The Bands of Mourning Is the Most Fun You’ll Have Reading a Fantasy Novel This Year

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Brandon Sanderson has been called the hardest-working man in fantasy (ok, by us), but there’s certainly no denying the work ethic that brings us The Bands of Mourning, the latest installment of his sprawling epic fantasy saga Mistborn, a scant three months after the release of its predecessor volume, Shadows of Self.

Even better: the book is none the worse for its rapid delivery, and, like the rest of the series, it easily ranks as one of the most fun fantasy novels you’ll have the pleasure of reading this year.

Witty, memorable characters; a fast-moving, plate-spinning plot; and a deepening of one of the most creative magic systems ever conceived: it’s everything a Sanderson fan could ask for.

If you’re just joining us, The Bands of Mourning is the sixth Mistborn book, but don’t let that scare you off: the series launched with a trilogy (Mistborn: The Final Empire, The Well of Ascension, and The Hero of Ages) set in a pre-industrial age in a city under the tight-fisted control of the Lord Ruler, a godlike being who wields unthinkable power whose defeat is ultimately brought about by magic users known as “Allomancers,” who gain superhuman abilities by ingesting and “burning” precious metals.

Those three books tell a complete story, one Sanderson planned to follow up with two more loosely related trilogies set centuries apart—one in an era akin to 1980s Earth and another, a sci-fi future—exploring the evolution of his magic system over time.

The Bands of Mourning isn’t part of either of those trilogies, however—in 2011, seemingly on a lark, Sanderson published The Alloy of Law, a Mistborn side-quest about two lawmen-for-hire, Waxillium “Wax” Ladrian and his partner Wayne (get it?), operating in an era analogous to the early 20th century, one in which steel and electricity are on the rise. The author grew so enamoured with the pair and the setting, he decided to expand on them in an additional three books, of which Bands is the second. Are you all caught up now? You see why we called Sanderson the hardest-working man in fantasy?

The latest volume picks up where the twisty, elaborate plot machinations of Shadows of Self left off, and in the wake of a string of murders by a mysterious, highly skilled magic user targeting the city’s most prominent citizens. The mystery at the center of the story this time concerns the titular Bands of Mourning, magical objects of legend said to grant their bearer all the power and abilities of the long-ago-vanquished Lord Ruler. Most don’t believe they truly exist, until a scientist appears in the city with what seems to be proof—and just enough clues as to their whereabouts to send Wax on an ill-advised mission to find them.

Though the story can be read and enjoyed on its own—Sanderson is always careful to give readers all the information they need to follow the plot and make sense of the inventive ways his characters employ magic—it will be especially satisfying for those who have already traveled the gunpowder-tinged streets of the city of Elendel with Wax and Wayne in earlier books, especially when it gets down to exploring the dark secrets in the protagonists’ pasts, and hints at a larger conspiracy involving an organization known as The Set. For any kind of reader, we can guarantee a good time: few modern fantasy authors can write them quite like Sanderson, who seems incapable of creating unlikeable characters or going more than a few dozen pages without penning a cinematic action sequence.

In the end, you’ll be left with just one question: when does the next one come out?

The Bands of Mourning is available now.

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