Guest Book Review: The Bands of Mourning

Hello again! I hope you enjoyed my visit last week. I enjoyed bringing you guys a new book review and sharing my thoughts on an author who's gained some standing in the SFF community over the last few years. I know my review wasn't a glowing recommendation for the book, but I promise you all that it isn't meant as a bash to the author and his reputation. The book business is a tough one involving heavy competition, a careful balancing act when it comes to agents, editors, publishers, booksellers, and an expectant fanbase. It's a hard road to travel and my hat goes off to any who pull their big girl panties up and set out on it. I genuinely hope Bennett continues to write and publish, and that his gift grows. He has some fabulous story ideas in his head and it would be a shame for them never to hit the page. Keep the books coming, Bennett!

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Let's switch gears a bit here and I'll share with you a book that I absolutely LOVED! I'll confess up front that I am a huge fan of this crafter of stories, Brandon Sanderson. He has become my all-time favorite author, surpassing David Eddings, Terry Pratchett, and George R. R. Martin on my Top Five list. If you are familiar with him, then you are probably aware of the Cosmere, but for those who aren't, let me 'splain...

Sanderson has a universe that he keeps in his brain and the steady publication of his books is the manifestation of that internal wonder. He calls it "The Cosmere," and the majority of his books are part of it. Each of his series takes place on worlds within the Cosmere and, while you can certainly read each of his stories/series independently of one another, there are tangible connections that bind the various story lines together if you choose to look. What has Sandersonites all fired up is that after reading a number of his books you begin to see the connective tissue that he's woven into the stories, including a character who appears in every single Cosmere book. Readers get to play 'Where's Waldo' with Hoid, the character who is the common denominator of the Cosmere stories, as he always puts in an appearance, but is rarely obvious about it. Sanderson likes to be sneaky about when he brings Hoid in for a cameo and fans sometimes comb the pages of a novel trying to run him down. It's a fun game Sanderson loves to play with his readers, and it serves to help cue followers of the overarching canon that what is happening matters in the grander scheme of things. It's cool! He isn't the first author to have done such a thing -- I think Asimov did something similar -- but it's a treat for fans who like to dig more deeply into the books they read.

Meme of Bert for Sesame Street

Earlier this year, Brandon Sanderson released the most recent addition to his first major fantasy series, Mistborn. The book is The Bands of Mourning, and it is the first book set on this particular world which reveals significant hints at the overarching story of the Cosmere. It's thrilling to see things connecting, but also subtle enough that readers unfamiliar with the other stories could still follow along and enjoy themselves.

So, here it is! What I thought of Sanderson's latest Cosmere novel...

Book cover

Wow! While I'm reminded of it every time I finish one of his books, it never ceases to floor me how remarkable an author Brandon Sanderson is. The third installment in the Mistborn: Era Two series is an exceptional work among his portfolio of exceptional works. It, at once, adds a new adventure to the record that features some truly lovable and sympathetically-flawed characters and draws more closely together the elements that tie all the worlds of the Cosmere together. It really delivers in a big way. True, the beginning is a touch on the slow side, but once we get our dear crew of adventurers on the road -- or rather, on the tracks -- and throw in a nice little train robbery, life is sweet indeed. Something that Sanderson has consistently written well are his action sequences. From the train robbery to the fiasco at the party in New Seran, the daring rescue of someone from Wax's past, and right through to the epic battle at the mountain temple, the scenes of high-flying action and derring-do are masterfully crafted! I've always felt that Sanderson would be an excellent stunt choreographer for big-budget adventure films; his almost cinematic approach to describing the ebbs and flows of Allomantic battles is breath-taking and supremely satisfying for the imagination. 

Waxillium and Co.
I could stop gushing about Sanderson's gifts as a writer, but .... yeah, nope. Characterization! Ahh, I just love how he pulls together such dynamic and bold personalities. Wax is a phenomenal main character and does a lot for the genre by being one of those protagonists who resists being the young, naive farm boys who gets handed a magic sword and sent off to do goodiness by a benevolent, bearded know-it-all. He's a rough, rugged, set-in-his-ways lawman who resents having to return to the constraints of a society he'd run away from years before. He's already lived a vigorous life of adventure and romance by the time we meet him in The Alloy of Law, but his story is most certainly far from over. 

His trusty side-kick, Wayne, is a delightfully quirky character who continually surprises both his in-book friends and those of us reading along. MeLaan is a fun and humorous continued presence on the team, and Marasi has become a much stronger character through her misadventures with Wax & Wayne, developing her sense of justice and learning just how far she is willing to go to see it done ... and being comfortable with it. I was so stinking proud of her when she realized the crush she'd had on Wax through the first two books was something that she could let go and be stronger for it. It's not that I didn't want to see them end up together, as I'd honestly thought they complemented one another rather well, but Marasi deserves to stand tall on her own. If that turned out to mean there wouldn't be any rekindling of the attraction with Wax, then I suppose I can live with it.

The one exception to my approval of the characterization in this book is Steris. This is entirely personal preference, but I really just can't stand her. I get the concept of a character who is socially awkward and dealing with it the way Steris does ... but she's a caricature! When I imagine her in the scenes of the book I just picture this robot lacking facial expressions and spouting her lists all over everybody. What depth Sanderson tried to write into her just didn't cut it for me. I get the nails on a chalkboard sensation when she starts talking. True, Wayne is sort of a caricature as well, but he works because of what we get of his inner thoughts in his POV chapters. Perhaps if we actually heard from Steris's perspective and got in her head a bit I'd feel differently about her, but I can only think of one POV scene she had in the book, and it was only about three or four paragraphs long. I hate that I feel this way about a Sanderson character -- particularly a Mistborn character. 

Okay, moving on...

The Ending!
Have you read any other reviews I've written? Do you get by now that a well-done ending just fires me up and sends me into transports? Yeah, it's a thing for me. And Sanderson's done it yet again! The conflict that gets us to the lead-in for the next and final installment of Mistborn: Era Two is lengthy, stressful, complex, and revealing. It features a race to beat the dastardly forces of The Set, a punishing journey through an Indiana Jones-esqe temple of booby-traps, a whole series of near-misses (one of which turned out to technically not be a miss at all ... technically), a battle of wits and will, and a whole heap of revelatory discoveries that will keep us guessing until next time. Oh! And did I mention there's a cameo appearance by one of our nearest and dearest from Mistborn: Era One?There is! Who is it, you ask? Well, you'll just have to RAFO, as Sanderson himself would say, though I'm sure veterans of the books will manage to make some educated guesses.

It's a thrill ride that's jam-packed from start to finish, defying you to put the book down and walk away. But Sanderson wasn't done yet? Oh no! There was one more maniacal little hint about that bigger picture I'd mentioned earlier that he threw in right at the very end. And, delightfully, it ties in what we learn from Mistborn: Secret History, if you've read it. Want a little clue? There's always another secret...

Thank you for dropping by again with this exciting review to share with us. It's always great to hear from you and get your take on what you've been reading. Your reviews are always so insightful about both the book and the author. Hope to see you again soon.

Judi and the Black Cat