Yes, I am going to review a mainstream author. And no, it’s not because I’ve been too busy to read a new story.
Despite the overly long, and somewhat nonsensical title, this is an amazing book. The title makes a lot more sense if you know about this world’s magic systems, all three of which are structured around metal. But yeah…
Anyway, the actual story is fabulous! You don’t need to read the original Mistborn Trilogy to read this book. You’ll miss a few inside jokes, but they aren’t essential to understanding the story. Sanderson knows how to craft an individual book within his Cosmere.
A mix of steampunk, western, urban, and high fantasy, this should feel like a mish-mash, but it doesn’t. Sanderson has simply expanded his world. For once, we get a high fantasy that isn’t in a Middle Ages equivalent.
The actual mystery is engaging, and believable. I didn’t figure it out before the characters on the first read, always a good sign. But on the second read, I did find myself entertained by finding the clues Sanderson dropped. And that’s a better sign of a good book.
So the characters. Very intriguing. The main trio of Wax, Marasi, and Wayne mesh well together. The dialogue and humor are organic, as always. Sanderson has a firm hand on his tropes, and knows when to subvert them and then to play them straight.
So I’m little concerned about a hinted at love triangle, but I have faith in Sanderson… I also ship Wax and Marasi. Which brings me to the other side of their triangle, Steris.
Steris is Marasi’s estranged half-sister. Cold, blunt, proper to a fault, and engaged to Wax for monetary reasons, she’s the closest thing to a truly flat character I’ve read in a Sanderson book. There are a few hints of something deeper, but I’m not sure where she’s going. The only thing I know is that Sanderson spent a lot of words making me see a character that I didn’t like. So, I’ll be watching her closely.
And then there is Wayne, who carries this book on his ever-healing shoulders. He’s Sanderson at his wittiest. You can see the obvious intelligence in all the play-dumb that Wayne does. The dialogue too on point for Wayne to actually be stupid, and he comes out on top over and over, both verbally and physically. Yes, I adore Wayne, even while I notice that he kick-started the plot at several points. But that’s the writer in me. Every book has a character or two that does most of the heavy lifting plot-wise, and Wayne is darling at it. I would read this book for him alone, and any time Sanderson wants to do a Wayne spin-off I am so there.
And finally, we have main character, Wax. I like him.
He avoids being too gloomy despite his real, and plot-earned, depression.
He’s not over-powered. You don’t feel like his friends are only there to check off the trope list. He needs their help to figure out the main plot, and defeat the bad guy.
His sense of honor isn’t overpowering. He’s gray enough to make the hard, maybe bloody decision, but still an honorable man who will try to find another way. He did, after all, forgive and redeem Wayne (Mostly. There only so much redeeming you can do for Wayne.)
Funny, without it being forced. Wax can verbally keep up with Wayne, mostly, and he and Marasi have a few genuinely hilarious conversations. The dinner party with Steris comes to mind.
So yes, I like Wax. He’s a relatable, well-rounded, and engaging main character. Not that I expect anything less from Sanderson at this point. But I want to point out that Wax avoids what I call the ‘Buffy Syndrom’, where the main character is the least interesting character. (and yes, even Sanderson has done that. Someday, I’ll review Warbreaker, and we’ll get into it.)
While Wayne is my favorite, Wax is more interesting. There are many layers to him, and I don’t feel like I’ve seen everything about him yet. I’ve been introduced and we had a good first date, but there is still more to learn about Wax. I can sense that he isn’t done growing, and there are… places for him to go. He’s not a static ‘hero’ who can’t change, while simultaneously being not only an adult, but an older one at that. I believe he’s in his forties… unheard of in the fantasy genre, overall
And that is a real treasure in any story.