The sixth book in Brandon Sanderson’s outstanding Mistborn series, Bands of Mourning is a wonderful read. Like all of the Mistborn books, it is action-packed and fast-paced, but the purpose of Bands seems-to me at least-to be more of an informational novel.
It’s no secret to fans of Sanderson (and fans of this blog, if there are any out there,) that most of his novels take place in a single universe: the Cosmere. The deeper we get into a single series, the more the connection to the Cosmere becomes apparent.
Bands of Mourning blows the lid off of the connection to the Grand Story, making it direct, and raising as many questions as it begins to answer. For a die-hard Sandersonian, it’s an epic feast of thought-provoking Easter eggs. I bet the forums at the 17th shard (the Sanderson fan site) are still out of control with discussions about the ramifications of what we learned in Bands of Mourning.
So, in terms of content, it was a smorgasbord. A delightful feast that I will have to read again, maybe twice, to make sure I haven’t missed anything. Technically, Sanderson’s writing continues to grow. Reading it directly after Firstborn & Defending Elysium really exaggerates the dramatic change in his writing. His characters are better-constructed, his changes in voice for narrators stronger, and more effective.
It’s just a fantastic novel. I can’t think of anything I didn’t like about it. I will not spoil any of it here.
The added bonus for this one was a well-kept secret that surprised me (and all of his fans) deeply: an additional novella released on the same day, set over the course of the first Mistborn trilogy:
Mistborn: Secret History
This was a bit of a departure for Sanderson, and if Bands was expository for the Grand Story, Secret History was on another level entirely. Major spoilers ahead, so if you haven’t read all six Mistborn novels, throw your computer or touchscreen device in a lake, go buy them, and read them immediately.
Secret History follows the adventure of Kelsier, a hero of the first Mistborn novel, after his death.
After his death.
In the Cosmere, there are three “realms”: the cognitive, the physical, and the spiritual. As more books come out and deal with investiture, which appears to be at the heart of all Cosmere Magic systems, we learn more about the three realms of existence-especially in The Stormlight Archive and Warbreaker, where that discussion is plot-relevant.
When Kelsier dies, his spiritual self is ripped say from his physical self, and dwells somewhere in between, chatting it up with God. Well, not “God,” precisely, but a god. One of sixteen…we can take more steps back into the Cosmere, Adonalsium, the Shards, and Realmatic Theory, but instead I’d like to talk about Secret History some more.
I’ve mentioned before that one of the things I love about Sanderson’s novels is his crises of faith-characters who live in worlds with real gods (and in some cases are gods) and still have trouble with deities, theology, and religion in general. Secret History takes that idea to the next level. In it, we encounter a fallible, dying, confused, vulnerable god who somehow remains infinite. We see the results of this “war between gods” hinted at in his other novels in action, and it’s a disturbing, if somewhat heartwarming and relatable, vision.
Kelsier gets a chance to dwell in the realm of gods for a while, and has time to think and observe, which offers up fun tidbits connecting back to the Mistborn trilogy, but are nowhere near as interesting as his discussions with Fuzz (his name for this particular god) and his subsequent adventure.
This “subsequent adventure” is where Secret History gets really exciting, in my opinion. There’s so much exposition, so much to consider about the large-scale universe, that I found myself literally whispering “oh wow, oh wow, oh wow!” As I got deeper into the story.
It’s an exciting, quick tale, that had evidently been written over the course of many years, when Sanderson had a moment between moments to jot down a scene. Despite its piecemeal construction, it’s a cohesive thing that pulls me even deeper into planet Sanderson. Perhaps I should say universe Sanderson?
Secret History is a fun short, but it is only for involved Sanderson fans who’ve read a good amount of his work and have a vested interest in the Grand Story. It was a wonderful gift to his fans, and I am thankful for it.