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Brandon Sanderson is one of the finest and most reliable fantasy authors writing today.
Bands of Mourning is the 6th Mistborn book and the third in the second series (sometimes known as the Wax and Wayne series). Having only read Alloy of Law, the first in the series, I went into Bands of Mourning familiar with the characters, but with some holes in their history. This did not, it turned out, matter too much. The occasional reference to the events preceding Alloy and from Shadows of Self were illuminating, while making me eager to fill in the gaps.
Centuries after the events that unfolded in the original Mistborn trilogy, the world of Scadrial has evolved into a semblance of modernity, coupled with Victorian-era technology, sprinkled with an element of steampunk and garnished with a touch of the Western. The use of allomantic and feruchemical magic is fairly commonplace, with some individuals – like Wax and Wayne – being capable of manipulating both.
In this instalment, Waxillium Ladrian, lawman-turned-nobleman, learns of a mythical artifact known as the ‘bands of mourning’. These bands were possessed by the Lord Ruler, and are said to grant their bearer immense power – almost making him a god. A researcher has found evidence that they may exist, and Wax, along with his friend, indomitable and irrepressible, Wayne, is hired to make the journey and uncover the artifact. Joining him on the mission are quick-witted Marasi, herself an allomancer; sensible and level-headed Steris, Wax’s fiance, prepared for (almost) any situation; and MeLaan, a shape-shifting immortal with a slightly skewed view on propriety. This rag-tag (but highly efficient) bunch must make their way through hostile terrain in a harrowing race by rail, land and air, to beat the bad guys to the prize. Along the way, Wax uncovers a dangerous secret society – the Set – and the means to rescue his sister from a brutal fate.
This is a highly enjoyable romp, with wonderfully memorable characters and a fast-paced, semi-crazed plot. Wry humour is scattered liberally throughout, as well as a good dose of twists and surprises. Whilst I would suggest the reading of the earlier books first: the original Mistborn series explains the Ascension, and the background behind the kandra, and from the sounds of things, I missed a whole lot of interesting twists and turns in Shadows of Self; Bands of Mourning stood quite succesfully on its own.
I recommend Brandon Sanderson highly to fans of high fantasy, for his complex magic system, brilliant world-building, excellent characterisation and his skill in weaving them all together into a gripping and coherant story.
Reviewed by Angela Oliver
The Bands of Mourning
by Brendon Sanderson
Published by Gollancz