I mostly gravitate to historical fiction but, every now and then, it’s nice to take a break and have a nosy around another genre. Seeking adventure and magic, I checked out Shadows of Self, by Brandon Sanderson, part of the sequel series for the original Mistborn trilogy. I know that I can always rely on Sanderson to give me something entertaining, thoughtful, and not a complete rip off of J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert Jordan, or George R.R. Martin.
The Wax and Wayne novels take place about 300 years after the end of the original trilogy. The world has managed to advance to something like our Industrial Revolution after stalling during the Final Empire. And, like our own world, Wax’s world is suffering some growing pains. Worse, someone is taking advantage of the growing discontent to try and overthrow the new(ish) regime. It’s up to Wax, and his partners Wayne and Marasi, to stop the chaos.
I won’t do too much plot summary of Shadows of Self, for fear of ruining the twists. Besides, I’d much rather talk about the larger themes of the book. In the original Mistborn trilogy, our heroes went up against a more traditional villain—an apparently evil dictator—before discovering how messed up their planet was and having to rebuild everything. While daunting, the goals were clear. In the new world, the enemy is bureaucracy and apathy. How does one stand up as a hero against laws and paper pushers? The potential heroes and the masses might get angry, but how does one rally against a system that owns all the debt and, to borrow a phrase from the Communists, controls the means of production? There is no dictator to kill and change everything. Change is much, much harder in Wax’s world. This isn’t to say there isn’t a villain in Shadows of Self. There is, and she’s rather terrifying. But our hero and his allies find themselves in the position of defending a corrupt, unfair system because the alternative is bloody mayhem and destruction. Questions like this are why I enjoy Sanderson’s books so much.