Book Review: Shadows of Self

Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson, Mistborn #5 

The trilogy’s heroes are now figures of myth and legend, even objects of religious veneration. They are succeeded by wonderful new characters, chief among them Waxillium Ladrian, known as Wax, hereditary Lord of House Ladrian but also, until recently, a lawman in the ungoverned frontier region known as the Roughs. There he worked with his eccentric but effective buddy, Wayne. They are “twinborn,” meaning they are able to use both Allomantic and Feruchemical magic.

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.

Brandon Sanderson. Bam. Everyone knows that name. With every book that he writes he becomes more and more famous. But one series that will get everyone fired up must be his Mistborn series. How I devoured those books. Just amazing stuff. Though all the books that Brandon Sanderson writes fall into his big Cosmere universe they do take place in different timeframe, it is perhaps hard to believe that his Stormlight Archive is set in the same universe as Mistborn and thus also Shadows of Self. Let's leave that for a different day. 

Alloy of Law kicked off the follow up on the Mistborn series, Shadows of Self is the sequel to Alloy of Law but can be read as a stand alone. Which is handy because catching up with four other books can be a burden. As I always say with stand alone books in a ongoing series, they of course give a much better reading experience with prior knowledge of the other books. But for getting new readers aboard they are very well suited. 

As with Alloy of Law the focus in Shadows of Self is once again on the peculiar duo Waxillium, Wax, and Wayne. In the beginning of the book they are just as with the first book, hunting criminals in the Roughs. However soon Wax receives word that he is required in the city of Elendel. He is not just Wax but his is a Lord as well and time has come to live up to this title. For Wax this change comes well with difficulties, having lived in the Roughs he has gotten accustomed to certain things, which he now has to abandon. Wax even has to make the big move. Getting a partner. Luckily for Wax he has a second man with him, Wayne who is the guy to rely on in most cases. Soon after there arrival in Elendel Wax and Wayne find themselves cooperating with the local police forces. As an assassination has taken place and Wax and Wayne are drawn into it all and perhaps feel obliged to catch the assassin. In this task they are helped by Marasi, a local female officer who recently got promoted. As the trio, Wax, Wayne and Marasi get closer to the assassin they uncover something they hadn't dared to think about. In Wax's earlier cases he was always catching normal bad guys. a small spoiler this time around it is far from your ordinary human. Was is dealing with and ancient force, more powerful than even his twinborn powers. if you read the original trilogy you know that Gods like to dabble in certain affairs, now force or not, this is precisely what Wax, Wayne and Marasi have to face. But beating a God is difficult...

The set up of the story is precisely what you have gotten to know of Brandon Sanderson. He starts of with a bang and finishes with one. The pacing is that of a river, at time gentle but treacherous and at other times you are caught in a white water rapid. The story with Wax and Wayne is essential different than that of Vin in the original series as Wax and Wayne are two detectives and thus the story reflects this. Shadows of Self is an ungoing investigation so getting back to the river bit at times the team has to discuss and look for new clues and ways to continue. Which leads eventually to new confrontations with Allomantic and Feruchemical magic running its course, and since Wax was from the roughs there is also the occasional shootout. All this doesn't make the story JUST a detective, no far from it, because you should know the whole backdrop of Mistborn, and that makes it a pleasure to read on how the world is progressing. 

World building itself is very nicely done, Shadows of Self marks an important point in an "industrial revolution", there are changes coming in modes of transportation like the first motor-powered car is making it appearance. It was very well executed when you look at the responses of many of the character. They still favor the one that they trust and can control. Horses. Wax's  response was definitely one of the betters. You can slowly see more things changing along the way and this is a very strong point of the mistborn series so far, this is what trigger me at least to follow the book as well, those subtle and not so subtle changes. You never know what you will see next. 

When you look at the characters they are truly memorable. Wax and Wayne have something working for them. They think in many ways the same but in a lot of different ways quite different. Which in turn leads to some great discussion and conversation or snide and witty remarks from one to the other. This humor gives the story a definite edge, but there is more going to each of Wax and Wayne their characters, they have their own flaws/demons that they have to face one day or the other and this makes roots them more to the ground as only the funny and witty detectives. Next there is Marasi who makes for a very powerful secondary character. It is by her character that we actually learn a lot of how things roll in Elendel, yes she is an advocate for the industrial revolution. I am very happy to see that this role was given to a female character as Brandon Sanderson knows how to write darn powerful female characters. 

Just leave it to Brandon Sanderson to write another great addition to the Mistborn and Cosmere universe. With every book that Brandon Sanderson add to the the universe becomes that much more richer. By itself Shadows of Self offers a great point to pick up the series, but in all I think a lot of the references to other books will be missed so pick up at least Alloy of Law before reading this one. It took a while for Alloy of Law to get a sequel. Luckily the third book in this series will be published in just a few months called Bands of Mourning. I have no idea how Brandon Sanders can publish book after book with such high quality. Awesome stuff. Never a boring moment. 


  1. I was planning on waiting until Bands of Mourning is released, then read them back-to-back. Might reconsider after reading this. Thanks!


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