Mistborn: Shadows of Self

Introduction

Mistborn: Shadows of Self is the fifth book in the Mistborn series and the second book of the Wax and Wayne series. Shadows of Self is a fantasy story with a pinch of Western and dollops of steampunk. It is set 300 years after the original trilogy in 1910s tech Scadrial, where the world is right around the cusp of the industrial revolution with pistols and motorcars being a thing. It stars Waxillium “Wax” Ladrian, a Twinborn (person who possess one Allomancy and one Feruchemy ability) who spent 20 years in the Roughs before returning to Elendel city and assuming his position as lord of his noble house. A new threat arise in Elendel in the form of a rogue kandra, Bleeder, who assassinates officials of Elendel in a misguided attempt to “free” the city. Wax must do everything in his ability to stop her.

Alright, before we go on, let’s talk about the Mistborn overall series. Shadows of Self kicks off the “official” Wax and Wayne trilogy, which will be followed by Bands of Mourning in January 2016 and a third book tentatively titled Lost Metal in the future. Alongside the Alloy of Law, they form the Wax and Wayne series, which is not part of the original planned trilogy of trilogies. The originally planned second trilogy will be set in 1980s tech era, with a SWAT team (presumably of Mistings and Twinborns) going against a Mistborn serial killer (Mistborns are thought to be extinct), possibly starring Nicrosil Misting/programmer female lead. Though I’ll admit that Shadows of Self does feel a little like that, with Bleeder going around killing people with different powers. The third trilogy will be set in the space age, where the Metallic Arts are used to achieve space travel and FTL. Hoid (a recurring Easter Egg character in the Cosmere novels) will feature prominently in this one.

So to sum it up:

1st Trilogy – Original Mistborn featuring Vin and the gang
Inbetween Series – Wax and Wayne
2nd Trilogy – Mistborn serial killer
Inbetween series #2 maybe?
3rd Trilogy – Sci Fi series

The Good

Shadows of Self US Cover

Shadows of Self US Cover

One of the most notable improvement from the Alloy of Law is the characters. I think the characters really start to come into their own in this one. Wayne and Marasi remained interesting, Wayne being an easy going master of disguise that is just so damn lovable, and Marasi being a woman in what is essentially a man’s world (though openly it’s not the case, since male and female constables are considered equal in Elendel, within the constabulary, it’s another story). Wax, on the other hand, felt dull to me in the Alloy of Law, but there was more depth to him in this book, which is a given considering the story delves into his past. Beyond the main three, other characters were also interesting. MeLaan was a blast from the past, being one of the minor characters of the original trilogy. She plays well with Wayne. I wonder if they are going to become an item… Anyway, Steris also really develops as a character, showing more emotion, internally if not outwardly, than before.

Shadows of Self UK Cover

Shadows of Self UK Cover

And the main story… the main story. Oh my God Harmony. I think this must be one of the best conclusions Sanderson has ever produced, baring the Stormlight books. At the start of the book, everything seemed so unconnected and everything felt so scattered. But the ending wraps everything in a neat little bow with long tails that leads into things in the upcoming sequels. It was emotionally draining. And that conversation between MeLaan and Marasi at the end? It really made me think about my beliefs for a moment there. And this coming from a Mormon author? Just wow… Wow. Some part of me wonders if these are all things he has struggled with before.

The Bad

Shadows of Self starts off slow. It’s not uneventful, but the events that happen aren’t exactly fulfilling in a sense. Some parts felt like meandering a little, though those might be setting up for the sequels, so there’s that to consider. Beyond that, the book also felt like it was lean. It really falls a little flat when compared to something like the original Mistborn trilogy and I don’t think it’s meant to be compared to that, being somewhat of a faster paced, streamlined book to sort of tide us along the way before the Second Trilogy comes along. What? Starts off slow, meandering but faster paced and streamlined? Isn’t that a contradiction? Not exactly. It’s hard to say exactly why, when looking at the book as a whole, it felt one way, and when looking at the book part by part, it felt like the other.

I also felt the first part of the books stutters a little. There’s just this jerkiness to it that I just can’t quite put my finger on. It eventually passes though. I thought I was finally feeling what a lot of people complained when it came to Sanderson’s writing, but the later parts of the book didn’t feel that way. Maybe I was just having an off day while reading.

Cover for the upcoming Bands of Mourning

Cover for the upcoming Bands of Mourning

Others

It’s always fun to see Easter Eggs to the Original Trilogy, with the heroes being almost deified, some actually deified and others becoming figures of myth. There’s also reference to artifacts of that era, one being the Bands of Mourning, which likely plays a central role in the upcoming sequel. The characters that drop in from the original trilogy, like MeLaan are also exciting to see and I’m hoping for more of that in the upcoming sequels.

Shadows of Self, and now that I think about it the Alloy of Law, plays on the story of the Final Empire quite a bit. Where the group in the Final Empire tries to undermine the establishment by starting riots and basically breaking the law, Wax and his friends upholds the law and defends the establishment against the plots of the Set. I never realized it until it was pointed out within the book itself and upon reflection it really is interesting how these two groups might have duke it out and considering that Kelsier is still around somewhere, it might just happen.

On another Brandon Sanderson note, he mentioned on his Shadows of Self tour here that he will have a new series published by Random House after the Reckoners end. I wonder what it will be. Skyward? Dark One? Are those two even distinct anymore? Or is this a whole new story? There’s talk of a female lead in a YA series too. Whatever it is, I just hope that it will be set in the Cosmere.

Verdict

A good start (or second start) to the Wax and Wayne trilogy (or series), has a stuttering start but the ending packs a punch that might not be as avalanche-esque as previous Sandersons but has its own interesting bite. Must have for Mistborn/Cosmere fans, good for other fantasy/western/crime novel enthusiast.

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