Brandon Sanderson pt 2: Mistborn Era 2

Reviews of The Alloy of Law, Shadows of Self, The Bands of Mourning, Secret History and The Lost Metal.

Brandon Sanderson pt 2: Mistborn Era 2
Artwork by Marc Simonetti

Read here for Part 1 of this series, the original Mistborn trilogy.

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Whilst the first Mistborn trilogy is the best bet for classic fantasy, I whole-heartedly recommend the follow-up quadrilogy which moves the setting forward into the industrial age.

Mistborn was always planned as a continuum across three series that would span from fantasy to science-fiction eras. However, this late 1800s/ early 1900s approximation era was actually unplanned. Sanderson wrote Wax and Wayne #1, The Alloy of Law, as a fun side project that slowly evolved into its own series.

Overall, the Wax and Wayne books have much lighter characters and a smaller focus than the that of the original Mistborn trilogy. However, it seems to be essential reading for not just Mistborn but the Cosmere as a whole...

#4 The Alloy of Law

Published: 2011

Originally reviewed: 15th May, 2021

β€œWayne's a little attached to that hat," Waxillium said. "He thinks it's lucky."
"It is lucky. I ain't never died while wearing that hat."

So much fun. In doing something rare in the fantasy genre, Sanderson has revealed the much bigger picture of where the Cosmere could be going. Set about 300 years after the dark (ash-filled) ages of the Final Empire/ Mistborn trilogy, Scadrial is evolving through scientific progress, much like late 1800s-early 1900s America in our world. There are skyscrapers, electricity and returning to the city as a noble house lord is Waxillium Ladrian, who has spent 20 years out in the frontier Roughs acting as lawman and investigator.

Our original heroes and their story has become history for the current crew, which involves Wax's partner eccentric slider Wayne and the wide-eyed but shyly intelligent Marasi. This time around, Mistborns are extremely rare (if they exist at all), but feruchemy has become more prevalent in the population and there are a few updated metals in allomancy meaning each character has a very interesting combination or subset of skills, especially our heroic Sherlock/ Watson style duo. The villain was certainly interesting and a foil, and a lot of the mystery beats were like a Western in a city emerging from the industrial age, but I'm amazed and keen to see where Sanderson takes this next.

#5 Shadows of Self

Art by Marc Simonetti

Published: 2015

Originally reviewed: May 21st, 2021

β€œThe law is not something holy, son. It’s just a reflection of the ideals of those lucky enough to be in charge.”

Now this was more like it. After the fun but self-contained Alloy of Law, Shadows of Self becomes a city-based crime thriller with the stakes of Elendel hanging in the balance.

There are definite personal threads running through this story as well, this time Sanderson rotates naturally between the trio of Wax, Wayne and Marasi as they hunt a murder causing chaos amongst various class factions. This also greatly increases the depth of worldbuilding this time around, as we see these various groups and their thoughts, concerns and personalities (although over a short time span). Loved the return of the broadsheets and the sense of constant building tension throughout the first two-thirds of the book, which led to an almost inversion of the Final Empire's events (which I thought was very smart).

Unfortunately, the conclusion and all its reveals were amazing but felt a bit convenient for me, although undoubtedly setting up the next entry in the series. There was a lot more religious pondering in here, a few more references to the original trilogy and honestly Wax was like a superhero in The Dark Knight with how much political thrilling and chaos was being caused by Bleeder. Very cool and very fun.

#6 The Bands of Mourning

Published: 2016

Originally reviewed: 31st May, 2021

β€œA man found himself when he was alone. You only had one person to chat with, one person to blame.”

In a bit of a left-turn, W&W takes a dive into adventure movie material taking cues from stories like Indiana Jones, with the Macguffin being the Lord Ruler's feruchemical bands and the return of the (honestly weakest part of the book) Nazi-like villains the Set. Whilst this direction initially interested me, there was more explanation about Cosmere mechanics than the actual logic of what had led to these events, and I found myself having more questions than answers at the end of the book.

The action was fluid, despite arguably slowing the story down at times in spectacle-filled, film-like sequences, and the characters have all developed considerably - Wax wrestles with some internal conflict, Wayne showcases more of himself and society, Marasi has become tougher and situationally-smarter and Steris goes through some really sweet growth.

There was an exciting second-half revelation, and I loved the emotion of the ending. I can sense where Sanderson wants to take Era 3, but before that there's definitely a lot of room left to explore in Scadrial's near-future, and a secret history to fulfil in it's recent past... Looking forward to the Lost Metal (aka Mistborn 7)!

#3.5 Secret History

Published: 2016

Originally reviewed: 1st June, 2021

So so so so so good. We are back with Kelsier's perspective and from page 1, it is so refreshing and interesting as we actually witness some dark character questions and hope-inspiring growth. The novella sped by, touching upon certain events in the Mistborn trilogy whilst also deeply unravelling some Cosmere mysteries and connections. I particularly enjoyed the surprise crossover with some other Cosmere work, and appreciated how much emotion some of Secret History's sequences brought out in me. There were some long-time unanswered questions resolved, and many new ones opened up, but I felt this was a satisfying return for the beloved character and can't wait for future Mistborn instalments.

#7 The Lost Metal

Published: 2022

Reviewed: January 26th, 2023

Hmm, did not anticipate my rating being this low for a Brandon Sanderson novel. I think this one suffered from being less of a Mistborn sequel and more of a Cosmere expansion. Another factor in my rating was definitely the time gap between novels, both in my own reading and in real life - six years have passed since Mistborn #6 Bands of Mourning was released, and this timing is also reflected in the novel's characters.

We pick up with Wayne and Marasi as a constable duo with a solid track record, and Wax and Steris sitting well-established in Elendel's politics. Our entire cast is still working towards uncovering the plans of shadowy organisation The Set, and their strange other-worldly God Trell. Harmony and the Kandra aren't doing the best job, and no progress has been made on finding The Survivor.

It took me a while to get into this one, as the Part 1 really takes it's time in showing us where the characters and world are. The emotional maturity of our cast and discovery of the Southern Continent has meant a lot of off-page development between the books, but rest assured Sanderson sets our quartet up with satisfying and impactful arcs over the course of the story. By the end of Part 1 I was fully hooked into the story and its threat, with Sanderson taking smart cues from human history (especially photography and WWII).

However, I found myself losing interest during Act 2. Firstly, I felt there was a bit too much monologuing and questioning by our cast. Secondly, this book definitely opened the Cosmere up. Having only read Mistborn, Elantris and Emperor's Soul at this stage, I found myself overwhelmed with information that didn't exactly excite me. On a different note, I was pleasantly surprised at how in-depth and scientific the magic systems were, especially when Sanderson compared real-world science and other Cosmere magic against each other. The Cosmere as a whole is definitely a rigorous, if less interesting, science system.

As expected, the Sanderlanche was fantastic. All of the action in Act 3 was awesome, even if the emotional moments were not as impactful for me personally. When I can follow what is happening and the stakes are clear, our characters become superhuman beings of power and destruction.

Overall thoughts

I look back on Mistborn Era 2 with fondness. You didn't blow me away the same way Era 1 did, but I appreciated your lighter approach and inventive action. Thank you to Wax and Wayne for your adventures these past years, and I need to give full credit for Sanderson actually developing his fantasy world realistically by steadily adding technology into the mix.

I will be catching up on the rest of the Cosmere before the real big-scale battles begin in Era 3.

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