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Literature / Shadows of Self

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WARNING: Late Arrival Spoilers abound for The Alloy of Law.

Second book of the Wax and Wayne series.

After foiling the Vanishers and discovering that his uncle was the one behind them, Waxillium Ladrian has been granted a citywide deputized forebearance, allowing him to act as a constable in most respects. He's been using this to attempt to track down and dismantle his uncle's criminal organization... as well as avoid planning his wedding with Steris. Steris, for her part, doesn't seem to mind either way, and is trying to figure out what criminals to invite so that the inevitable firefight doesn't get too out of hand.


Meanwhile, someone is slaughtering people, starting with a corrupt councilor and the entire party of nobles he was selling his vote to.

This book provides examples of:

  • Badass in Distress: Wayne finds out the governor has been Bleeder all along... and gets beaten up, Bound and Gagged and shoved into a closet for his trouble.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Part of Elendel's widespread corruption is dealt with, the mob that was about to burn down the city was eventually dispersed, and the city took a step towards progress by electing a governor without a drop of noble blood. In the process Wax discovers that Lessie, the woman he loved in the Roughs, was actually a kandra bodyguard planted by Harmony who then kills herself in order to remain free of Harmony's influence. Oh, and another Shard is interfering with Scadriel.
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  • Black Comedy: The constables try to keep Marasi out of the party crime scene, worried that so many bodies might upset her. She dryly points out that a man's head literally exploded all over her less than an hour ago.
  • Blood Magic: The book Marsh (who, it should be noted, is seen as the Grim Reaper) gave Marasi at the end of Alloy turns out to be Spook's personal journal, detailing his careful study of Hemalurgy. Bleeder is also a master of Hemalurgy.
  • Body Horror: Bleeder has learned enough hemalurgy to create a deadly, bullet-resistant hemalurgic being. One which only uses a single spike, so Harmony can't control them. They look like a cross between a werewolf and a pachycephalosaur...and they used to be human.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Bleeder can do something similar with hemalurgy. While she can't completely control someone who is spiked, they become very emotionally unstable. This combined with the fact that she can whisper to them constantly means that she can drive and manipulate them to do what she wants.
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  • Call-Back: Wax's underground adventure is full of them, from namedropping the Well of Ascension to seeing The Lord Ruler's privacy hut and the prison pits where Sazed and TenSoon were kept.
  • The Cameo: Hoid appears this time as Waxillium's new coachman - on a very important ride, during which Waxillium holds a conversation with Harmony
  • Chekhov's Gun: Wayne's chewing gum. At the beginning of the book Wayne picks up the habit from a street urchin - and later it provides a very important clue to Waxillium.
  • Chekhov's Hobby: Marasi learns horse-riding as a child, as a part of her dream to become a law keeper in the Roughs. It turns out very useful when she has to accompany her boss, constable-general Aradel, to the governor's mansion and no coaches are available. Aradel does mention that it's an untypical hobby for a city girl.
  • Combat Pragmatist: The people ambushing the team early on. Crossbows for fighting allomancers, taking hostages, distractions...
  • Cradling Your Kill: Wax with Paalm/Bleeder, when he finally realizes she is his beloved wife Lessie - and she's killing herself not to allow Harmony to control her again.
  • Damsel out of Distress: Marasi is taken hostage early on as part of a standoff. She takes advantage of a moment's distraction to pull out a revolver and shoot him in the head.
  • Dead All Along: The person who Bleeder was impersonating... the governor.
  • Depleted Phlebotinum Shells: Wax has Ranette forge him a bullet made out of his earring, as the latter is a Hemalurgic spike, and putting one into Bleeder would allow Harmony to take control over her again.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Wax is left teetering over this by the end of the book, due to the revelations about his God and the fact that he has killed Lessie a second time.
  • Destructive Savior: The Elendel police view Wax as one. The problems he solves indisputably outweigh the problems he creates, but they're still tired of cleaning up his messes.
  • Dying as Yourself: A rare villainous example. the other kandra tell Wax that they want Bleeder taken alive so that she can be cured of her madness, and he does try - but in the end, Bleeder chooses to die rather than to let Harmony back into her mind.
  • Extremely Short Time Span: The bulk of the narrative, not counting the intro, the epilogue, and a few flashbacks, takes place over the course of less than two days. This is a plot point, as none of the main characters have a chance to get any sleep and the characters are run ragged by the end.
  • Foreshadowing: While Harmony is grumbling about Elendel's lack of advancement, he mentions that "others" who "were nearly destroyed" have progressed farther. This references the people on the South side of the planet, who the author has mentioned in interviews and who do appear in The Bands of Mourning.
    • The suicide method for Kandra mentioned by MeLaan.
  • From Bad to Worse: Causing the death of a loved one...twice, watching a loved one go insane, realizing a loved one isn't who they said they were...
  • Gentleman Thief: The Marksman sets himself up as this, which is why Wax was willing to leave him to the city watch. But then the Marksman started killing people in the course of his robberies.
  • God Is Flawed: A major focus of the book is that Harmony is fallible (which he admits) and the reactions of various characters to that fact.
  • Hearing Voices: Bleeder can whisper in the mind of anyone with a hemalurgic spike, though she can't hear their thoughts.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: A common trick for Kandra, and is used here. Specifically, the Kandra seeking to infiltrate the governor's household in order to assassinate him did so by assuming the form of the governor.
  • Immune to Bullets: Ten Soon warns Wax that his modern weapons will be useless against the new hemalurgic constructs Bleeder has created. Subverted immediately though: it turns out they just take More Dakka, which Wax is happy to provide. Played Straight with the Kandra.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Wayne is again in fine form. When teaching MeLaan the "twofie" accent her appropriated body should be using, the kandra compliments him on his grasp of accents, and Wayne replies "it would better if he had the hat. A hat's like a disguise for your brain, holds the thought of the guy what wore it last." MeLaan thinks this makes perfect sense.
  • In Love with the Mark: Harmony sent Paalm to Wax (as Lessie) when he was in the Roughs to act as a bodyguard. But she fell in love with him, so when Harmony ordered her to send him back to Elendel, she refused, knowing he was far happier in the Roughs.
  • Interspecies Romance: Though he didn't know it at the time, Wax and Lessie were a human and a kandra.
  • Lord Error-Prone: The prologue reveals Wax had shades of this early in his bounty-hunting career. His Twinborn powers, Awesomeness by Analysis, and Crazy Enough to Work tendencies ( not to mention pretty much literally being watched over by an Angel of God) see him through until he grows out of it.
  • Medieval Stasis: Far from medieval, but Harmony does note that, since that he's largely given them everything they need, the people haven't advanced as quickly as they're supposed to. They were supposed to have radio a century ago, and they haven't made any advancements in aeronautics at all. They haven't even made developments in irrigation and farming because the Elendel basin is so fertile, thus making food limited in many settlements outside it.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: During his final confrontation with Bleeder, Wax spends most of it desperately trying to believe the kandra he's killing isn't his wife Lessie. He realizes the truth just as she commits suicide to stop Harmony from controlling her, and only has time to let her know that he knew before she died. He spends the denouement in a deep depression.
  • Nightmare Fuel: An In-Universe example, the cabbie's encounter with Bleeder, to the cabbie.
    I found that I hadn't been carrying a man, but a monster. A mistwraith, with bones and sinew exposed, and a face of stretched muscle and grinning teeth. It looked at me, all smiles, and scrambled up toward the hole It pressed that exposed eye against the slot, and then it changed. It changed. Skin growing over its face, like mine. A twisted, broken version of me.
  • Outside-Context Problem: Paalm used spikes made from an unknown metal in her Hemalurgy. Not atium or lerasium or even the new Harmonium, but a godmetal from an entirely different world. Marasi wonders if it had anything to do with "Trell," one of the ancient gods from before the Lord Ruler, who Miles worshiped.
  • Rage Against the Heavens: Bleeder is motivated by a desire to dethrone Harmony, since she has decided he is too manipulative and flawed.
  • Steel Eardrums: Averted. Marasi fires a gun point-blank beside her ear into a person's jaw. Not only is she covered in blood, but she's partially deaf for the next chapter or so, and Wax is worried that she might have permanently damaged her hearing.
  • Title Drop: For the sequel. When Wax is wandering around the caves where the people hid while Sazed remade the world, mention is made of replicas of objects called "the Bands of Harmony and the Bands of Mourning."
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment: Exaggerated. Some women can hide objects in their cleavage, but MeLaan has them all beat: being a kandra, she can actually store objects inside of her breasts.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Steris and Wayne have taken to insulting each other. Played with, however. Steris is doing it because she's trying to genuinely connect with Wayne. Wayne, however, outright states he finds her repulsive.
    • Played straight with Wayne and Marasi, though. Their relationship is nearly every bit as snarky as the main duo themselves. Marasi even goes so far as to help Wayne out in his schemes and disguises.
  • Your Head Asplode: Marasi does this by firing a gun point blank into a person who has taken her hostage.