Shadows of Self (Mistborn #5)
By: Brandon Sanderson
Format/Source: Hardback; my copy
Shadows of Self shows Mistborn’s society evolving as technology and magic mix, the economy grows, democracy contends with corruption, and religion becomes a growing cultural force, with four faiths competing for converts.
This bustling, optimistic, but still shaky society now faces its first instance of terrorism, crimes intended to stir up labor strife and religious conflict. Wax and Wayne, assisted by the lovely, brilliant Marasi, must unravel the conspiracy before civil strife stops Scadrial’s progress in its tracks.
Okay, this is one of those few times where I actually check out a book shortly after it is first released in hardback; I got this book for Christmas last year after having read The Alloy of Law (review) and wanting my copies of this second trilogy of the Mistborn universe to match. Suffice to say I have a lot of thoughts about this, hence the following will contain spoilers to this book and to the series to date!
Oh gosh, where to begin with all my thoughts, all these feels? Well, this one update I had on GoodReads sums up my feelings for much of my reading of this book:
The thought sort of clicked in some third into reading the book; it felt like something big was looming, and given that we started learning more about the characters as we went along, it felt as though there was going to be a major death amongst the principal characters, which in that case I would not be in any way emotionally prepared for (it didn’t help that when I asked my brother for a hint confirming or denying my suspicions, he only told me “Read and see” which left me internally screaming and bracing myself 😛 ). Well, I was right but it wasn’t quite what I expected; nonetheless the possibility kept me on my toes for most of the book!
It’s clear reading this book that bigger problems are starting to hit this world and the population of Elendel is on the verge of rising up against the government. Larger themes are also at play here with regards to the direction that their society is headed, technological advances being made and the struggle of day-to-day life; in some ways the problems that the general population faces are very reminiscent to our own contemporary society. Touching with the next paragraph, this story also raises a lot of questions about religion and faith, morality and justice, who we are and what we do. They are themes that I think will continue to reverberate for the remainder of this story arc, especially after what happens at the end of the novel.
The story’s scope is also expanding in that many elements and throwback to events from the first Mistborn trilogy are coming back in a big way here. I admit, I wish the author included an appendix to these books laying out which names reference who from the original trilogy because I kept stopping and wondering what happened when and who they were referring to, etc. (oops). It’s too bad that Iron Eyes didn’t make an appearance in this novel (hmm, I wonder what he’s up to) but there were a ton of other characters who do make an appearance here from the first trilogy, which was great.
Also, any references to Vin and Elend still hits me in the feels (I’m not over them, okay?)
As I mentioned we continue to learn a lot about the characters. We learned a lot more about Steris and what kind of person she is; I was initially cold at the idea of her and Wax’s engagement but learning more about her definitely softened me up to their upcoming wedding and just how she factors into the story and Wax’s ongoing complicated life. I think she may prove to be a good balance to Wax’s personality, and in some ways reminds me of Hero Jarvis from C.S. Harris’ St. Cyr mysteries (reviews to be posted in the coming months). It’s a pity though she more or less drops out of the story in the last act of the novel. Meanwhile I thought Wayne was hilarious in the previous novel but here he brings it up a notch, and we learn a lot more about him (to the point that I was worried that he might be the character to die here, which would suck because without him the humour of the novel would almost be nil). A lot of my favourite lines in this novel came from him, and his whole approach to life is just hilarious and different, his feelings towards hats is adorable, and his ability to pick up accents and disguise on a whim amazing. Marasi continues to be awesome, moving from being a lawyer to becoming a constable, solving mysteries and dealing with the in-house political crap along the way. I reckon she might strike out on her own in the next book given the way this book ended, but she’s amazing through and through.
And that ending…Oh my. Talk about twisting the knife at the last minute to make a point. Wax is already dealing with a lot and it seemed like he had finally come to terms with the past when this reveal happens (not sure why it wasn’t revealed earlier if the antagonist was trying to woo Wax over to the other side but I guess the spike made it impossible?). Suffice to say I think Wax is going to be in major brooding mode in the next book, which sucks because he’s already pretty grim and preoccupied much of the time 🙁 I’m surprised he was still able to humour Wayne a bit at the epilogue. I’m not looking forward to brooding!Wax but it feels a long time coming, this shake-up; a lot of characters have pointed out how self-righteous and singular his perspective can be, and events in this novel has certainly thrown a hell of a challenge in his direction. I’m curious to see where he goes in the next novel, however 🙁 it may be.
Much as I enjoyed reading this book, it did feel pretty sluggish in some parts, not to metion the pick-up at the beginning felt rather slow. I wish we got to explore a bit more of the other octants, but we got quite a bit of world-building in this volume, especially with regards to the different religions. I hope this exploration of society continues in the next book. Also, why does it feel as though the pacing always picks up at the end of the book? This happened in The Alloy of Law too; all my feels were thrown into the wind at the end of the novel, and I feel the same is the case here with all of the questions it raises. I hope we get more answers in the next book.
Despite of some of these little quibbles, I greatly enjoyed reading Shadows of Self. We got to learn more about the characters and the overarching story is starting to emerge and take form. I read this book pretty much in a day and I have The Bands of Mourning on pre-order so I’m greatly looking forward to picking that up as soon as it arrives and reading to find out what happens next to all of the characters.