‘The Bands of Mourning’ was, somewhat unusually, written before Sanderson had finished its predecessor, ‘Shadows of Self’. While both are excellent novels, ‘The Bands of Mourning’ is much larger in scope, with far more significance for the wider Cosmere. It’s definitely the strongest Mistborn Era 2 novel released so far.
Wax, still struggling with the events of ‘Shadows of Self’, is finally marrying Steris – or at least, he attempts to, only for the wedding to be interrupted and Wax whisked off on an adventure to help the kandra, and possibly find his kidnapped sister at the same time. The kandra are searching for the titular Bands of Mourning – bracers worn by the Lord Ruler in The Final Empire. These bracers may have more power than anyone knew, and being beaten to the chase could have implications not just for Elendel, but possibly the entire Cosmere.
Wax’s character development in ‘Shadows of Self’ was excellent, but it also left him with deep internal scars. Sanderson excels at writing characters with mental health disorders, especially depression and PSTD, and he never shies away from the true mental impact of trauma. Here, the impact on Wax’s psyche is evident, along with how it effects his relationships with those around him. Steris plays a far greater role in ‘The Bands of Mourning’ than in previous books, and her interactions with Wax are brilliantly written. This book also highlights the full extent of Wax and Wayne’s friendship and loyalty in a way that’s both heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time.
The kandra once again play a significant role, especially MeLaan – a fantastic character introduced briefly in ‘The Hero of Ages’ who then featured prominently in ‘Shadows of Self’. MeLaan is free spirited and fun, very different to most kandra, but still has a very different outlook on life to most humans.
Where this book really elevates itself from its Era 2 predecessors is the plot. All Sanderson books are cleverly plotted, but this one has higher stakes, more twists and turns, even more emotional resonance, and an ending that beautifully sets up the final book. This is still very much a fantasy Western, but it also feels more true to Sanderson’s epic fantasy roots.
Overall, ‘The Bands of Mourning’ is an excellent novel that perfectly balances the more comedic tone of Mistborn Era 2 with the depth and ingenuity that makes the Cosmere so great. Highly recommended to all fantasy fans or just fans of strong, entertaining books.
Published by Gollancz
Hardback: January 27th 2016
Paperback: January 5th 2017