Brandon Sanderson – The Alloy of Law
Length: 332 pages
Genre: Fantasy, with flavors of Old West and Edwardian historical fiction
Started: 10 February 2012
Finished: 12 February 2012
Where did it come from? A gift from some lovely friends who’d bought it, read it, and don’t hang onto their books once they’ve finished them.
Why do I have it? New Brandon Sanderson book!
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 02 December 2011.
The city’s rougher
than this frontier lawman could
Summary: When his uncle dies, Wax Ladriel reluctantly gives up his position as a lawman out in the Roughs – a position in which his Twinborn powers, of steel allomancy and iron feruchemistry, have served him well – and returns to Elendel to take up the title of head of House Ladriel. But try as he might to adjust to the genteel lifestyle of the city nobility, he can’t quite leave his past behind him… especially when his old friend Wayne shows up, and draws his attention to a string of robbery/kidnappings that have been taking place across the capital. Wax knows he should let the constables handle it, but when the thieves attack a wedding he is attending, Wax finds himself in a position to bring a little Roughs-style justice to the city. Unfortunately, the robberies are just the tip of the iceberg, and Wax and Wayne may have gotten themselves in deeper than even they can handle.
Review: The Alloy of Law was a highly enjoyable book, not too serious, not too involved, not too long, just a fun, shoot-em-up Western (well, Western-slash-Edwardian) mystery with the kick-ass action scenes that I’ve come to expect from Sanderson in general, and from his Mistborn books in particular. As you can probably tell, there were a number of elements that I really liked about this book. First, since it takes place in the Mistborn universe but several hundred years after the original trilogy, it feels comfortably familiar without requiring a big time commitment (or a good memory for the details of the trilogy itself). For those who have read the trilogy, though, there’s an added layer of interest in seeing how the world has changed in the intervening centuries, how the characters we knew have become myths and legends, how allomancy has changed (there are a fair number of mistings, but mistborns are so rare as for their very existance to be doubted), and how new technologies both avoid and take advantage of the changing times.
Those technologies are another element I really liked; I haven’t read a lot of historical fantasy set in Edwardian-esque times, and none that I can think of set in the Old West, so I found Alloy of Law‘s setting to be original, and interesting to explore. A lot of elements of the worldbuilding felt like they were the result of an extended thought experiment (i.e. if you have people in your world that can push metal out of the air, what do you do about guns?), but the answers that Sanderson came up with were fascinating, and they were used in the service of a good story, so I was more than happy to go along for the ride.
There were a few elements that kept this book from being a blockbuster for me, however. I liked Wayne’s character, but I thought Sanderson leaned on him a little too heavily as the sole source of comic relief at times. There were a few times when I noticed Sanderson’s personal ideology leaking through in a way that didn’t seem to gel with the rest of the story, which was also something I noticed in the third Mistborn book, and was pretty distracting. And finally, I wish the mystery angle had been just a little meatier – while I didn’t figure things out much ahead of the characters, things happen so quickly (the entire book takes place over roughly 48 hours) that occasionally the mystery plotline felt like a bridge between action sequences, rather than the driving force of the book. But really, none of these issues ever soured my enjoyment of the book, which was a quick, original, and just plain fun read. 4 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: Even if you’re not usually into fantasy for the fight scenes, you should still check this book out; Sanderson’s got the coolest ones around. Recommended for Mistborn fans, of course, but also for fantasy fans who are getting a little tired of medieval settings and/or have a secret thing for Westerns.
Other Reviews: The Book Smugglers, A Dribble of Ink, Drying Ink, Good Books and Good Wine, Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review, Neth Space, The OF Blog, Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.
First Line: Wax crept along the ragged fence in a crouch, his boots scraping the dry ground.
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