Mistborn Series Continues: Shadows of Self
Fantasy is big business these days; long gone are the times when only nerds were seen reading fantasy novels. One author that has become a best-seller in this genre is Brandon Sanderson. But Sanderson writes more than simply fantasy stories of magic and mystical happenings. His latest novel, Shadows of Self, has the feel of a steampunk novel set in the Wild West. The plot has a classic whodunnit mystery and enough magic to keep it authentic. For a bit of fun, Sanderson stirs in a bit of science fiction as the hero uses his ability to “push metal”, much like a superhero would. All of this done in order to prevent a revolution that could destroy his world.
The Return to Mistborn’s World
This latest offering from New York Times bestseller Sanderson is a continuation of his landmark Mistborn series, an epic high fantasy series filled with political intrigue and magic. Hailed by Forbes reviewer Erik Kane as “easily one of the finest fantasy stories” the first three books set the stage in a world called Scadrial. In this world magic is expressed through an ability to interact with metals, to the point of a synergistic relationship between man and metal. Of course, those with the greatest abilities are also those who rule. As with many of Sanderson’s books, the leadership qualities of the characters are what set this writing apart; along with the enormous detail in a medieval world whose ruler is also an immortal god.
But then Sanderson makes a gutsy move and takes a giant leap, moving the series forward by 300 years. It begins with a standalone short story, The Alloy of Law, which has a touch of SciFi and became the springboard for the next set of stories set in Scadrial. The latest in that new series, nicknamed “Wax and Wayne” after the two main characters, is Shadows of Self.
By now the characters in the first Mistborn trilogy have become mythic and even figure in the local religions. In addition, modern technology has begun to change the landscape. Railroads have sprung up, along with electric streetlights and the beginning of a new city skyline that includes skyscrapers. It is classic steampunk territory. We meet Waxillium Ladrian, a rough around the edges legendary hero called in from the outlands nicknamed The Roughs and returned to city life by his family. He is a lawman in the best sense of the word and brings with him his best friend and sidekick Wayne. Together they must face a family that has known better days, a city that hides its dangers behind gilded doorways and use all their considerable abilities to foil a budding revolution.
But here is where the story begins to take an almost science fiction feel with Wax’s superhero-like ability to manipulate steel and his almost Batman like decision to become a detective and then taking on the reins of his family’s fortune. As we discovered in the short story that launched this new direction in the series, Wax has the added distinction of being Twinborn. This gives him the gifts of Allomancy as well as Feruchemy. While they may give him a decided advantage, it is soon obvious he will need them in order to succeed. The action is fast-paced as Wax plans for his upcoming wedding, oversees complicated business affairs for this family and with the help of Wayne investigates murders in an attempt to prevent the world they know from being destroyed from within. In fact, some of the best scenes are as we watch Wayne slickly move amongst the upper crust, trading banters with Wax in true superhero style. There are elements of Sherlock’s Watson to Wayne, but not so many that it is distracting. As in many good fantasy stories, their friendship is a large part of what makes the story so appealing.
A Little of Something for Every Type of Fan
Shadows of Self contains plenty of action, just enough droll humor to keep it from being too dry and a wry sense of itself. Oh, and magic because it does have plenty of magic in it. While you will probably want to read the first three books of the Mistborn series to truly appreciate Shadows of Self, you won’t regret the time spent. Sanderson has mastered the art of the story, with this novel just his latest adventure. His popularity and award-winning track record can attest to his knack for storytelling that satisfies.