I just finished reading Brandon Sanderson‘s The Alloy of Law. I’m a big fan of Sanderson’s work, so it was no surprise that I enjoyed it. If I had to sum up this book in one sentence, I would say: It’s like Sherlock Holmes with magic in the Wild West.
Set in the Mistborn world, about 300 years following the Mistborn trilogy, technology has advanced. Railroads and the beginnings of electricity, cars, and skyscrapers join the two magic systems of Allomancy and Feruchemy to shape the growing society. Oh, and guns. Did I mention guns? Add guns and flying bullets to a magic system based on metals, and you definitely have something new and exciting.
The main character, Lord Waxillium, is a rare Twinborn who can use both Allomancy and Feruchemy. After living as a lawkeeper in the frontier lands, the Roughs, Wax must return to the city to assume his role as the head of his noble house. He must set aside his guns and frontier ways–until he learns that his talents may still be needed in the city. Enter a clever villain, a kidnapped girl, a train heist, and plenty of mystery and witty banter.
Though it has a straight-forward plot, the story is still layered and packs a typical Sanderson twist at the end. This standalone book contains sufficient information to understand the basics of the world and its magic systems without having read the previous Mistborn books, but not so much information that it ever feels like an info-dump. However, to truly get the full experience, I suggest you read the Mistborn trilogy first.
Fast-paced and shorter, The Alloy of Law is not as deep or epic as Sanderson’s work usually is, but that seems to be his intent. Brandon Sanderson said:
I’m hoping it will give you everything you love about Mistborn in a more self-contained package. I think of this book more as a “fun adventure” rather than a deep epic. I hope you’ll approach it with that mindset. In a way, I’m hoping books like these will balance the Stormlight Archive. Sometimes, you want a 1000-page book with hundreds of different characters. Sometimes, however, you want a quick, fun book with compelling lead characters, good action, and fun banter. That’s what this book is.
It’s definitely a fun adventure, an action-packed and light read to break from the heavy novels prevalent in epic fantasy. Unfortunately, I found the writing to be a step down from his usual skill. While fast-paced once the conflict begins, I found parts of the beginning to be a bit slow. And while Wayne and Lady Marasi had definitive personalities, I sometimes had troubles pinning down Wax’s character.
Sanderson’s action scenes are always easy for me to follow, with a clear cinematic feel. However, I have mixed feelings about some of them in this book. The cinematic writing definitely painted a clear mental picture and would make a very good movie, but some of it felt a little overdone.
He soared into the air above the railcars. The wind caught him, pushing him backward as he fell. He landed with a thump onto the roof several cars to the rear, going down on one knee and steadying himself with his free hand, wind blasting his hair and catching his jacket. He raised his revolver.
Passages like this definitely paint an epic picture, but I find the detailed descriptions distract a little from some of the fast-paced fight scenes. I have enough of an imagination that I can usually paint my own epic scenes in my head while I read without interrupting the narrative with lines of description. Every book has its little quirks, however, and I didn’t find these to be overly distracting from my enjoyment of the book.
Overall, I found The Alloy of Law to be entertaining and witty, with good action, intrigue, and general fun. It was well worth the time to read it, and I’ll be adding it to my bookshelves. If this sounds like your thing, you should definitely give it a try.
More about The Alloy of Law:
- Excepts from The Alloy of Law on Tor.com
- My 14-Year-Old Self Might Take Issue With The Allow of Law, by Brandon Sanderson
- Review: The Alloy of Law; the SF Site
- Review: The Alloy of Law; on Crunchy Dragon
- Brandon Sanderson – The Alloy of Law; Fyrefly’s Book Blog