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CRUISING THE COSMERE: Shadows of Self (BOOK REVIEW)


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Note: this review will contain mild Mistborn spoilers.

 

“These days, Elendel just didn’t need as many carriage drivers as it did automobile repairmen.

You had to adapt. Move. Change. That was good, but it could also threaten identity, connection, and sense of purpose.”

 

Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson is the second book in the Mistborn era two series and as any worthy sequel should, it remarkably expands upon the world, characters and deepens the plot from the first book, The Alloy of Law. Although Mistborn era two can technically be read without having read the previous trilogy, I certainly wouldn’t recommend this. Era one stands as the foundations for era two, we see how the world has developed, how the ending of The Hero of Ages has shaped society and religion on Scadriel, how deeply Kelsier, Elend, Vin and Sazed’s legacies run. Part of the enjoyment for me was spotting those connections and seeing a few familiar characters return, had I not read era one I would have greatly missed out on this, particularly in this instalment.

 

shadows-of-self-brandon-sanderson.jpg?reOur story begins with a massacre. The Governor‘s brother, Winsting holds a seemingly innocent auction, except the guests are all notable figures of the criminal underworld, such as smugglers, extortionists and gambling tycoons. Winsting believes all his problems are about to be solved, that today was the day he’d make a fortune. However things don’t go according to plan as a mysterious figure suddenly begins killing every member there including Winsting himself. Given the nature of this crime, and its connections to the Governor Innate, Wax and Wayne, along with Marasi are called in to investigate and catch the culprit before they can kill again. As Wax discovers the killer must have been a feruchemist and that they have plans to cause further unrest throughout Elendel, it becomes clear that the motives behind this attack run deeper than they first imagined.

 

The wonderful aspect of reading a sequel is the comfort of returning to already familiar characters, and it was a delight to be back with the dynamic duo that is Wax and Wayne. In The Alloy of Law, Sanderson touches upon both characters’ backstory and in this novel we delve deeper into it. I found it insightful to witness a flashback scene of Wax in the Roughs, before the murder of his wife Lessie casted a shadow forever upon him. We see him as a bounty hunter who wouldn’t hesitate to shoot an assailant, who executed daring and spontaneous plans, who had an air of cockiness, rather than the more cautious, indecisive man he is now. We also delve deeper into Wax’s heritage as he visits his Terris grandmother in the heart of Elendil, where the Terris now reside. This was such a poignant scene which showed how some of the Terris race still remained segregated from the rest of society, choosing to maintain their heritage of a simple life over the progression that was gripping the rest of the city. It also served to show Wax’s mixed culture caused him much conflict as Terris’ ideals clashed with his ideals as a lawman. The Terris are a passive race, one of peace and spirituality, but Wax was ever ready to kill those who defied the law. 

 

Although Shadows of Self includes some dark and gruesome scenes, Sanderson still manages to weave in a lighter comedic tone, mostly through our loveable rogue, Wayne. There’s something charismatic about Wayne, a certain charm and warm atmosphere which radiates whenever he enters the room. Even when events become dire, you can always trust Wayne to sprinkle in his sarcasm and his quirky wit. However we also witness his more tender and vulnerable side when he visits the daughter of the man he once killed. This moment was so sorrowful, to see Wayne consumed by guilt, his desperation to make amends, his regular attempts to right the wrongs of his youth, even when the daughter makes her hatred clear, showed a true strength to his character. Although the daughter is justified in her contempt, I still longed for her to show an ounce of forgiveness.

 

“Wayne wandered down a carpeted corridor that smelled of polished wood and servants who had too much time. The mansion was nice, but really, a man shouldn’t live in a place that was so big; it just reminded him how small he was. Give Wayne nice, cramped quarters, and he’d be happier. That way he’d feel like a king…”

 

As promised, we do also see some familiar faces from Mistborn era one, and whilst I won’t reveal who most of them are, a significant returning character was MeLaan, the kandra. The kandra race are now thought to be a myth from the old lore, that their kind no longer exists. So when her character appears it was extremely entertaining to see people’s reactions! She also shines in this novel, she’s witty, mischievous and a master of her art. It was fascinating to discover even more about the Kandra’s transformation after they consume each deceased human, if not a little grisly. 

 

Another aspect of Mistborn era one which has been cemented is the various fractions of religion. Though the world has moved on in technological advances, such as automobile cars and even the early emergence of electricity, many people still held their beliefs and followed the lore of The Survivor, The Ascendant Warrior, and of course Harmony. This caused the central division within this instalment and Wax walks a precarious line between religion, magic and technology. With Wax’s connection to Harmony, Sanderson explores the many philosophical ideas surrounding religion. If Harmony truly was a God, why did he let Lessie die? What was his true plan for Wax? I loved how Sanderson illustrated two different sides to this argument. I also enjoyed the way Sanderson illustrated two sides to magic. Where era one showed how different allomantic powers could save a city, this book shows us how it can be used to destroy one. 

 

“At times like this he looked more primal, like one of the ancient Mistborn from the legends. Not a creature of law, but a sliver of the night itself come to collect its due.”

 

Shadows of Self once again continues a gripping tale of mystery, suspense and devastating discoveries. This is a sequel that is both entertaining and philosophical but also unexpectedly emotional. 

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The post CRUISING THE COSMERE: Shadows of Self (BOOK REVIEW) appeared first on The Fantasy Hive.

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