Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson. ★★★★1/2
Shadows of Self is part of the second Mistborn sequence, which starts with The Alloy of Law. I would suggest reading The Alloy of Law first, or even starting with The Final Empire and the original trilogy, since it is referenced in this newer sequence.
Waxillium Ladrian is a nobleman who spent over seventeen years out in the Roughs, a frontier land, acting as a lawman. Now, he’s back in the city of Elendel, reluctantly running his house. Yet, once a lawman, always a lawman. When a gathering of the city’s criminal underground and corrupt nobles turns into a mysterious slaughter, Wax, along with his companions Wayne and Marasi, find themselves chasing a killer the likes of which has never been seen before.
It’s been a couple of years since I’ve read The Alloy of Law, so I am undoubtedly missing a few things. From what I can remember, I think there’s been some character development with this volume. Some of this would verge into spoiler territory, but by the beginning of the book Marasi has joined the constabulary, fulfilling a life long dream. My favorite POV character is undoubtedly Wayne, since he has the most distinctive voice and manages to get me to smile frequently. Shadows of Self also reintroduces a character from the original trilogy who I really loved in this volume – MeLaan. She was absolutely fantastic here, and I hope that she’s in the next book.
World building wise, it is really interesting how Sanderson’s made this world change and grow. Most of the characters from the original trilogy are now something out of history or have been deified. The world’s moved on from its medieval past to have a more steampunk, urban fantasy feel. There’s electric lights, guns, and there’s starting to be automobiles. The main continuing thread between these two series is the magic systems. Allomancers ingest different sorts of metals and “burn” them to gain powers. By the time of Shadows of Self, no one can “burn” more than one type of metal. Feruchemy involves storing different aspects inside metal and drawing them out and using them at a later date. Wax is a twinborn, someone with access to both Allomancy and Feruchemy. He’s a Coinshot, someone who can “burn” steel to push on metal, and also a Skimmer Ferring, someone who can store his weight in iron and become heavier or lighter at will. There’s a third system as well, but it’s been forgotten since the original trilogy and is being re explored in this volume.
If you don’t already know, Shadows of Self and many of Sanderson’s other books are part of a greater universe called the Cosmere (look up the wiki if you’re curious). They all connect in little ways, and there’s one character named Hoid who’s supposed to be in all of them (I spotted him here). The project is widely ambitious and one of the coolest things going on in fantasy right now.
Shadows of Self is a fun, fast paced book full of action and banter. It was endlessly satisfying to read, but wouldn’t have gotten more than four stars from me if it wasn’t for an amazing plot twist at the end.
Given that Shadows of Self is a sequel, it will mainly appeal to those already familiar with the series. If you’re already a fan of Sanderson’s work, you should find in Shadows of Self everything you’ve come to expect from one of his lighter works. If you’re interested in a different sort of fantasy, one that has the temporal elements of steampunk but in a completely different world without the alternate history aspect, I urge you to check out the first book, The Alloy of Law.