In the shadow of legends...

As I continue my quest to finally catch up on the Cosmere (if such a thing is even possible with the pace that Sanderson pumps out books), I knew I had to continue with MISTBORN's second era of novels and so I wasted no time in starting THE BANDS OF MOURNING.

4/5 Fascinating expansions to the magic system and world lore coupled with excellent character development and a fun, artifact-hunting adventure acrosEra Two's Scadriel made this a worthwhile read, albeit one that didn't weave quite as tight of a narrative as the previous books. 

After an exciting police raid, Wax find himself about to embark on a new kind of adventure... marriage! The day of his and Steris' wedding is finally upon them, but things go awry partway through which ends up delaying their nuptials. There's a heavy emphasis on relationships in this story, which I think made sense given where these characters are in their development. Wax has to face the reality of spending the rest of his life with Steris as he deals with the heartbreak he suffered in the previous book. The way these two interact and the way that they form a more genuine bond over the course of this story felt incredibly endearing. As someone who's a bit of a planner myself, Steris' neurotic preparations absolutely slayed me and I found myself really appreciating her as a character. Wayne on the other hand is faced with having to let go of a "relationship" that was never really meant to be. It was interesting to see him mature in this aspect and engage in a romantic entanglement with a different character. Some of the hilarity of this odd pairing made for good fun. Marasi grows in her own ways and I found myself really impressed with where she ends up and in the decisions she makes along the way to get there. Her friendships with other members of the cast also made for some moments that were quite special. MeLaan rejoins the group and exposes them (in some cases, literally) to some of the weirder and more alien aspects of being a kandra. While some of the moments with her sometimes felt a little too slapstick, I mostly appreciated what she brought to the table in terms of exploring this world's more fantastical elements. As I'd hoped, we also get to spend more time with Edwin and finally meet Telsin. They both have rather fascinating personalities and I was very happy for their inclusion.  

Whereas THE ALLOY OF LAW read kind of like a fast-paced fantasy western, and SHADOWS OF SELF played out in a sort of gaslamp thriller fashion, THE BANDS OF MOURNING reminded me most of an artifact-hunting story like Indiana Jones, Tomb Rader, Uncharted, etc. The prologue once again kicks us off with a flashback sequence. This time, instead of focussing on Lessie, we meet another important lady in Wax's life: his sister, Telsin. After Wax and Steris' sabotaged wedding, the arrival of some kandra brings news to the gang that there might be a powerful relic out there waiting to be claimed and that The Set might possibly be in pursuit of it already. All of the characters have varying motivations for pursuing this powerful artifact and I found that sort of fascinating because it ultimately resulted in this group working toward the same objective, but not really being on the same page. This is something that they have to work through as the adventure goes on and their quest becomes more and more complicated. Things take a bit of a twist when a brand new character is added to the mix which introduces us to a previously unknown civilization. On top of all of that, we get a lot of new information about the magic system and world lore. While I appreciated all these different layers of storytelling, I do think that it partly came at the cost of narrative momentum. There are a number of scenes smattered throughout the book which aren't really scenes at all, but rather conversations meant to deliver expository information. While this isn't totally out of character for Sanderson from time to time, I do feel like he normally covers this type of information a bit more seamlessly. Fortunately, the background information we get about magic, world history, and civilizations previously unknown to us was all interesting in it's own right. I just think that this had the distinct feeling of a story that's meant to lay the groundwork for some bigger ideas within this world as well as some implications for the greater Cosmere to be followed up on later. Now, that's not to say that the story being told here wasn't compelling, because it absolutely was. I particularly loved seeing Wax finally come head to head with his uncle. Edwin is one nasty piece of work and such a great villain. Seeing them clash has been a long time coming and I felt like this book really delivered on the payoff for the conflict between them. Getting to see Wax finally interact with his sister in both the past and present was also quite satisfying, though there's a lot more to this relationship that I hope the fourth and final book in this era will explore. 

Unlike the previous books, this story is much more of a globe-trotting adventure. The beginning and ending do take place in Elendel, but for the first time, we get to venture out and explore other parts of The Basin in this new era with information revealed about other regions on Scadriel as a whole. As much as I preferred the tightly woven narrative of SHADOWS OF SELF, I did really appreciate getting to explore new cities, towns, and a mysterious temple. It was such a treat to finally get a sense for what the broader world is really like in this era and learn about some of the political tensions that are brewing in different corners. We'd already gotten some ideas about how the world shifted and changed when it was remade at the end of the original trilogy, but the impacts of these changes are explored with much more depth here and definitely stress how Sazed is far from infallible even though he is a literal god now. The way that him and Wax interact this time was really interesting and I enjoyed the brief glimpse we got into the more spiritual/cosmic side of this world. I also loved getting a closer look at Wax's time as a youth within the Terris community. As I mentioned before, the magic and lore are greatly expanded upon this time around. We get a lot more insight into exactly what the kandra can do thanks to MeLaan's additional page time and interactions with the other characters. Although much of the new information on Allomancy and Feruchemy comes from expository scenes that I would have liked to see handled differently, I ultimately found the exposition that was delivered to be quite interesting. There are some significant changes introduced that challenge what is possible for these systems, with Hemalurgy seeming to be a big key to all of this potential. I won't spoil the specifics, but my interest was definitely piqued and I look forward to seeing what all of these reveals will lead to both on Scadriel and perhaps outside of it as well. 

This hardcover edition is just as well put together as those for the previous books. The front cover offers and awesome depiction of Wax with Steris during the story's final act. The broadsheets are still fantastic, though I think they include fewer illustrations than the previous book did. I was partly fine with this because the text written on them is usually quite entertaining and sometimes provides interesting insight into the public opinion of the events our heroes get wrapped up in. As always, there are other nice little flourishes like the iconography and a helpful allomatic reference guide in the back of the book. Overall, I'm just very happy to have the hardover editions for this quartet in my collection. 

In many ways, I think Sanderson used this book to lay the groundwork for some bigger ideas within this world as well as in the greater Cosmere. While I think the inclusion of these elements made the narrative feel a bit unfocussed, I still found these ideas to be fascinating and enjoyed the adventure that we had along the way. I am also eager to see where all these revelations and twists will lead. 

(+) Wax is just as gripping as ever and I appreciate that the story didn't shy away from delving into his darker side. 
(+) Sterris really came into her own with this one as did Marasi in many ways.
(+) Wayne had some moments that absolutely shook me to my core.
(+) The Indiana-Jones style of artifact-hunting adventure was a ton of fun.
(+) The confrontation beween Edwin and Wax was deeply satisfying as was Teslin's inclusion.
(+) We get to see different parts of the Basin as well as learn about regions in the world that lie beyond it. 
(-) Some of the twists were a bit out of left field and at least a couple of them require further explaination before they will make much sense.
(-) The time spent on the magic system(s) and greater Cosmere was fascinating, but I did feel as though it slowed things down somewhat and perhaps could have been worked in a bit more gracefully. 


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