Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson
Published: Tor Books (Oct 6, 2015)
Posted: Goodreads (Jun 24, 2016)
(5 / 5)
TL;DR- Wow. If you like Mistborn, buy this now. The scope and depth of this novel will remind you of The Fallen Empire. Yet it stands on its own as being one of the best Mistborn books to date. Outstanding.
Mistborn’s world is forged in metal. From it’s groundbreaking beginning, The Last Empire, to it’s latest incarnation starting with The Alloy of Law, the series has been about prophecy, ascendancy, growth and change. Shadows of Self exemplifies these constants, helping to flesh out a world just as intriguing as the one in the era past.
Whereas Alloy of Law takes place in a fantasy 1800s turn of the century setting, Shadows of Self propels us a little further to examine how change is unfolding. Elendel is bustling with sound and life. Automobiles are being produced in large quantities and the dirty, inefficient gas lamps have been replaced by the glow of electric lights. But as we know from our own history, industrialization has brought long periods of despair. On Scadrial, this price is real. Despite the modernity of a well lit city, Elendel – still covered in mystical mists – is plunged into darkness once again.
If you’ve been following the series up till now, you’ll know what’s coming. Bloodshed, death and the personification of despair in the form of an awesome villain. Now taking the form of one of the Lord Ruler’s most capable agent, old world powers of myths threaten to destabilize civilization again.
The pacing and expert storytelling is one of the series strengths. Shadows of Self has some of the best of both of those but also features an awesome story and excellent humor. I originally made a list of Wayne’s comical banter but it was just too much for this review. Another primary strength is the suspense made real by well crafted twists the likes of which we haven’t seen since the original trilogy.
The pure craziness of Wayne’s mind is second only to his winning relationship with the story’s protagonist, Wax. The comrade between the characters is just as strong as in The Final Empire. Wayne’s humor isn’t just to break up a good story, he’s like he is for a reason; Wayne possesses a deep and powerful back story that’ll make you wonder how he lives day in and day out. Ranette and MeLaan both return and seem very real.
Speaking of characters with a rich and sad backstory, Wax has many profound moments, lingering above the mistcovered streets of Elendel, contemplating a chaotic city life illuminated by man-made electric. The setting itself illuminates his darker feelings (pun intended) and shows us a character as deep Vin. While the constables see him as a noble and demanding version of Superman, they fail to see his point of view, bearing the weight of the world on his shoulders. This is simply fine writing. Wax “feels” a lot like a Kelsier to me in some ways but, frankly, he’s a lot more in-depth and well managed.
From Alloy of Law you’re probably wondering what more will happen with the Set and their goals. Or what Marasi does with her life after attending university. All of which is explored in this novel. Actually, the fact that this isn’t 850+ pages is a testament to Sanderson’s great writing style. The truth? I almost wish it was longer. Not that anything was “too condensed,” rather that I thoroughly enjoyed it.
What I love the most about the setting and the imagery used is how well it works with the pre-Final Ascension Scadrial. In one segment Wax’s thoughts of modern housing reads:
“Beneath his feet, electricity ran like an invisible river through suspended cables. Spirits that moved like allomancers in the sky, hopping from building to building.”
Imagery like this reminds the reader of allomancers of old while serving up the new setting with style. It also does well to supplement the stark conflict brewing inside the story’s protagonist. Born of both worlds, not fully a part of either.
There’s no way to list all the positive aspects of Shadows of Self. As far as faults, I haven’t found anything worthy of note. So kick back and relax, this is an awesome read. Solid 5/5