The Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson
|Book Name:||The Bands of Mourning|
|Publisher(s):||Gollancz (UK) Tor (US)|
|Formatt:||Hardback, Paperback, Ebook|
|Genre(s):||Fantasy / Steampunk|
|Release Date:||28th January 2016|
The Bands of Mourning is the third and penultimate book in Brandon Sanderson’s Wax and Wayne series. For those unfamiliar with the concept, these titles are set generations after the events of Sanderson’s breakout Mistborn trilogy, with the characters who saved the world within those books now serving as anything from long-dead legends to shadowy figures operating in the background to Gods in these. With the last two books finding their way onto just about every ‘Best of the Year’ SFF list worth its salt and the ending of the last novel being labelled as ‘one of the most surprising twists’ within all of genre-fiction, this title certainly has a lot to live up to…
As you’d expect from this series, the book opens with an explosion of action. We finally learn of Wax’s origins and are shown that even as a young man his views of right and wrong were being shaped by his surroundings. He can’t help but witness greed and corruption all around him – with people of authority walking on eggshells when it comes to those whose actions it would be easier/beneficial to ignore. Unlike Vin of the original trilogy, I feel Wax is very easy to connect to; his attitude towards injustice tends to match our own and we quickly share his frustration with the lack of punishment dished out to obviously bad people. During these flashbacks we also get to see early interactions between Wax and his sister, Telsin (who was originally presumed dead), and learn about their relationship before they were separated.
After the exhilarating, but traumatic opening we return to the uncomfortable modern day. Wax is about to go through with a political marriage to Steris but his internal musings over the forced murder of his former-love Lessie, who turned out to be The Lord Ruler’s personal Kandra, has him tearing himself up about what this means for his future. It seems that Wax is ready to give up on happiness and is ready to approach life just by going through the motions… then there’s a big accident and his wedding is day is ruined.
Kandra, serving Harmony, show up in the form of MeLaan and Vendell. They ask Wax for help and when he refuses, saying he has a wedding to rearrange, they turn to Marasi (Steris’s sister and also an Allomancer, like Wax) – who is far more willing for a bit of adventure. Not willing to let Marasi accept a dangerous mission without hearing about it first, Wax listens in and ends up hearing about a Kandra called ReLuur who stumbled across information about the Bands of Mourning, The Lord Ruler’s metalminds. The legend goes that anyone who holds the Bands within their hands would gain The Lord Ruler’s powers. Something happened to ReLuur though, they don’t know exactly what because one of his Hemalurgy spikes – which contained much of his memories and personality – was stolen and they’ve only been able to get a few details from him… those details though suggest that not only did he find the location of the Bands of Mouring, but something else too. Melaan shows Wax a picture of a woman being pulled against her will by two men. It’s Telsin. She’s still alive and being held by Wax’s Uncle Edwarn, Mr Suit.
Kidnapped sister. A Kandra’s ‘life’ hanging in the balance. An object of unfathomable power that could be about to fall into the wrong hands? Wax is in. So is Marasi, Wayne, Steris and MeLaan too – she’ll keep an eye on them, being immortal is a big help on this kind of dangerous mission.
The novel unfolds exactly as we’ve come to expect from this series. In order to track down the objects and Wax’s sister, the characters must navigate their way through a number of dangerous and action-packed scenarios that includes a train heist, a raid on a building, a battle on a ship, the search for a long-lost temple and much more besides. In-between (or during) each action-scene you are drip-fed more and more information about Sanderson’s world and new concepts about Allomancy/Ferromancy. Those who are really into their lore will have lots to be excited about and plenty of new basis for speculation. Those whose minds are already starting to struggle with the ever-increasing array of super-human abilities may have to do some work to grasp the concepts here. They relate to Fortune, Investiture, Identity, and Connection. Most exciting of all was the continual hint that technology is catching up with Allomancy and Ferromancy in a way that could have huge implications for the next book or that could completely change the nature of Sanderson’s sandbox should he go even further forward in time (Sci-Fi Mistborn anyone!?).
Beyond the praise for Sanderson’s story and ability to keep a relentless pace, I should talk a bit about the characters and their relationships because I was massively impressed with what Sanderson pulled off. There is something about the way that Sanderson writes that has a certain charm to it. I’m not talking about the cheesy jokes that often come from Wayne or his Carry On, but rather the innocence and warming way that Sanderson approaches love and friendship. In the days when ‘gritty’ and ‘realism’ and ‘grey’ is all the rage, it’s rather wonderful to witness characters acting in a way that is the result of a pure friendship, or seeing them interact and grow closer, even fall in love, with the absence of lust (or at least overemphasis on it).
Are there any weaknesses? Well, I would say that this is the longest new-age Mistborn novel to date and there are a few times that it feels it. There is consistent action and a never-ending supply of ideas – as I have said – but you should be aware that these are no longer ‘short novels’ (as Alloy of Law was and Shadows of Shelf probably just got away with) but rather standard-sized Fantasy novels at this point. There is also the occasional feeling that the plot lacks a bit of ‘authenticity’. Each action scene (minus the final one) feels a little synthetic, as if Sanderson had a number of concepts he wanted to introduce and reveals he wanted to make and decided: a train heist for this one, a factory raid for this one, a raid of a temple for this one and so on. Kind of like a dot-to-dot.
Despite this, you could argue that these ‘scenes’ only add to the Hollywood-feel and effect that the books seem to be going for and, overall, I do feel this is the strongest of the new Mistborn novels to-date. Sanderson has proven time and time again that he is the master at taking you from one sentence to the next. It seems such a simple thing, but that’s an authors job and there is no-one better at it than Brandon. In addition to keeping this quality though, the story of Bands features even more worldbuilding, new complex concepts and greater roles for the entities who wield great powers – all of which give it a more epic scale and feel. What this leaves us with is a book containing the best elements of both new and old Mistborn series. Just as successful is how much we learn about Sanderson’s characters and the fact we witness more development in them than we have in any other Mistborn title. Finally, if you liked the incredible twist that Sanderson put us through in Shadows of Self and were worried that he threw down an ace that he can never play again then get ready to be pleasantly surprised: multiple twists and turns await you in The Bands of Mourning and they are just as shocking. Sanderson plays another ace and leaves us with no doubt he’ll play a few more in 2017’s conclusion.