Yesterday, Brandon Sanderson’s sixth Mistborn offering was released. The Bands of Mourning continues the sort-of, in-between, second Mistborn sequence, following the adventures of Wax and Wayne.
Bands picks up some time after October’s Shadows of Self left off, Sanderson quickly establishes a new theme, not only for the Mistborn books, but for the Cosmere in general: expansion.
Where the previous Wax and Wayne books concentrated almost exclusively on events in Elendel, Bands wastes little time in moving the characters to new locations. The world is expanding in the most literal sense, as places only mentioned before become prominent and new unknowns step up to the plate.
This theme carries over to character, as well. The first book in this sequence, The Alloy of Law, is rightfully the Waxillium Ladrian show, and while Marasi and Wayne get a little more attention in Shadows of Self, Wax remains the centerpiece. In The Bands of Mourning, however, the characterization is focused much more on previously secondary characters, and this is perhaps the greatest strength of the book. In particular, Steris absolutely shines when given the chance. She grows, both personally and in the reader’s esteem, showing new sides and a surprisingly charming element. This Steris is a far cry from the dour damsel in distress from The Alloy of Law. She has come a long way, and at this point is probably my second favorite female character Sanderson has written.
The final piece of the expansion puzzle comes in the form of Cosmere awareness. Bands is not messing around here, as there are more references to the meta-plot here than in any other book published yet. While we get the requisite Hoid appearance, that is almost immediately overshadowed by the first official appearance of another important Cosmere player, one whom the astute reader will be very excited about.
Additionally, the reveals about the Set and the Series, including the answer to a mystery from Words of Radiance, shows that there is indeed a heck of a lot of interest in events on Scadrial from worldhoppers—and one sequence, late in the book, demonstrates definitively that that interest goes to higher levels than just worldhoppers. Somebody really wants to get a hand in things.
In The Bands of Mourning, Sanderson has taken a few major steps forward. Not only has he expanded his Cosmere, improved and deepened his characters, and begun exploring new locations, but he seems to have perfected his trademark “Sanderson Avalanche.” The pacing of this book is fast, as is typical of Wax and Wayne books, but the narrative arc is so smooth that you’re in the midst of the Avalanche before you really know it; not only that, but the Avalanche itself is paced and given room. There were two specific points that at which I felt like the end of the book was near and I was disappointed…before realizing that I had ~100 pages and ~40 pages left, respectively. This pacing gives one of, if not the, most satisfying conclusions in a Sanderson novel to date. Yes, I’m desperate to find out what happens next, but I was not left wanting.
The Bands of Mourning is a landmark in Sanderson’s library of novels. Like in Firefight and Words of Radiance, he made marked strides as a storyteller and a writer in Bands, and these are perhaps his most significant yet. Bands is a must-read for fans of the Mistborn world and magic, and is absolutely essential for those who want to dive deeper into the Cosmere.