Friday 26 February 2016

#CBR8 Book 23: "Shadows of Self" by Brandon Sanderson

Page count: 384 pages
Rating: 4 stars

Readers should probably have read The Alloy of Law before beginning this book. It sets up these characters and the world and time they inhabit really well. I shall try to refrain from spoiling said book too much, but if you haven't read it, that's where you want to start. Well, to be really accurate, you should probably start with Mistborn: the Final Empire, the first book in the trilogy that establishes the whole of this world, but that's more for those who want a really comprehensive understanding.

Since the events of The Alloy of Law, Lord Waxillium "Wax" Ladrian is now established as the leader of House Ladrian and has managed to sort out their finances. He is continuing to track down criminals with the aid of his trusty and irreverent sidekick Wayne, who can impersonate pretty much anyone with a little bit of time to listen to their accents and the right hat. The actual law-enforcement officers in the city aren't always too happy with the way Wax tends to track down law-breakers and especially with the wanton destruction often left in its wake. Marasi, who has given up a career in law to become the assistant to one of the superintendents. Her new position forces her to consider her friends in a new light.

There is trouble brewing in the city, with a lot of workers congregating in the streets. There are food shortages due to floods, there are talks or strikes and protests. Then the governor's brother is showily murdered in a gathering of several known criminals and accusations of corruption are levelled at him and the governor. A prominent priest is publicly murdered, seemingly by a rival religious leader and soon the religious groups in the city are also turning on each other. When Wax, Wayne and Marasi discover who is behind all the seemingly unrelated incidents, they are unsure of how to deal with it at first. Taking down a near-immortal supernatural creature isn't going to be easy.

I am clearly going to have to at least wiki the plots of the original Mistborn-trilogy before I read any further in this series, because it is quite clear that while these books are set several hundreds of years after the first trilogy (a concept which is just delightful in itself - same societal structures, same magic systems, same laws of physics, but set centuries apart), there are still obvious connections and I think I'm going to understand what is going on a little bit more, if I can recall the general outline of the books I read way back in 2009. Creatures and possibly even individuals from those books are starting to make appearances and I am honestly somewhat confused as to what is going on.

Wax, Wayne, Marasi and Steris all continue to delight me in different ways, even though Wax can seem unnecessarily grumpy on occasion. While she is more of a minor supporting character, I really love Steris, Marasi's half-sister and Wax' fiancee. She knows she isn't a very exciting personality and that hers and Wax' marriage will be an alliance based on furthering the interests of both houses, with no actual love involved, but she pragmatically organises every social encounter with the precision of a general, down to witty remarks she can regurgitate to make small-talk or useful gossip that can be used to embarrass or dismiss bothersome hangers on. She's like a self-aware, and thus much more delightful, Mr. Collins.

The reason I recommend not reading this book until after The Alloy of Law is because quite a lot of Wax' past in the Roughs comes back to haunt him in this book. His antagonistic relationship with his evil uncle, his continued grief over his lover Lessie and the reasons he chose to rejoin polite society in the first place are all established in that book. It's also where we meet all the prominent characters for the first time and while you can understand the main points of the story in this book without the backstory, it will be a much better read if you've got the necessary background.

While I liked this book, I don't love it as much as my book twin Narfna did. I do get where she's coming from about thinking this book is going to be a pretty straightforward Wax, Wayne and Marasi catch some criminals and restore justice and order to the society they live in, and it becomes something very different, involving ancient, powerful shapeshifting creatures trying to incite rebellion, but I may just have felt frustrated at my lack of remembering the events of the original trilogy, that keep being referenced more and more. If I do some catching up online before reading the next one, I will hopefully get more immersed in the next book.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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