Review: Alloy of Law

alloy of law coverI am pretty sure I’ve mentioned Brandon Sanderson in other posts.  In fact, I’m pretty sure that I’ve compared other novels to Brandon’s works, whether or not I was fair in my comparison.  So, if you’ve followed my blog, you would be right in assuming that I am a fan of Brandon Sanderson.  So, when I received Alloy of Law for a Christmas gift a few Christmases ago, you’d assume I would just hop right into the book and devour it.  Well, I’ve been nervous–very nervous–about this book because I knew I would compare it to the original Mistborn trilogy. I knew Mistborn before the title was changed to The Final Empire, first book of the Mistborn series. I was shocked when certain characters died, when other characters betrayed them, and I enjoyed every high-fantasy twist and turn.  So when I heard that the next trilogy (quadrology, soon?) would be a Western-style Mistborn, I was excited, but wary.

I think Alloy of Law is a good book.  It is well-written, with interesting characters and a solid plot.  I enjoyed Wax and Wayne’s exploits, I feel that Marasi was a good female addition to the team (although Sanderson is still going with his pattern of one important female character per book, maybe two if the book is lucky), and the use of Allomancy in this civilization with greater technology was creative.  I also enjoyed the addition of Twinborns (characters with both Allomantic and Feruchemic powers), though I think they were too common. However, I feel that this book takes place, rather than a Western-style Mistborn universe, in a Mistborn-tinted Western universe.

In the original trilogy, Sanderson built an entire new civilization.  Yes, there were elements of Medieval life and Victorian-era life, but it was mainly a fairly new creation.  Sanderson made special weapons based around Allomancy, with people using obsidian blades and dueling sticks rather than metal swords so that the metal couldn’t be Pushed or Pulled.  There were several different social hierarchies evident plainly and explored, with the Nobles and the Skaa, the Terrismen, the Kandra, the Koloss.  There was a wide array of characters with different personalities, traits, little details that made them unique.  There were multiple religions, many of them important to the books to such a degree that I can’t believe they wouldn’t play a role in the world three hundred years later.

In Alloy of Law, you have guns, trains, tunnels, automobiles. You have the Roughs, but you only see them for a chapter.  You have a city with eight Octants, though if they have differences then I didn’t notice them.  You have clothes based off the Wild West with very little variation.  You have Twinborns, but you have no more Mistborns.  All in all, everything felt shallower, smaller.  Yes, I understand that this is a detective story instead of a high fantasy “overthrow the evil ruler/force” story, but that doesn’t mean the Mistborn world deserves a copy-paste of Western/early 1900’s society. There is one character, Ranette, who creates things that I expect to see in a society with technology developing around Allomantic and Feruchemic powers, but even that is underutilized.

There was also a lot more telling instead of showing, and though Brandon Sanderson is prone to big chunks of exposition he is also excellent at crafting a scene that shows so much of a society or a world in pages that just fly by.  We are told that Wax is responsible for thousands of peoples’ employment.  We are told that things are bad in the Roughs, though we don’t get to see them.  We are told that the mines are bad for the workers, though we never visit the mines.  We are told the motivation of the villain’s actions, though we don’t see evidence of what caused that motivation. There is no evidence for all the things we are told, and though Sanderson likes to tell things a lot, he usually backs them up by showing them too.

This all makes it sound like I disliked the book.  I didn’t dislike it, I just wasn’t as wowed by it as other people have been.  I will read the next book.  It sounds like it is bringing back some of the things that made the Mistborn universe unique in the first trilogy.  If so–Bring It On!

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