Three hundred years after the original Mistborn trilogy, we enter the world of Scanrial, and our old heroes of Vin, Elend, Kelsier, Sazed, and the rest of the crew are now just members of history. Brandson Sanderson expertly moves the clock from a late medieval-fantasy setting to a steampunk-western setting, and the reader will follow the story of a wealthy self-exiled noble named Waxillium “Wax” Ladrian as he makes the choice to return to the big city after living out in the wild roughs for many years as a Twinborn magic user. Sanderson carves a very different hero than the original Mistborn protagonist, Vin, who was the young girl who discovers her powers and grows into a legendary hero. Wax is a man who has seen the harshness of life and knows his abilities quite well in a much more advanced society than Vin experienced. Seems like quite the change of direction for Sanderson, especially in that same universe, let’s find out how well he pulls it off.
Violence: The book is riddled with violence. It is not overly grotesque, but people are kicked, punched, shot, stabbed, and beaten. There is blood and people do die, the innocent and guilty. The violence occurs from the very beginning to the very end.
Sexual Content: There is nothing explicit, but there are characters who discuss mistresses and there are mentions about brothels. There is also a romantic subplot, but it isn’t sexual in nature.
Drug/Alcohol Use: Minor content, some characters do drink and there is some smoking that occurs.
Spiritual Content: The society they live in is religious. Everyone appears to follow some type of religion and those religions all seem to connect back to a larger belief. The lead character finds himself calling on a god for assistance. I won’t divulge any more for the sake of spoilers, but know that faith is alive and well in this story. If you have read the original Mistborn trilogy, then it will make sense to you.
Language/Crude Humor: There is some language, such as h***, a**, and d***, but they are used sparingly. Some very minor characters also talk crudely about brothels.
Other Negative Content: Sanderson loves his stories to have some sort of a caste system built into it, even in this story, where we are many centuries into the future. While there isn’t as much of a caste system placed upon the people, there is a clear wealth disparity. Some people live wealthy and have less to concern themselves, while others are just trying to make it to another day.
Positive themes: This book is full of heroism and people who have pasts that are less than noble who try to do great things. We see characters make sacrifices for the greater good, and these are definitely sacrifices they do not want to make. We see the lead characters act as a team to overcome challenges throughout the plot.
Here we go again, Mike doing another Sanderson book review? Yep! Why do you ask? Because I can’t get enough of his stories! They are fun, well written, clever, and for the most part… very clean. Alloy of Law is no different, it is an action packed ride full of fun, likable, and well-thought out characters. I want to get this right out front: This book follows up on Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy and the book manages to carry itself quite well, independent of the original trilogy, but there is substantial content in this book that will be confusing if you have not read the original trilogy. You could read this book without the original trilogy, but I wouldn’t recommend it; I think Alloy of Law is better read after the original trilogy. Additionally, the original trilogy is just so stinkin’ good that it is worth your time anyway!
Alloy of Law follows the story of Wax as he returns to civilization to take over the family estate after his uncle passes away. Wax certainly has no interest in returning, but he feels an obligation to the hundreds of people who work for the Ladrian family. Wax came back from the “roughs,” which is beyond the mountains that separate civilization and this world’s version of the wild west. Wax left his civilized life behind to go be a lawman out in the roughs and care for the people who live out there by trying his best to impose order. However, if you have ever seen an old western movie, then you know how hard that can be. Wax will soon discover that “civilized” high society is no easier to live in than the lawless, yet more simple, “roughs.”
Wax’s attempt at returning to civilized life is short lived as his old deputy from the roughs, Wayne, shows up to seek his help with a larger plot at play. Wayne wants to stop some vagrants who are robbing train cars and are potentially up to more than just simple robbery. Wax and Wayne’s banter is one of the most enjoyable dynamics I have ever read. Wax is clearly the leader and respectable hero, while Wayne is the wily goofball sidekick that keeps Wax’s life interesting. It feels like a wild west Holmes and Watson relationship that works really, really well. The reader quickly senses that there is considerable history between the two and both characters are well done. They both stand very well on their own and there are a few chapters where they are apart, which were great chapters in their own right. Wayne is full of antics and shenanigans, while Wax is a diligent heroic detective working to try and uncover the plot.
There are several other really done characters in the book, including a female named Marasi Colms, who is a relative of Wax’s arranged fiancé. Wait? Mike?! Wax is engaged? Yes, a couple of times (as you will read) and I won’t say anything further because they are important to the story. Wax does choose an arranged marriage for the betterment of House Ladrian, and the chapter covering that arrangement is quite entertaining. Back to Marasi: She is going to university and chooses to help Wax and Wayne in their investigation, and she is an incredible member to their team. She is new to the “shooting people” activity, but she uses her wit and intelligence to help move the plot forward despite jumping into the dangerous world that Wax and Wayne thrive in.
About that world… it wouldn’t be Sanderson without a clever magic system. If you have read the original trilogy, then you know it well, it’s called Allomancy. There are special, and rare, people in the Mistborn series that have the ability to use metals for their powers. For example, Wax can swallow (yes, swallow) steel and use it to push other metals. This comes in handy when you have a small coin that you can push as a bullet, or help enhance a bullet’s impact as it fires from a gun. There is also a second magic system called Feruchemy that allows people to store attributes like health, weight, or strength into metal and then expend it when necessary. A little confusing? It is, but Sanderson did a fantastic job explaining all of this in his original series in a way that was clear and not overwhelming. It is rare for a character to be able to use magic in the Mistborn world and those people can only take advantage of one specific metal from one of the two magic systems. For example, one can use the powers that come from steel, but not iron or pewter. What makes Wax and Wayne unique is that they are twinborn, which means they have the extremely rare ability to use a metal from both Allomancy and Feruchemy!
The complexity of Sanderson’s world is why I would advise the reader to tackle the original series first because Sanderson does not spend nearly as much time world building and focusing on the magic system in this book. He is really just trying to bring old readers up to speed, and in my opinion, moves through the lore a little too fast at times. That is my only complaint with the book; as compared to the original series, where at times it could move a little too slow, this one moves fairly fast.
However, I won’t complain too much about the active nature of the plot. The action in this book is fantastic. Sanderson gets really creative with how he uses his magic system in a wild west setting. There are epic gun fights where Wax and Wayne use their unique abilities to take down a large number of bandits and vagrants. I really enjoyed the epic fight scenes and I genuinely felt like I was reading a western with some fantasy spin thrown on top of it!
Sanderson’s world is rooted in religion and faith, and we see our heroes struggle with who their god is and his purpose for them. I found it interesting that the characters struggled so much with that world’s god given the events that occurred at the end of the original trilogy. Without spoiling much, this would be like us struggling with God several hundred years after Jesus’s death and resurrection. We are only a few hundred years out, we should still be fully committed, right? Not at all, this book was a reminder that we have to diligently be committed to Christ because we see in the Bible that God’s people doubted God almost immediately after He came through for them in a big way. This may not have been Sanderson’s intent, but I felt convicted that we, as a people, can lose sight of God fairly quickly if we don’t remain daily committed to Him.
Overall, this book is very well done. Quite different from Sanderson’s original series that put a heavy emphasis on world building and developing the magic system, and instead focused on a fast and fun paced narrative. I would highly recommend it to any Sanderson fan. You will have a great time in this great wild west fantasy story.
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