Sanderson returns to the world of Wax and Wayne with what is probably the best in the series so far. Taking the threads of the first two novels—the various conspiracies, divine machinations, and character arcs—Sanderson puts the pedal to the metal and roars through the world of Scadriel, making every thread come together and sing. Not everything is answered, but there are many satisfying answers in The Bands of Mourning, from the smallest character decisions to the massive Cosmere-level moments. Sanderson has really hit his stride with this world and these characters, and everything, from the action to the humor, works.
Spoilers for Alloy of Law and Shadows of Self to follow.
The Bands of Mourning opens six months after Shadows of Self, and Wax is in a dark place. Killing Lessie, the woman he loved who was revealed to be a mad kandra, was awful enough. But discovering that Harmony himself threw her in Wax’s path, just so her death would encourage him to return to Elendel? It broke something in Wax, and for the past six months he’s tried to heal. It hasn’t been working. Even with Wayne, Marasi, and Steris all doing their best to bring him back, Wax isn’t happy, despite the arrests he’s made and his upcoming wedding. But when a kandra archaeologist approaches Wax with evidence of an ancient artifact found and a colleague missing, Wax finds himself being dragged back into the fight, whether he likes it or not. Now, he and his team must find and recover the Bands of Mourning—ancient allomantic and feruchemical bracers bestowed with the power of their previous owner, The Lord Ruler—before Wax’s uncle Edwarn can take them and wreak havoc.
Strong Character Arcs
It’s here that Sanderson finally starts pushing his characters to the limits they need to go, and he begins to reel them back up from the depressing and shattering ending that was Shadows of Self. At the end of that book, Wax is distraught that his life has been a lie, Marasi is trying to cobble the city back together, Wayne is trying to help his best mate without succumbing to his own demons, and Steris is troubled that she just can’t relate, unable to have confidence in herself. But here is where Sanderson takes our characters at their lowest, and gives them the opportunities to pull themselves up. Wax, Wayne, Marasi, and yes, even Steris, all get the glowing characterization they need, and work towards identifying things in their life that are holding them back from some place better. They examine their lives through dialogue, action, revelations, and power, and each of them in their own way breaks through to what they truly need, and not just want, in their lives.
Sanderson has always said that at a certain point, all of the background Cosmere workings were going to start bleeding into the foreground of the novels. And while I don’t think we’ve made that jump fully, the bleed has begun here in The Bands of Mourning. If you’re new to Sanderson’s work, it’s just going to be one more thing you need to figure out and research, making it difficult to ease into his newer works. However, if you’ve been following Sanderson and the Cosmere from the beginning, holy Allomantic Jak, will you love this book. Sanderson begins to address the Cosmere in a large way, revealing information, characters, and raising questions, but never at the expense of the plot. You can tell he’s finally ready to start telling the reader things, and given the way he goes about it, he seems incredibly excited. There’s not much more I can say without spoilers, except keep your eyes peeled, and let the theories begin!
A Barrel of Monkeys
Guys, this book is just FUN. It is. Alloy of Law had to set everyone up. Shadows of Self had to tear them down. The Bands of Mourning lets them run loose. Our heroes are pulling themselves up and out of the mire, and while there are moments of horror, pain, and violence, the overall tone is more hopeful and shot-through with themes of friendship, self-worth, humor, and love. As bad as things get, the focus on these powerful elements always centers the book around something a little lighter and brighter than its predecessors. Not every question is answered, and not every bit of darkness gets its fair share of light, but The Bands of Mourning is a fun book filled with adventure, intriguing reveals, meaningful character development, and humor that works much better than that in SoS.
Where Do We Go From Here?
The Bands of Mourning is the perfect combination of the first two Wax and Wayne novels, and serves up a healthy amount of humor, action, Cosmere revelations and more. It will satisfy fans of all kinds, and will make the forums explode with the things it has to reveal. With The Lost Metal farther off than the recent bevy of Mistborn literature we’ve been privy to, there’s plenty of time to theorize how the adventures of Wax and Wayne will end come the fourth and final book. After the rollicking good time of The Bands of Mourning, though, I can honestly say I don’t want them to wrap up any time soon.
Martin Cahill is a publicist by day, a bartender by night, and a writer in between. When he’s not slinging words at Tor.com, he’s contributing to Book Riot, Strange Horizons, and blogging at his own website when the mood strikes him. A proud graduate of the Clarion Writers’ Workshop 2014, you can find him on Twitter @McflyCahill90; tweet him about how barrel-aging beers are kick-ass, tips on how to properly mourn Parks and Rec, and if you have any idea on what he should read next, and you’ll be sure to become fast friends.