Brandon Sanderson’s Shadows of Self is the fifth Mistborn book, the second Cowboy Mistborn book (after The Alloy of Law), and the first of a new Cowboy Mistborn trilogy. Straightforward, right?

And that’s not the least of it, because it turns out that the Mistborn books are only one of the many subserieses that comprise Sanderson’s “Cosmere” multiverse, which he is apparently going to be bringing more to the forefront in these and later books. The degree to which I am not excited by a series-spanning ultra-tie-in storyline cannot be overstated. Already, there’s one big story element in this book that was basically ruined for me, because I have no idea if it’s a legit in-book mystery that’s going to drive plot events in the next two Cowboy Mistborn books, or a bullshit meta-book mystery that’ll be resolved in some other series entirely.

Which is a damned shame, because taken on its own, this is a very good book, one of Sanderson’s best. His plotting is just as fast-paced as ever, Wax and Wayne are great characters, Cowboy Mistborn is a great setting, and Sanderson’s writing seems more assured than in previous books—there’s less of the clunkiness that I normally associate with his writing, and plenty of great lines and wit. What’s more, the book is addressing the nature of law and justice in a 19th-century city in a time of technological upheaval, which ends up making it feel like the spiritual successor to Discworld—a Vimes book with more action and less humor.

If Sanderson could leave his books alone to be themselves, I’d be able to enjoy his growth as a writer and recommend this series with no qualms. As it is, though, I’m worried that the Cosmere tie-in nonsense that already hurt this book is just going to get more obtrusive as the series goes on. So this is enjoyable enough for now, but we’ll see where it goes.


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