Review of THE BANDS OF MOURNING by Brandon Sanderson
A Mistborn Novel: Wax and Wayne
Tor, January 2016
Waxillium Landrian (Wax) and his sidekick Wayne are back. When one of the immortal kandra turns up missing one of the spikes that define him, god turns to Wax to track down the truth and recover the missing spike. But Wax has had it serving god... the last time he did, he ended up killing the love of his life. Matters escalate (as they tend to do when gods are involved) and Wax's evil uncle gets involved, so Wax really has to put back on his lawman personality and head off... this time accompanied by his long-suffering fiancee, Steris, as well as Wayne and fellow cop (and prospective future sister-in-law Marasi). Because if his uncle finds the mythical Bands of Mourning, the artifacts that gave power to the infamous lord-ruler, the nation is in serious trouble... and it's Wax's duty as a cop to prevent that... not to mention he really doesn't like his uncle.
Author Brandon Sanderson (see more BooksForABuck.com reviews of fantasy by Sanderson) continues the Wax and Wayne series with another adventure. Wax and his party jump from disaster to disaster, foiling a train robbery, accidentally touching off what might escalate into a civil war, breaking into an enemy military encampment, and finally invading the temple the Lord-Ruler built to hide and protect his Bands of Mourning. Each step forward seems anticipated, however, and perhaps even manipulated by Wax's uncle. Sanderson does a good job escalating the danger, adding new twists, and letting the characters grow.
I particularly liked that the characters changed. Marasi, with her long-time crush on Wax, has a chance to find real power and become the Ascendant Warrior of myth... her childhood dream. Steris doesn't really change but the reader gets to see her as the voice of reason in a world and someone who really is a fit with Wax. Wax himself softens ever so slightly, forced as he is to confront what he has done and made of himself. As for Wayne, well, Sanderson tried, I think, but despite everything, Wayne remains himself.
To bottom-line it, BANDS OF MOURNING is an enjoyable adventure romp. Wax burns metal, pushes himself into the air, and hunts down badguys while Wayne causes trouble and Steris plans ahead, surprising Wax with her thoughtfulness. The romance element adds depth as Wax begins to move beyond the loss of his first love and sees Steris as a real person rather than the woman he contracted to marry (and Sanderson even adds a bit of romance for Marasi and even Wayne). Then there's the hint of more to come... why, exactly, did the statue have a spike in one eye? Is there really only one band or might we see more in the next sequel? I enjoy adventure as much as the next fantasy reader and Sanderson is good at it... as well as in offering fantasy series that don't feel like 'middle books' while creating world depth. Sanderson, I thought, missed the chance to make BANDS something bigger. The social struggles between the capital and the outlying cities remains unaddressed, hinted at but not really dealt with. All of the adventure resulted in relatively minor changes in the world. And for me, at least, BANDS lacked the emotional punch of the earlier book in the series.
Fans of Brandon Sanderson (like me) will enjoy this well-written adventure.
Too generous? Too stingy. Or did I miss the whole point? Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll publish the best letters I get so let me know if I can use your name.
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