The Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson
The Bands of Mourning is the second Mistborn book released within three months, which is baffling, impressive and very very welcome. I loved Shadows of Self and whilst The Bands of Mourning isn’t quite as good as her sister book, it’s a very enjoyable read, particularly for long term fans of Mistborn and the wider Cosmere.
The Bands of Mourning picks up a couple of months after Shadows of Self left off. Still mourning the second loss of Lessie and bitter towards Harmony who orchestrated the events, Wax is set to finally marry Steris. His wedding day is interrupted by the arrival of a kandra, ReLuur, with news from the southern end of the Basin. He has sighted the mythical Bands of Mourning, the Feruchemical bands worn by the Lord Ruler which had granted him the terrifying power needed to subdue the world. Alas, the Set have also set their eyes on the Bands. A photo showing Wax’s sister Telsin in the hands of his nefarious uncle Edwarn sees Wax setting out to New Seran, with Wayne, Marasi, Steris and MeLaan in tow.
Shadows of Self had a rollicking pace which The Bands of Mourning lacks. It isn’t quite as tight a book as Shadows of Self was, but in terms of overall significance for the Mistborn narrative The Bands of Mourning is an absolute game changer. Sanderson has made no secrets of his plans for a more technologically advanced Mistborn series and this may be the turning point where Scadrial becomes that world. When Sanderson’s 30+ book Cosmere magnum opus is finished, I suspect that it may be this book which is viewed as the moment where the connections between the series actually become relevant to the plot. This works both as a strength and a weakness. Lacking the focus of the previous book, The Bands of Mourning isn’t as consistently successful, but the overall impression of the book is still very positive. The vastness and scale of events begins to rival the original trilogy for the first time and it is exhilarating.
A pleasant surprise is how funny this book is. I had found some of the humour in the last two Wax and Wayne books a bit grating, particularly Wayne’s ‘banter’. The Bands of Mourning contains what is comfortably one of Sanderson’s funniest ever scenes and MeLaan is as delightful as ever. The action scenes sometimes run a bit long in the first half, but the final few scenes of the book are breathtaking.
Where MeLaan was the breakout character from Shadows of Self, in many ways The Bands of Mourning belongs to Steris. It’s odd; this is a book concerned with the huge and the dramatic, but the star ends up being the most straightforward, unspectacular character in the book. Lacking any kind of Allomantic power or even any ability to defend herself, the steadfast bravery and self deprecation of Steris allows her to grow into a genuinely loveable and engaging character. If you’d told me before reading that I’d finish the book with Steris as a favourite character, I wouldn’t have believed you. The characterisation is good all round, with even Wayne, a character who has never quite worked for me, getting some pretty great moments.
The Bands of Mourning isn’t the best book in the series, but it is one of the most exciting. On a macro level I can’t wait to get back to Scadrial and watch the world change, but more importantly I want to follow Wax and Steris and see if they get a happy ending.