Book Review: The Bands of Mourning, by Brandon Sanderson

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Brandon Sanderson is one of the finest and most reliable fantasy authors writing today.cv_the_bands_of_mourning

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
ISBN 9781473208261

Book Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses, by Sarah J. Maas

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New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas begins her new high fantasy-romance series with this novel, A Court of Thorns and Roses. Set in the fictional realm of Prythian, a land divided between the humans’ territory and the courts of the dominating faeries, this story explores love, selflessness, pain and desire.

Nineteen year old Feyre is unexpectedly plunged into a violent world, riddled with nightmares and whispers in the dark. The young huntress, whose family depends on her for their survival, is responsible for killing a magical creature named Andras. This wolf was the sentinel of Tamlin, a High Fae, and Lord of the Spring Court of Prythian. After committing this deed, Feyre is taken from her village into custody in the Spring Court by Tamlin and his companions, Lucien and Alis. There, she begins to fall in love with the captivating High Lord himself, a faery blessed with shapeshifting powers, military prowess and an exceedingly attractive physique.

No one is safe in the forests of Prythian. Danger lurks perpetually in the ‘labyrinth of snow and ice’. Feyre is eventually forced to choose between Tamlin and her duty to protect her human family and herself. Her fiery passion for her loved ones never ceases to grow. Playing with fire, however, can have dangerous consequences. The time will come when her emotions will have her answer to Amarantha, the tyrannical Faerie Queen of Prythian.

This book makes for an enjoyable read. Written in first-person, the story allows us to delve into Feyre’s inner thoughts and longings. I particularly admire Sarah J. Maas’s ability to engage with the reader’s senses. The novel flows with descriptive language, which conjures up images and sounds in the reader’s mind. We grow conscious of Feyre’s quickening heartbeat and anticipate each moment of her new life with bated breath. From blissful birdsong at dawn to the warm woven hues in Feyre’s paintings, beauty and magic illuminate and bring hope to the otherwise cold and perilous world of Prythian.

Sarah J. Maas’s first fantasy series, Throne of Glass, has been widely acclaimed, and I have no doubt that her latest novel too will attract readers of high fantasy, paranormal romance and young adult fiction, of the likes of Kresley Cole, George R.R. Martin and Cassandra Clare. Keep an eye out for this new novel if you dare. Books like these will always sweep you off your feet to some otherworldly place.

Reviewed by Azariah Alfante

A Court of Thorns and Roses
by Sarah J. Maas
Published by Bloomsbury
ISBN 9781408857861