Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Bands of Mourning

The Bands of Mourning
by Brandon Sanderson
Recommended Ages: 14+

Six books in, the world of Mistborn is already vast to start with. With this book, a huge new dimension is added to it. Already there are the almost forgotten ages before the ascension of the Lord Ruler; then his thousand-year Final Empire; then the brief era between his downfall and the world-ending-and-recreating event that the current sequence of books calls the Catacendre; and now, some 340 years later, a new crisis is upon the planet that is actually described for the first time in this book as Scadrial (not counting extra features in the back of the previous couple of books, The Alloy of Law and Shadows of Self). A revolution is brewing, or perhaps a civil war between the outlying cities of the Elendel Basin and the ruling metropolis at its heart. An entirely different side of the world is about to reveal itself. And we get our clearest glimpse yet at a new evil that threatens the whole globe. It's exciting, intoxicating stuff - heady in the proper sense, and not just the popular misconception of the word to mean "it'll blow your mind." Though it will do that, too.

In this installment of a series of mystery adventures in an early-20th-century-ish world still haunted by the memory of super-powered heroes and villains and of mortals who became divine, a sometime frontier lawman-turned-gentleman and urban troubleshooter follows a rumor of an ancient, powerful relic into a train robbery, a hotbed of political discontent, an assassination, a top-secret facility, and finally a lost temple whose secrets may determine the fate of civilization. Meanwhile, he finds love in the most unexpected place - the woman he has already promised to marry. Count on every page to reveal a new wonder, a surprise, something exciting, funny or emotionally moving.

You wouldn't think your brain had room for all the fantastic concepts that are in play in this book, all at one time. By now, if you've been following this series, you've probably grown used to the "metalborn" magics of Allomancy, Feruchemy, and (ugh) Hemalurgy. They continue to combine in increasingly complex ways, while new forces come into the picture. Also woven into the fabric are several competing religions, most notably Pathism and Survivorism, with something wicked called Trellism lurking in the shadows and now, apparently, a fourth faith flying in over the rim of the world. God himself, as main character Waxillium "Wax" Ladrian knows him, makes an appearance that - from Wax's perspective - it would be an understatement to describe as "life-changing." The god of another religion also shows up, but not the one you're expecting to see. The Faceless Immortals, also known as kandra, need Wax's help. Wax himself, though only briefly, achieves a sort of divine status. Harmony reveals a cosmic threat that even he doesn't understand - which is scary, if like Wax you think of him as God - but after all, on Scadrial at least, the gods are only human. Finally, the snappy dialogue, the gripping action, the taut conflict laden with treachery and moral dilemmas, and the evolving relationships between Wax and his circle of characters, combine to furnish a hell of a good time. I don't care whether you understand the word broadly or narrowly: this adventure is EPIC.

In little more than a year or so, I have gone from saying I've only read one or two of Brandon Sanderson's novels to having practically read them all. There isn't one that I've read but that I would recommend it without reservation. I still look forward to getting my hands on more of his "Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians" series. But the most exciting prospect on the horizon is the fourth book in the "Mistborn Second Era" sequence, which (according to an author's note at the end of this book) will be titled The Lost Metal. It can't come soon enough!

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