The Bands of Mourning: Changing Everything, For Better and For Worse

Of the books in Mistborn era 2, I found getting through this one to be the most difficult. After Shadows of Self, I was pretty drained on era 2. My optimism towards this sequel series was starting to fade.

But I got through it. And I’m glad I did. I would say that this is the best book in era 2 so far. It still pales in comparison to the era 1 books, but it is a noticeable improvement… once you get past most of it.

Decent enough cover.

Some time after the events of Shadows of Self, Wax is still grieving the death of his beloved and the betrayal of Harmony. Unfortunately, his god has another job for him: the Bands of Mourning, the bracers used by the Lord Ruler so long ago, have reportedly been found. More importantly, a lead pointing towards the location of Wax’s sister is revealed to him. Now Wax, Wayne, and the rest of their merry crew must locate the legendary bracers and stop Wax’s uncle once and for all.

A lot happens in this book. So much so that it all kind of feels like a mess. Some of the stuff is great, giving us the best narrative and character work in era 2 thus far. And some of it just feels dragged out and unnecessary. The first two parts are kind of a drag, the events moving really slowly and not having much impact. Luckily, it gets more interesting come the third part. Still, as a whole, the book is kind of sloppy.

Let’s start with the positives. For one: I love the relationship between Wax and Steris in this book. Their chemistry is really sweet, charming, and enjoyable. Plus, she’s been very underused up to this point, so seeing her take more of a central role in the story is a nice change of pace.

As for the rest of the cast… they’re a mixed bag. I like some of Wayne’s stuff, but most of his chapters got really stale really quickly, relying on the same old tired gags. Marasi gets some decent character development, but she still doesn’t have anything to really endear me to her character. MeLaan is fun, even if she doesn’t get that much depth. The group as a whole is a fun one, even if Wax and Steris are the only ones that are all that interesting.

In this book’s favor, it does have the best villain out of any era 2 book so far. After two books of buildup, Mr. Suit finally steps in as the main antagonist. And the payoff is well worth it; the dude is so confident that you hate him, yet he walks every step of the walk. You genuinely never know what he’s going to do next.

Well… aside from one twist. That one is fairly obvious. But I won’t spoil that.

We also get a ton of new worldbuilding in this book. Turns out, there’s an entire other continent that we still haven’t seen! We get some sneak peaks at their culture, their technology, their religious beliefs, all that fun stuff that makes Cosmere worlds so interesting. Hopefully we’ll get more of that in the fourth era 2 book, because it was pretty cool.

Unfortunately, it also comes at the cost of how it expanded the magic system. And by expanded, I mean completely broken. Almost all of the established rules regarding metal burning have been reworked or done away with completely. Now, keeping track of how it works is a complete nightmare. Mistborn’s magic system was at its most interesting when it was simple enough to understand yet complex enough to have depth; now it’s just so complex that keeping track of it all is basically impossible.

Another big gripe I have is with how this book treats certain narrative elements from the original trilogy. Characters that were dead are revealed to have somehow come back to life and gone of to do things. Established facts from the original are thrown away completely. These changes don’t add anything to these new books; they’re too reliant on the old ones, and all they do is reduce the impact certain scenes in the original trilogy had. It gets so bad that this book straight-up ends on a cliffhanger hinting at a certain someone coming back somehow to play a part in the next book.

Even though they kinda died. But I guess death just doesn’t do anything in the Mistborn world anymore. Bye bye, stakes and emotional impact. We gotta make room for fan service!

Admittedly, most of these gripes are personal issues. Despite them, I still enjoyed this book decently enough. While I don’t agree with everything it set out to do, it is still a solid fantasy book. It certainly left a better taste in my mouth than Shadows of Self did.

With that, we’re all caught up on era 2 of Mistborn. Now we get to sit and wait for the fourth book. Hopefully Sanderson can send this era off with a bang, like he did with the first.

I’ll see you all in The Lost Metal.

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