The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson
A lot of writers return to worlds that they have created; it’s such a waste after all to discard all those places, peoples and cultures that you’ve brought to life. But Sanderson went a step further! Instead of, as he phrases it, clinging to “[...] the idea of fantasy worlds as static places, where millennia would pass and technology would never change,” he used his earlier Mistborn trilogy as a building block for new stories and eras in that world (Scadrial).
Whereas the Mistborn trilogy took place in a medieval-ish setting, the people of Scadrial have progressed and are currently experimenting with electricity, guns and railways, so it is comparable to the Victorian Era in that regard. The three Metallic Arts are still renowned, but have deteriorated much since the events of the Mistborn trilogy, which is now considered history and rather mysterious. Religion has found a place among the people again, with some of the old characters as major inspiration. The foreknowledge of prior events combined with the Victorian setting makes the book feel both familiar and refreshing. It’s great to see how Sanderson extended the Metallic Arts to a more modern setting, maintaining the balance between realism and fantasy. Bullets don’t conveniently slow down so you can Push them for instance, if you hear the shot you’re too late, end of story. Metal still dominates the world, and small influences like sayings based on metals show this ever so clearly. Especially the more prominent Feruchemy and the casual knowledge of the ‘mysterious last four metals’ make for very interesting new settings and power combinations. In that regard it certainly doesn’t feel like the same old Steelpushing and Copperclouding, but rather as something new and interesting. 16 Allomantic metals with Feruchemical counterparts make for a lot of very, very interesting combinations after all!
The story itself revolves around a Lawman, Wax, who is both an Allomancer and a Feruchemist, a rare combination. The Terris are no longer hunted so combinations are less rare, but still considerably so. Wax’s combination of Steelpushing and Ironskimming make for a deadly combo, and this has helped him survive many a conflict. His last family members died in an accident and he’s the last heir left, forcing him to lay down his guns and head for his old home to take over his House’s rule. Haunted by his past, he gets caught up in a major robbery involving some old acquaintances… When the struggle between his past, his duty and his nature is settled he once again puts all his skills and experiences as a Lawman on the line to solve the mysterious case of the Vanishers.
Having read all of Sanderson’s works, I can still say that he keeps surprising me. The foreword was a prelude for this surprise already, because he mentioned that he intended to write two more trilogies for the world of Scadrial, with the Alloy of Law not being one of them, since it’s only a side story. Yet, the book has an open ending; so we can expect even more novels set in this world, which is my favourite by a large margin (the Metallic Arts are just too amazing); definitely no complaints here! His boundless creativity and sense of realism have pushed him to the top of my favourite writer’s list in no time and I recommend him wholeheartedly to any who appreciates the art of secondary creation. Oh, and he’s funny.
Koen Peters 04/01/2011
I have never had the pleasure of returning to a universe in quite the same way as Brandon Sanderson has managed in his book, ‘The Alloy of Law’, another Mistborn novel set some three-hundred years after the events of the series that made Sanderson a household name in fantasy, and one of the great powers to be reckoned with.
There are no all-powerful un-killable good guys or villains this time around, but the challenges are just as tough, and the cause just as necessary.
Waxillium Ladrian is a House Lord, a Twinborn who can Push with his Allomancy and use Feruchemy to become lighter or heavier at will. He’s our hero, our main protagonist, though Sanderson does allow us to ride awhile with a couple of other characters who are equally intriguing and fascinating.
While the book starts out a little contrived, in a manner I think could have been done a bit better, you cannot argue with the accomplishment that this stand-alone novel has wrought. The characters are enthralling, leaving me wanting more and more. And that’s a problem, considering how short this novel is; just over 300-pages.
One of the greatest aspects of Sanderson’s writing is his world building, in particular, his design of new magic systems. Returning to the world of Scadrial and its magics are easily the most brilliantly designed and created I’ve ever had the chance to read.
This book is really a wonderful continuation of the storyline that Sanderson started in the original Mistborn trilogy. Even though there are horseless-carriages and trains wandering around, and electricity lighting up the ballrooms, much is as it was. There is never a time when you feel as if this process has been forced; or that it is at all out of place: which makes the enjoyment of reading this book even greater, because the world has been allowed to grow; to expand and continue, rather than just existing in a bubble never to be returned too.
There are obviously links to old-west stories, with cowboys and their guns, but only in a very tangential sort of way. In reality, this book is a Mistborn book; it has created its own genre, without making me think of anything else: I simply think of what came before it, and yes, I’ve already pulled ‘The Final Empire’ out to reread.
Whether or not you’ve had the chance to read Sanderson’s original Mistborn trilogy, I think you should pick this up. You don’t need to have read the previous three books to understand this one, nor do you need to have read them to enjoy The Alloy of Law. This book stands on its own, and is a wonderful read that kept me reading well into the early hours of the morning. If you’ve read the series, then you’ll love this; if you haven’t, then I can almost guarantee you that you’ll want to after having read this.
Joshua S Hill 02/11/2011
Philip from Cambridge, UK
That an author can write something this good as a 'throwaway project' to 'clear out his mind' says it all really. A brilliant, witty and exciting follow-on to Mistborn, with all the clever plot and magic of the trilogy, but in a much more light-hearted setting.
Ben from Wolverhampton
Brilliant, I found that being able to follow on from the original Mistborn Trilogy to this novel made it such great read. I find myself wanting to read more and more Brandon Sanderson work and I will continue to do so. Such a talented author.
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