Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson – Book Review
Alloy of Law brings everything readers loved about Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn Trilogy, high-octane magic systems – Allomancy, fun, quirky characters, and a thrilling complex plot and dumps it all into a thoroughly Western setting. Join Wax and Wayne – yes the naming was intentional – two officers from the Roughs, an analogue to the American Old West, as they move back to the big city and attempt to solve a series of mysterious robberies and kidnappings carried out by a gang known as the Vanishers.
Waxillium Ladrian, Wax for short, is a young lord who left Elendel to bring law to the dangerous Roughs. His uncle’s death and an unfortunate accident during the first chapter convince Wax to abandon the life and reputation he’s made for himself bringing criminals to justice and head back to Elendel to manage the estate and all of the workers that he indirectly employs. Just when he believes he’s left his life behind and he’s ready to pursue a marriage to help stabilize his family’s ailing finances he’s brought back in as his fiancé’ to be is kidnapped.
Joining Wax is his old sidekick, Wayne – an intentional play on words that sums up both characters personalities – as well as young Marasi, a close relative of his fiancé and aspiring legal justice from the University. Together the three band together to tease out the puzzle of the Vanishers and just what it is that they are really after during their mysterious robberies.
Sanderson has made it known in subsequent interviews that Alloy of Law was merelyan experiment, a short side-project meant mostly to keep his inspiration and creative channels free and flowing between larger more in-depth projects. The novel grew in the telling and soon passed the novella length and rested firmly in novel territory. Perhaps because of these more humble origins Alloy of Law is infused with a certain level of humor and wit that, while present in previous Sanderson works, has never been displayed to quite this level before. Wayne in particular is a source of constant amusement as his witticisms always hit the perfect comedic timing to pace apart the action and intrigue of the plot.
Sanderson gained his reputation in the fantasy community through his creation of complex and interesting magic systems and this book marks the return of the one that put him on the map. Allomancy is the ability to glean a power by ingesting a source of metal – such as tin, iron, or steel – and “burning” that metal. Soon we’re treated to highflying leaps as Coinshots shoot themselves into the air by pushing on spent bullet casings and Tineyes enhance their senses by ingesting, you guessed it, tin.
Along with the return of the Allomantic powers we learned about in Mistborn we get to witness whole new metals and the powers they bestow. Most notably is Wayne’s allomantic power derived from bendalloy, which grants him the ability to create a speed bubble, a tiny sphere of enclosed space that moves at normal speed while everything outside the bubble remains frozen.
But that’s not all. Brandon also takes this chance to introduce the concept of Twinborns. That is a individual who not only possess 1 of the 16 Allomantic powers but 1 of the 16 Feruchemical powers as well. In the aforementioned Waynes case, not only is he able to effectively freeze time in an area around him using Allomancy but also by wearing bracers of gold he is able to store health by being sick for an amount of time in order to tap and heal himself at a later date.
With the fabled Mistborn, those able to ingest and use all of the 16 allomantic powers, a thing of legend, the role of the Twinborn steps into play and we’re given an interesting glimpse into the potential coupling of complimentary powers.
When we left Scadriel it was in a weird place technologically speaking. The Lord Ruler had closed an iron fist over advancements such as gunpowder and locomotion, while cultivating a manner of dress similar to Victorian London and technologies such as canned foods. Well 300 years later and those restrictions are no more. Now trains follow the canals that marked the setting prior and revolvers, rifles, and shotguns are aplenty. Even newspapers have made it to Scadriel, with a broadsheet being featured interspersed among the chapters, and other interior illustrations that were expertly drawn by Ben McSweeney and Isaac Stewart.
While it isn’t necessary to have read the original Mistborn trilogy to enjoy Alloy of Law it certainly lends plenty of moments of fond memories for those that did. Whether it’s the talk of the Ascendant Warrior (Vin), Old Ironeyes (a surviving Steel Inquisitor), or even the still functioning Church of the Survivor, allusions run rampant. A keen eye could spend an entire article listing the references found in the map alone!
The one area that Alloy of Law fell short for me is in the one-dimensionality of its characters. While each character is distinct and its easier to connect Wayne as the comedian, Wax as the action-hero, and so on, I feel it left something to be wanted as it was often easy to predict not only how a character would act but what they would precisely do once new information or situation was given to them. It hampered any significant character growth in a disappointing way.
As a caveat I feel compelled to mention that this did not, in any way, hamper my ability to enjoy the book as I still found it next to impossible to set down once I had picked it up for my evening read. Brandon has also gone on to state that he plans more books set in this time period with Wax and Wayne returning in style in a future installment tentatively titled Shadows of Self.
Alloy of Law was a brilliant return to the world of Scadriel where the mists reign supreme and Allomantically charged individuals take to the sky in tassled, Mistcloak glory. If you enjoyed Brandon’s breakout trilogy Mistborn you cannot miss Alloy of Law as it brings the logical technological advancement to a world of magic.
Three hundred years after the events of the Mistborn trilogy, Scadrial is now on the verge of modernity, with railroads to supplement the canals, electric lighting in the streets and the homes of the wealthy, and the first steel-framed skyscrapers racing for the clouds.
Kelsier, Vin, Elend, Sazed, Spook, and the rest are now part of history—or religion. Yet even as science and technology are reaching new heights, the old magics of Allomancy and Feruchemy continue to play a role in this reborn world. Out in the frontier lands known as the Roughs, they are crucial tools for the brave men and women attempting to establish order and justice.
One such is Waxillium Ladrian, a rare Twinborn, who can Push on metals with his Allomancy and use Feruchemy to become lighter or heavier at will. After twenty years in the Roughs, Wax has been forced by family tragedy to return to the metropolis of Elendel. Now he must reluctantly put away his guns and assume the duties and dignity incumbent upon the head of a noble house. Or so he thinks, until he learns the hard way that the mansions and elegant tree-lined streets of the city can be even more dangerous than the dusty plains of the Roughs.