CRUISING THE COSMERE: The Bands of Mourning (BOOK REVIEW)
Please note this review will contain spoilers for The Mistborn series.
“He missed darkness. It was never dark in the city, not as it had been in the Roughs. Electric lights were only exacerbating the issue. Everything glowing, casting away the darkness and with it, stillness. Silence. Solitude.
A man found himself when he was alone. You only had one person to chat with, one person to blame.”
The Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson is the penultimate instalment in the Mistborn era two quartette. Mixing magic with technology, religion with politics and good with evil, this is a story which grips its readers from beginning to end.
Throughout the course of these books we have seen how the world is changing, automobiles slowly replacing horse-drawn carriages, railroads replacing trade by canal boats, and even the emergence of electricity illuminating the streets. Scadriel is well and truly entering a new era, and now the powers of old are set to change too. Though perhaps not for the better. The Bands of Mourning, the metal minds of the Lord Ruler himself, is said to be a myth. It is said that those who possess the Bands could wield the powers of the Lord Ruler, essentially becoming as powerful as he was. Do they truly exist? Many believe not, but when a kandra researcher returns with images of the Bands, scripture in an unknown language and with his spike missing, it is time to investigate. For if those Bands were to be found, its power could be harvested and used to create devices that would grant people Allomantic and Feruchemist powers. In the wrong hands, this would be catastrophic. Wax, Wayne, Marasi, Steris and MeLaan set on a journey to New Seran, the last known whereabouts of the kandra. Here they uncover a larger, more corrupt plot, and at the heart of it all is Wax’s uncle, Edwarn and his shadowy organisation, the Set.
After the revelation in the previous book, Shadows of Self, that Harmony had been using Wax, that he had sent Lessie to manipulate him from the very beginning, Wax, understandably, loses his faith. Throughout he refuses to take any further guidance from Harmony and so is reluctant to take on the task of uncovering the whereabouts of the Bands. Yet when a picture of his sister, Telsin, crops up within the kandra researcher’s images, Wax immediately works on finding her. As the previous book did, Bands of Mourning also begins the prologue with a flashback scene. This time we get a glimpse into Wax’s past living amongst his Terris grandmother and the rest of his Terris kindred. Once again we are shown that Wax does not belong within this culture, his sense of right and wrong, his need to bring justice and law to a society which doesn’t like to believe crime exists amongst their people, instantly singles Wax out. He is an outcast, a loner. His sister is of little help, as Telsin appears to be more popular even when breaking Terris’ rules. We are shown just how rebellious Telsin was, how stubborn and wilful her character could be. Though both conflict within Terris society, it is significant that Sanderson shows us that both siblings also conflicted with one another. However, no matter how estranged Telsin and Wax have become, the time to make amends, after Wax has lost so much, was more important than ever, for in this book it feels as though Wax has lost a part of himself.
Once again, Wax, MeLaan and Marasi provide a wealth of entertainment and play significant roles within the narrative. However, in true Sanderson fashion, he takes characters which I had previously disliked and shapes them into characters I eventually adore. Steris was no exception. In the two previous instalments I had found her character quite stiff and bland, unlike other female characters, who Sanderson has always managed to create with vibrant personalities. I felt Steris tended to fade in the background more often than not, never really being a noteworthy character. I’m happy to say, as her character bloomed throughout the novel, she also became a key player. As Steris begins to show an empathetic and tender side, revealing her fears and insecurities to Wax, she also begins to support him in the most endearing ways. Not only that, she shows her wide range of skills, her ability to understand people and subtly manipulate them, her talent for problem solving, for finding hidden patterns within figures, and even her obsession with lists and preparing for every disaster possible comes in handy time and time again. In this book Sanderson spends time exploring the potential of each character and shows how they are adapting to an increasingly changing world.
“Technology that enhanced Allomancy. Bracers that one Feruchemist could fill, and another could use. He couldn’t help but feel intimidated, as if this behemoth ship were a soldier from another time, come to stamp out all the dusty old relics like Wax.”
The Bands of Mourning whilst keeping in line with a crime solving plot, also weaves in a great deal of Mistborn lore. We learn more about Allomancy and Feruchemy and how they correlate with Investiture, which was beyond fascinating. We discovered how technology was being developed to harvest these powers as means to bring revolutionary changes, and whilst of course there are benefits to this, it is the Set who are in control and granting criminals with powers they should not wield was definitely something Wax and Wayne could not allow. Yet my personal favourite was seeing how Mistborn abilities could be stored and used to fly ships, or make grenades, or heal the most grievous wounds. The introduction of this through the Malwish people was fantastic and the more I learned about their history and culture the more I wished for an entire standalone novel centred on their race. It wasn’t until a friend pointed out, I realised I had actually met the Malwish before in Stormlight Archives, and the connections didn’t end there. As we reach the finale, particularly the epilogue, Sanderson drops one hell of a bombshell which hugely resonates back to Mistborn era one and throughout the Cosmere. When I say Sanderson is a master storyteller, this is why.
The Bands of Mourning is a sheer delight for hardcore Mistborn fans. Sanderson yet again delivers a high calibre tale that is both compelling, addictive and mind-blowing. I’m so glad I do not have long to wait to see how it all ends in The Lost Metal.