have a long history of violence and he describes her as an “egomaniacal psychopath,” and thinks that she will probably lash out violently on the police if they find her.
Niklas Hedstrom is especially excited to work on this particular investigation because he wants to take Salander down. She caught him selling naked photos of a celebrity client to the tabloids and threatened to tell on him if he did not stop so Hedstrom wants revenge. At a briefing, Holmberg reveals that Salander’s fingerprints were found at both crimes scenes as well as on the murder weapon. She was also spotted near the home of Dag and Mia buying cigarettes the night they were killed. They have found that Mariam Wu works at an erotic clothing boutique and believe that Wu and Salander were lovers, as Wu is a known lesbian and Salander is good friends with lesbian-Satanists known as Evil Fingers. They think that Bjurman victimized Salander, which is her motive for killing him, based on the tattoo on his stomach as well as violent pornography found on his computer. Faste thinks that Wu and Salander are prostitutes working in the sex trade and Bjurman may have been a client. Blomkvist has finally received a response from Salander that says only “Zala”. When he asks her to explain more she tells him that he is a journalist and can figure it out. She does not respond to any more questions.
Blomkvist reads Dag’s very minimal file on Zala and is unsure that the man even exists. He decides he must interview all of the johns who were about to be exposed. Just then the phone on Dag’s desk rings and it is Bjork wanting to claim the “free cell phone” that he has won. Blomkvist tells him he must participate in market research and Bjork gives him his address. A well-known boxer named Paolo Roberto sees the news about Salander while he is at the airport. That night Blomkvist finds that Salander has sent him a message on the computer. He wants him to ask the prosecutor why, of all the information he is leaking, he did not leak the old police report. Blomkvist is confused and tells Salander to trust him; she says she might. Faste finds out that Miriam Wu has returned to her apartment. When they bring her in, they learn that she was visiting her parents in Paris and had no idea about Salander’s murder accusations, her past, or her job at Milton. Blomkvist interviews Bjork who had no idea he was going to be exposed, which counts him out as a suspect. When he hears Zala’s name he agrees to tell Blomkvist all he knows about the man in exchange for his role in the sex trade to be kept quiet.
Wu confirms what Blomkvist and Armansky have already told the police, that Salander is very intelligent and very private. Bublanski and Modig want to look for alternate suspects but the other protest this development. Hedstrom is especially upset about the turn of events and decides that while everyone has promised not to reveal any information to the press he is going to do just that. He calls his journalist friend Tony Scala and tells him to write a story about Wu and Salander being lovers and their involvement in S&M. He also wants the story to be written as though the informant was female. Paolo Roberto has done research on Salander’s case in the library and wonders if there is anything he can do to help. Wu has been harassed by reporters at her apartment all day and just barely leaves before Blomkvist gets there to see her. Bublanski tells Modig that she is being accused of leaking information to the press, but he does not think that she did. Bjork is worried by what Blomkvist has told him, and he calls his ex-boss who confirms that he did make sure that Bjurman would be Salander’s guardian. He says Salander is nothing to worry about because she will soon be institutionalized again. Bjork still worries because he got Bjurman the police report from 1991, when Salander was committed, and that police report, if found, would connect Bjork and Zala.
For the seven days immediately following Mia and Dag’s murder Salander confines herself to her new apartment and watches everything she tried so hard to protect being broadcast all over the news. She listens when Dr. Teleborian is interviewed and finds it funny that he never mentions how the kids who seem out of control at St. Stefan’s are strapped down and put into sensory deprivation. She was sent to St. Stefan’s after “All the Evil” happened and no one would listen to her when she tried to explain what had happened. On Salander’s thirteenth birthday, she is strapped to her bed and decides she will no longer communicate with the doctors, only with the nurses and other staff. When she is fifteen she is released into foster care. Salander is confused about why the police report from 1991 is staying hidden because it details “All the Evil” and would confirm her violent past; there must be a reason it is being hidden.
Salander leaves her apartment dressed as Irene Nesser. She breaks into Bjurman’s apartment and finds the keys to his cabin, sure that he is hiding secret files there. Later that weekend, Salander reads more things about Mimmi in the news and vows to investigate the reporters, especially Tony Scala, when everything is over. Blomkvist is called to Millennium offices to meet with Erika Berger and her friend, professional boxer, Paolo Roberto. Paolo reveals that he knows Salander, as she was trained in boxing at his gym. He knows her as a person and is sad to see how she is being portrayed in the media. He wants to help her case in any way that he can.
Blomkvist tells Paolo that if he wants to help then he can start by finding Mariam Wu and telling her to talk to Blomkvist because she seems to think that he is just another reporter. Bjork is very stressed out because he does not want it to become public knowledge that he pays underage girls for sex. He knows that Bjurman and Dag were both looking for Zala and wonders how this fits into their murders; he contemplates calling Zala himself. Salander looks into Blomkvist’s computer and finds a note from him stating that he thinks Bjork and Zala are connected; Salander knows that Bjurman and Bjork are connected. She tells Blomkvist this fact and also tells him that he needs to find the police report from 1991. Salander proclaims her innocence in the murders of Dag and Mia, but Blomkvist wonders if she did kill Bjurman. Salander purchases rope and electrical tape under the disguise of Irene Nesser and scopes out Sandstrom’s apartment. Modig is beginning to think that Salander did kill Bjurman but not Dag and Mia. According to Faste, Dag’s cell phone records indicate that he phones Bjurman only one half hour before Salander was seen in his neighborhood on the night he was killed. Blomkvist wonders if Bjork has any information about the missing police report seeing as how he is part of the Security Police.
Ever since Dag was murdered Sandstrom has been in a state of panic. He was happy to find out that Dag was killed, at first, because he thought maybe he would not be exposed if Dag’s book could not be published. Then he worried that someone may find Dag’s research and think that he killed him to keep the information under wraps. Sandstrom returns to his home around midnight and he is tased in the back by Salander. When he comes to he is tied up in his living room, and his mouth is taped. Salander tells him that he needs to share everything he knows about Zala, or she will taser and choke him to death. Sandstrom says that after he learned about the story from Dag he called men he knew worked for Zala, the Ranta brothers, and told them about Dag’s story. Paolo Roberto is standing outside of Mariam Wu’s apartment as he has been stalking it, waiting to speak with her.
Paolo sees Miriam walking up to the street and is about to get out of the car to speak with her when he sees a van pull up, and the blond giant reaches out and pulls Miriam into the car. Paolo follows the van and the battery on his phone dies just as Blomkvist is calling. Erikkson calls Blomkvist and tells him that he has found out how Bjurman and Bjork know one another, they both worked for the Security Police and Bjurman worked in immigration. Paolo follows the van to a warehouse with other cars parked out front and sees the blond giant carry Miriam into the building as a man with a ponytail drives the van away. Paolo follows them into the building and sees that the blond giant is threatening Miriam with a chainsaw for information on where Salander is. Paolo comes out into the open and the blond giant recognizes him; the two box but Paolo is no match for the huge man, and his punches have no effect.Miriam manages to kick the giant in the crotch and then Paolo hits him with a wooden plank which takes him down. Quickly, Paolo and Miriam flee to the car and escape. The giant cannot believe he was beaten and knows that his nose is broken. He wants to follow the escapees but knows he has to clean up first. Blomkvist meets Paolo and Miriam at the hospital where Miriam is resting, and Paolo is waiting to tell Blomkvist what happened.
The police follow Paolo’s directions to the warehouse and find that it has been burned down. They are on a mission to find the blond giant, the ponytailed man, and Zala. It is agreed that none of the information will leak to the press, but Hedstrom immediately goes to Tony Scala and Modig is blamed, once again. Salander is dressed as Irene, heading to Bjurman’s cabin. The blond giant is upset that things are not going as planned and he did not want any connection between Zala and Bjurman, though Zala only sees it as another chance to hurt Lisbeth Salander. The night of the murders the giant was at Bjurman’s house when Dag called to ask about Zala. When the giant realized that Bjurman knew too much he killed him, then he went and killed Dag and Mia and accidentally dropped the gun. As the police examine the warehouse rubble, they find bodies buried. At Bjurman’s cabin, Salander finds the original police report and also learns that Bjork is the one who had her institutionalized. She leaves the cabin carrying the most important of the papers. Mage Lundin and Sonny Niemenan are waiting for her; she maces Lundin and shoots him in the foot with Sonny’s gun after she tases Sonny. She then takes the gun and rides off on Lundin’s motorcycle.
Blomkvist goes to meet Bjork who agrees to spill the beans on Zala as long as Blomkvist promises that he will not be exposed for his participation; Blomkvist agrees but has every intention of publishing the book anyway. The police head to Bjurman’s cabin because they heard a report of shots fired; they find Lundin and Sonny both there wounded. Holmberg reads the files he finds inside and then calls Bublanski to inform him that Salander was there, injured two men, and stole a motorcycle. Salander leaves the bike at an amusement park and walks home. Bjork tells Blomkvist what he knows about Zala (Alexander Zalachenko); he was born in 1940, his parents died in the Battle of Stalingrad when he was only one year old, and he was taken in to a Russian military orphanage where he was given military training at a very young age. When Zala was eighteen he joined the GRU, the Russian military intelligence, where he was one of the star agents. He made a misstep in 1976 and ended up in Sweden, offering Russian secrets in exchange for asylum from the Security Police. Bjurman and Bjork were Zala’s first contacts within the Security Police, and they built their careers around his information.Blomkvist tells Bjork he thinks Zala killed Dag and Mia, but Bjork insists it cannot be, as Zala is in his 60’s and has an amputated leg. When Bjork refuses to reveal Zala’s Swedish identity Blomkvist decides to go visit Salander’s original guardian, Palmgren.
When Bublanski and Modig continue their search through the warehouse rubble, they find even more bodies and decide that Salander probably was not responsible for the murders she is being accused of.The blond giant is waiting at Lundin’s house, feeling uneasy, when he hears that Lundin has been arrested and he flees Lundin’s home just before the police arrive. Blomkvist goes to see Palmgren and after assuring the man he is friends with Salander he asks about Zala. Palmgren reveals that Zala is Salander’s father. He and Salander’s mother, Agneta, were never married but had twin girls, Lisbeth and Camilla. Agneta’s last name was Sjolander, but she changed it to Salander because “sala” was like “zala”. Agneta was abused terribly by Zala and one day, after a particularly bad beating, Lisbeth saw Zala outside their apartment in his car and threw a milk carton filled with gasoline, and then a lit match, into the car. Zala was burned badly and needed to have his leg amputated, Salander was committed to a mental institution, and Agneta never recovered mentally and was put into a nursing home. She realizes that Zala must have covered up the beatings to make Salander seem crazy. She is determined to find the blond giant and make her lead him to Zala. Blomkvist, still speaking to Palmgren, decides he also wants to find Zala.
Salander feels terrible that Mimmi is in the hospital; she thinks it is all her fault for giving Mimmi her old apartment. She wants to visit Mimmi, but when she sees a police car she turns around, goes home, and cries. In the morning, Salander sees that Blomkvist has left another message for her on his computer; he knows about Zala and also about “All the Evil” and he wants to be of help to her if she will let him. She messages him back to thank him for being a good friend to her. Salander gets by Milton Security’s surveillance and borrows a car from them. She sets out on her mission armed with mace, a taser, and a PDA. Blomkvist is scared for Salander and scared of what she may do so he plays detective and finds out where her new apartment is; and he still has her keys. Salander plays detective as well and finds out that the blond giant is Ronald Niedermann but the only address she can find for him is a post office box. She drives to the post office and stakes out Niedermann’s box.
When Blomkvist enters Salander’s apartment the alarm sounds and her PDA alerts her that someone has entered her apartment; this means the intruder will be hit with a paint bomb soon. Blomkvist thinks fast for a password and decides on 9277 because those are the numbers that spell “wasp”, Salander’s hacker name. Salander is amazed when her PDA does not beep anymore because it means that someone has cracked her password. She pulls up surveillance cameras on the PDA and sees that it is Blomkvist; she is nervous that he will know her secrets now, but she thinks that she can trust him with them. Paolo Roberto has also done some research and found out the blond giant’s true identity and also learns that he has a disorder that causes him to feel no pain. Eriksson calls Blomkvist and tells him what Paolo has found out. Blomkvist is still in Salander’s apartment, and he feels an intense loneliness for her and is horrified when he finds the DVD of Bjurman raping her which she had kept in her desk drawer. Eriksson contacts Blomkvist with more information linking the blond giant to a man named Karl Axel Bodin whose PO box had an address linked to it. Blomkvist thinks that Salander must have the same information and be headed to Bodin’s house now. Salander, dressed as Irene Nesser, sees a young man go to the PO Box and follows him home where the mailbox reads “K A Bodin”. Blomkvist is on his way to Bodin’s house via train but fears that he is too late. As Salander watches the farmhouse she sees the blind giant come out followed by Zala who is limping on a crutch; she heads toward them through the woods.
Salander hides out in the barn next to the farmhouse until it is dark. She enters the house, it is unlocked and there appears to be no one inside. Niedermann appears and grabs Salander; she tasers him, but he does not even flinch. The giant smacks Salander to the ground and she sees Zala standing in front of her. He says that she set off all of their motion sensors, and they have been watching her in infrared cameras all day. Zala tells Salander that he is going to kill her and that Niedermann is her half-brother and is also Zala’s partner in numerous illegal enterprises such as the sex trade, drugs, and arms; Dag and Mia were very close to finding out about the whole operation. Salander feels that it is her fault Dag and Mia were killed as she is the one who gave Dag Bjurman’s name so she could find out how Bjurman and Zala were connected. Niedermann carries Salander to a freshly dug grave, but she throws dirt in her face, hits the gun out of his hand with a shovel, and runs before he can do anything.Zala shoots Salander while she is running away, in the hip, the shoulder, and the head. He kicks her body into the grave and is happy she is gone; he tells the giant to bury her.
Salander is still alive, though Zala and Niedermann think she is dead. She begins to dig her way out of the grave using the cigarette case that Mimmi gave her for her birthday. When she gets out she rests near a chopping block and hears Zala walking toward her. She manages to pull the axe out of the block and hit Zala in the face with it. Niedermann had been sleeping but wakes when he hears Zala screaming. Zala falls into the shed and Salander takes his gun, both of them bloody and weak. Niedermann is shocked to see Salander alive and narrowly escapes a bullet she aims at him. Salander locks Zala in the shed and runs into the farmhouse where she gets a glass of water and realizes that she has a hole in her head and may die. Niedermann sees a car coming down the street and flags it down for help; little does he know the driver of the car is Blomkvist who recognizes him. Blomkvist gets Niedermann down on the ground at gunpoint, ties him up with a belt, and forces him into the ditch. Blomkvist finds Zala in the shed and then runs into the house where he sees Salander on the floor. He thinks that she is dead until she barely opens her eyes and says his name.
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.