Series: Mistborn #6
Published by Tor Books on January 26th 2016
Our reviews of this author: Shadows of Self, Calamity, Oathbringer
2016 is another big year for Brandon Sanderson with a whole slew of new book releases and re-issues coming out, and he’s kicking it all off in late January with The Bands of Mourning. This is the sixth Mistborn novel and third volume of Waxillium Ladrian’s saga following on the heels of Shadows of Self, and according to Sanderson one is an intentional counterpoint to the other, which explains why there were only a few months to wait between the books. For readers like myself, that decision to publish them so close together was much appreciated, since I don’t think I could have waited until the end of the year to find out what happens, especially after that shocking ending in Shadows of Self.
Things come to a head in The Bands of Mourning, continuing the adventures of Waxillium and his companions. It has been six months since the events of Shadows of Self and our heroes are still recovering from the ordeal. Wax himself is still trying to come to terms with what happened but is also determined to move on with his life, and one of the first orders of business is his forthcoming marriage to Steris. But before the couple can tie the knot, a kandra brings tidings of a possible new discovery in the mountains.
Legends say that the Lord Ruler created a pair of metalminds called the Bands of Mourning that are so powerful that anyone who wears them will have all the Allomantic abilities at their command. Most believe that they are a thing of myth, but now a kandra researcher has returned to Elendel with drawings that look suspiciously like the Bands. Unable to resist the call of adventure, Wax agrees to travel south with the kandra MeLaan to investigate, bringing along Steris as well as his friends Marasi and Wayne. However, Wax was wholly unprepared to stumble across news of his lost sister along the way, and the quest for the Bands unexpectedly takes a dangerous turn as it puts him on the trail of Edwarn Ladrian, Wax’s unscrupulous uncle who is also involved with the shadowy organization known as The Set.
After so many books in the Mistborn series, I didn’t think I could be surprised anymore, but I was wrong. Most of the story in The Bands of Mourning does not take place in the Roughs nor does it take place in the city of Elendel, instead taking us out into the outskirts of the Basin. We’ve been with Wax for so long, it’s easy to forget there’s a whole wide world out there beyond the frontier regions or the urban areas, and the first stop is beautiful New Seran. Sanderson may be best known for his magic systems, but he is also a master at creating new places and bringing them to life. With its luscious fields of fruit and majestic waterfalls, the awe-inspiring vistas of New Seran make me think this could be Sanderson’s version of Rivendell or Naboo. Next up are the cold icy mountain ranges bordering the Basin, where the final chapters of the book take place. There’s also a farther, more mysterious place that I can’t really speak of for fear of spoilers, but regardless, out of all the novels in this series I think it’s safe to say this one expands the world the most, at least geographically.
The story does not disappoint either. It’s an action-filled romp through a fantasy world on the cusp of an industrial revolution, and the Western vibes are still strong with this book, which even includes scenes from a spectacular train robbery. Also, despite The Bands of Mourning taking place half a year after Shadows of Self and featuring a whole new adventure, the two books do indeed tie together when you look at it from the perspective of Wax’s personal growth. It is an emotional journey that brings resolution to the many questions our protagonist has been struggling with since the last book, and it also marks an end to one chapter while opening another. New possibilities are on the horizon, including the potential for new worlds, new relationships, and perhaps even a new villain. You might be able to get away with reading this on its own, but I do highly recommend picking up Shadows of Self first, or better yet, start Wax’s story from the beginning with The Alloy of Law (which is still my favorite of the new Wax and Wayne Mistborn novels).
Another thing I loved about this book? The supporting characters! The story is once again carried by POVs from our three usual suspects—Wax, Wayne and Marasi—but my favorite characters in this book were actually Steris and MeLaan. As usual, there was plenty of humor especially in the dialogue, and the best of that came in the form of interactions between Wayne and MeLaan, a brilliant pairing. But perhaps the greatest surprise of the novel was Steris. She always struck me as rather austere and aloof in previous books, but we finally get to see a lot more of her true self here. And maybe I’m biased, because I recognize a lot of myself in her uptight planning and obsessive list-making behavior, but out of all the characters, I felt she was the most sympathetic. I’m really excited to see what might be in store for her and Wax, because Sanderson really did a great job developing their relationship.
Overall, The Bands of Mourning is another fantastic installment in the Mistborn sequence. Brandon Sanderson fans will be sure to love this one, especially if you’ve been following the books and keeping up with Wax and the gang. You definitely won’t want to miss this rusting good read.
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