Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Bands of Mourning Book Review

 by The Wanderer

Author: Brandon Sanderson
Publisher: Tor Books
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Series: Wax and Wayne Book Three, Mistborn Book Six
Pages: 448

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It's A Bird, It's A Plane, It's ... A Box?

(Spoilers for the five previous Mistborn books are below).

Six months have passed since Wax put down the rogue kandra Paalm, who had not only been terrorizing the city of Elendel, but had previously been deceiving him as the love of his life, Lessie. It's time for Wax to finally fulfill his vows of marriage to his political ally, Steris. As with everything in Wax's life, things don't turn out the way they should, and soon he, Marasi, Wayne, and even Steris this time, find themselves on a train out of Elendel seeking the Bands of Mourning, the mystical metal minds that once empowered the Lord Ruler.

Everything Shadows of Self wasn't, Bands of Mourning is. And that's a good thing indeed. I had some serious gripes about the last book. There was a lack of the discussion about sex and how it impacts relationships and influences an individual's decision making.  Earlier in the series, Wax entered an engagement with a woman he needed to have an heir with, and who herself had "presumably" never been sexually active. There should be quite a few discussions about how that would work, but there weren't. Some of those thankfully take place in the Bands of Mourning. 

The other major question with sex I had was how did that work with Lessie? Sanderson just seems to gloss over the fact that Wax and Lessie were traveling and "presumably" sleeping together for years. That should in some degree be talked about. Not to mention ... how does an inter-species relationship work in Scadrial? That could be really interesting, it's a topic that's usually found in science fiction, but why not take the opportunity to explore it in a fantasy?

There was a lack of world expanding ideas, which was something the previous four Mistborn books had managed to take time for. Besides the lack of sex and new found worldbuilding, nothing irritated me more than the predictable plot. In defense of Sanderson, that was the first book I'd read by the author where I had accurately predicted every major plot point.

Bands of Mourning does have a degree of predictability to it, but there are definitely some surprises, too. Steris finally gets to come along for an adventure, she contributes to the plot, but usually in ways that allow her to be true to her character. Oftentimes she's left to sit with the horses while the others go off adventuring, which is believable, but it also begs the question why bring her on the adventure? The reason Sanderson gives, is because it might make their engagement/marriage look insecure. If that's the case where was Steris on the last two adventures?  I can see Steris giving Sanderson lots of problems due to the character she is. She's a non-adventurous character shoved in the middle of an adventure story. How does one deal with her? I don't have an answer other than she should have never existed in the first place. I have to admit despite the problems she presents, I do actually empathize with her.

There's not a whole lot of change to the characterizations of Wax, Wayne, and Marasi, but there are definitely some subtleties at work. The addition of Steris and Melaan, does break apart the Harry, Ron, and Hermione complex the trio was developing in the last two books though. As a result the relationship dynamics between the original trio feels different. Again I'd consider that a plus.

As for the rest, the Mistborn world finally gets some serious worldbuilding expansions along with some nifty new technologies. There are many fast-paced action scenes that have come to define the Mistborn books and of course it's brilliant magic system. The ending and its implications are going to be huge, especially if you read the novella Mistborn: The Secret History which Sanderson released just after Bands of Mourning. It certainly makes you want to read the next book to see how it all plays out.

This is the first Wax and Wayne book that feels like it could rival the first and third book of the original Mistborn trilogy. It's definitely the best Wax and Wayne book up until this point. Even more importantly, especially if you consider Alloy of Law a prequel (I certainly do), then this is the first "second" book in a Sanderson series that I've read that has eclipsed the first book in quality.

Score: 8.9

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