Shadows of Self, the second installment in the Mistborn Saga’s second era, unfortunately, didn’t quite live up to my expectations. The book’s saving grace was its climax, which managed to pique my interest and left me curious about the characters’ future journeys.
About 'Shadows of Self'
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Series: Mistborn Era 2 - Book #2
Publisher: Tor Books
Genre: Epic Fantasy, High Fantasy, Steampunk
Page Number: 383 pages
Audible Listening Time: 12 hours 37 mins
Goodreads Rating: 4.28/5
My Rating: 2/5
The story follows Wax, Wayne, and Marasi as they pursue a rogue Kandra named Bleeder who aims to assassinate the Governor and incite chaos. While this premise sounds thrilling, the execution fell short for me. The narrative felt like a Sherlock Holmes mystery intertwined with cosmere elements, which made it difficult to follow.
This approach might work well in a non-fantasy genre, but here it felt somewhat tedious. The plot seemed to lack the captivating allure typically associated with fantasy genres.
Wax’s character didn’t resonate with me in the first book of Era 2, The Alloy of Law, and unfortunately, this trend continued in Shadows of Self. His character lacks the depth and appeal that even some supporting characters in other Cosmere books possess.
However, the ending does provide a much-needed boost to his character development, leaving me curious about his future journey. His character arc seems to be slowly unfolding, hinting at potential growth and development in future installments.
Wayne’s character didn’t appeal to me. His quirky nature felt forced. His attempts at humor and eccentricity often fell flat, making his presence more of a distraction than an enhancement to the story. I don’t care if this character dies or completely gets cut off in next books.
Marasi’s character was more irritating than engaging for me. Her character development was even more disappointing than Shallan’s in The Way of Kings. But unlike Shallan, her character gets worse in second book.
Same as Wayne, I don’t care if she dies or gets completely cut off from the next books. I’d hate it if she becomes the love interest in future.
Paalm is by far the best character in Mistborn Saga Era 2. Her scenes were the highlights of Shadows of Self for me. She single-handedly salvaged my interest in the story. All the ratings this book gets from me will be because of Paalm.
Her complex motivations and unpredictable actions added a much-needed layer of intrigue and suspense to the plot.
I really want Brandon Sanderson to get rid of Wayne and Marasi altogether and make MeLaan a more important character in the next books. I would love to see MeLaan play a more significant role in future books.
She was the second-best character in Shadows of Self after Paalm. Her scenes were a delight to read. Her unique abilities and mysterious past make her an intriguing character that I hope will be further explored in subsequent books.
Steris is still a background character but her slow-burning relationship with Wax is intriguing. I’m looking forward to seeing more of her. Her calm demeanor and potential for growth make her a promising character for future installments.
Overall, the characters in Shadows of Self is a hit or miss for me. I love Paalm, MeLaan and Steris, don’t hate Wax and hate Wayne & Marasi.
The worldbuilding in this era isn’t as expansive as Era 1 but it has its moments. The easter eggs from Era 1 were enjoyable, especially the appearance of TenSoon, my favourite character from the first era, and Harmony (formerly Sazed).
However, compared to other series in Cosmere, it felt somewhat subdued. The worldbuilding seemed less ambitious and lacked the grandeur that made Era 1 so captivating.
The magic system in this series is a bit of a letdown for me. We’re two books into the series, and yet the magic system hasn’t seen any significant expansion. Even novellas in the Cosmere universe, such as The Emperor’s Soul & Dawnshard, have done more to expand their magic systems.
Perhaps this is intentional, but it didn’t resonate with me. I’m hopeful that the next book will delve deeper into the magic system.
The pacing of Shadows of Self was, for me, the most challenging aspect of all the books in the Cosmere universe. I found it difficult to get through 80% of Shadows of Self. It was only when the climax started to unfold that I began to enjoy it. The first half of the book was particularly tough to get through, and I contemplated not finishing it multiple times.
I’m not finding Mistborn Era 2 as enjoyable as other books in the Cosmere universe. Whitesand also didn’t appeal to me, primarily due to the art style of the graphic novel which I found visually harsh. However, Era 2 books don’t have such features, yet I’m still not enjoying them.
This might be due to the worldbuilding not aligning with my preferences. I generally don’t favor steampunk style, which could be why I’m not connecting with these books. Despite this, I plan to continue reading the series.
Shadows of Self, the second book in Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn Era 2 series, was a letdown. The plot, which involved chasing a rogue Kandra who was behind a series of murders and political unrest, seemed intriguing at first later felt like a generic detective story with some magic thrown in.
The characters were not well-developed, except for a few exceptions. Paalm, the rogue Kandra, was the most fascinating character in the book, with her mysterious motives and abilities. MeLaan, another Kandra who helped Wax and his friends, was also fun and likable. Steris, Wax's fiancée, was surprisingly complex and endearing, showing more depth and personality than I anticipated. Wax, the protagonist of the book, was supposed to be a charismatic and conflicted hero, but he came across as flat and boring. Wayne and Marasi, Wax's sidekicks, were the worst characters in Shadows of Self. They were annoying, unfunny, and irrelevant. I hope Brandon Sanderson will eliminate them from the next books.
The magic system and worldbuilding did not explore or expand the Cosmere, the overarching setting of Sanderson's books, in any significant way. They did not introduce any new aspects or elements to the world or the magic system that we did not already know from the previous books. They only tweaked them slightly to fit the plot of the book, which was not very impressive.
The pacing was another issue that made the book hard to enjoy. Shadows of Self was slow and tedious for most of its length. The only part I liked was the climax, which had some twists and action that made me feel invested in the outcome.
Despite these shortcomings, I still have some hope for the future books in the series and will continue to read them.
“The law is not something holy, son. It’s just a reflection of the ideals of those lucky enough to be in charge.”
“Cleaning the wound is often more painful than the cut itself.”
“Owning things of value is secondary to creating things of value where none once existed.”
“No, freedom was not lack of responsibilities—it was being able to do what was right, without having to worry if it was also wrong.”
“If you want to know a man, dig in his firepit...Basically, it meant that you could judge a lot about a man's life by what he thew away - or by what he was willing to burn in order to stay warm.”
“Religion worried him. It could ask men to do things they’d otherwise never do.”
“One man lying about is being idle; two men lying about is a lunch break.”
“You could tell a lot about people from the way they talked. You saw their past, their upbringing, their aspirations—all in the words they used.”
“Be slow to trust a man with clothing that was too new. You didn’t get to wear new, clean clothing by doing honest work.”
Shadows of Self shows Mistborn’s society evolving as technology and magic mix, the economy grows, democracy contends with corruption, and religion becomes a growing cultural force, with four faiths competing for converts.
This bustling, optimistic, but still shaky society now faces its first instance of terrorism, crimes intended to stir up labor strife and religious conflict. Wax and Wayne, assisted by the lovely, brilliant Marasi, must unravel the conspiracy before civil strife stops Scadrial’s progress in its tracks.
Shadows of Self will give fans of The Alloy of Law everything they’ve been hoping for and, this being a Brandon Sanderson book, more, much more.
Buy ‘Shadows of Self’