Saturday, 10 March 2012

The Alloy of Law

Title: The Alloy of Law
Series: Mistborn #4
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Pages: 325 (paperback)
Published: November 18th 2011
Published by: Gollancz

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.

This is a sort-of sequel to the Mistborn series: it's set over 300 years after the end of the last book and the events and those involved have become legendary figures of history. Now, we have Waxillium 'Wax' Ladrian has been called back from his life as a lawman in the Roughs to be Lord Ladrian after his uncle dies in an accident. It's an adjustment for him, coming back into civilised society, and just as he's starting to get to grips with it things start to happen, drawing him back into his old life.

Allomancy - the metal-burning magic system of this series - is without a doubt the high point of the world Sanderson has created here. It is wonderfully inventive whilst being really quite simple and very easy to understand. The Allomantic fight scenes were beautifully choreographed and incredibly ingenious, and we get more of that here but with the trappings of a 19th century world, namely guns and explosives. In Mistborn #1-3 we namely followed Mistborn fighters - those with the ability to burn all the metals and use all the associated skills - so it was a nice change seeing how someone with just one of the skills fights. They are more limited in their abilities, so it a little less one-sided and you do get the feeling the other person has something of a chance to win. But I do miss Mistborn fighting, because it was just awesome.

I was slightly disappointed by the story line - it wasn't quite as intricate as what I've come to expect from Sanderson, who normally has twists and turns galore, leaving you wondering what on earth is going on until all is revealed in the final few pages. This wasn't the case here, and I'd say it was because he didn't have the same scope as with his other (longer) series if I hadn't seen him pull it off incredibly well in Warbreaker. It was a little to easy to work out what was going on, and while there was a slight twist right at the end it wasn't anywhere near the scale of what he usually pulls out. It was interesting, but just a little flat overall.

Wax and his deputy Wayne are wonderful though. The banter is fantastic, and I love Wayne's sense of humour and weird morals. Characterisation is something I've always found Sanderson a little lacking in, but he didn't seem to have a problem with it here. Marasi was also an interesting character, but seemed to serve as something of a fact-machine more than anything and while he tried to give her some depth, it didn't entirely work for me.

The world has moved on from the days of Mistborn, and it's great seeing the way in which the world and the culture has moved on since then. How the characters have become legends, having cities and months named after them and religions devoted to them. There are nods and references that readers of the previous books will understand and appreciate, but it isn't necessary - I don't think, anyway - to have read them to appreciate this book. There aren't any of the same characters so you're not missing anything there, and because the events took place more than 300 years prior to this book it doesn't matter if you don't know anything about that either. It is entirely possible to pick this book up and enjoy it for what it is.

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