The Bands of Mourning
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Release Date: January 2016
Book three of the Wax and Wayne series continues the Mistborn Universe into the turn of the century scientific world. As cars are becoming common place, and other scientific breakthroughs like phonographs, telegraphs, electricity and flight are beginning to appear, those born with allomantic and feruchemical abilities are becoming more rare (no Mistborns are alive that we know of, along with feruchemists, allomancers have about 1/16th of their old abilities), more common (more people have the ability to utilize one metal) and more complicated (twinborn, those with one allomantic and one feruchemical ability, having two abilities plus one new effect from the combination) than ever before. Against this backdrop, Wax and Wayne are continuing to pursue Wax’s uncle who has some big plans that possibly involve hemalurgy (the forbidden third form of metal burning to gain special abilities).
It’s a testament to Sanderson’s writing that the entire book is not just explaining how these complicated abilities work, although there is a decent amount of time spent on them and a lengthy appendix in the back to help clear things up. Whereas the first trilogy read as an 70/30 fantasy & military split, this series is probably about 60/40 fantasy & western. There are scenes of quick draws and train robberies, and the scale is much smaller than in the prior trilogy. As of this point, that has led to one of the drawbacks for this series in comparison to its predecessor. At least through this book, the stakes have not felt nearly as high. The group of insurrectionists that allied themselves with Kelsior in the first book may have been a bit more one dimensional than the small group of Wax’s allies, but that also meant there was always a chance they could be killed in any scene. Conversely, it’s obvious here that certain characters will continue to survive, and even when a character dies the reader has a pretty good idea of a way out for the author to take it back.
By my count there were three major twists in this book. The first was a traitorous character in the group. I actually told my wife (who had read this before me) that I was predicting this exact reveal at the earliest introduction of the character in question, so when it actually happened it just made the rest of the group seem particularly foolish for not also seeing the obvious deception. The second twist involved the actual Bands of Mourning. This reveal was fun, and not entirely predictable, however it required a few unrealistic jumps to execute (it being stolen, replaced, and then discarded by guards, all at the most fortuitous locations possible) that also cheapened the actual reveal. Thankfully, Sanderson has tacked on some wonderful epilogues to this series. The final revelation regarding the coins was well earned and also difficult to see coming (at least by this reader) and felt like the exact right payoff for the story that had been building around it.
High points for this book include the continued development of Steris, who I’ve always enjoyed as a the stick in the mud that all the other characters do backflips around. Also, Sanderson continues to do a nice job of building up villains, dispatching them in a satisfying manner, all while leaving the door open for new ones to take their place organically in any sequels. This book is not AS dependent on having read the first series to enjoy, with the only character that appears in both this time is Harmony, who would certainly be unusual to figure out for a new reader but is at least fleshed out enough to still be understood. Per the author’s note at the end, there is one more novel to go in this series(Wax and Wayne), and my guess is the Mistborn series will jump another hundred years or so to a Civil War storyline that Sanderson is planting seeds for, set in a world like our present or a science fiction landscape of the future.