Looking for a fun, fast fantasy read with enjoyable characters? Hold on to your hats and your revolvers, because you’ll probably love Brandon Sanderson’s latest novel, Mistborn: The Alloy of Law, released today from TOR books. The original Mistborn trilogy (officially titled Mistborn: The Final Empire) was delightful. It featured a unique magic system, fascinating world, and likable characters, all rotating around a post-modern fantasy plot which had me guessing up until the very last page. But does the sequel stand up to its formidable predecessors?
Set three hundred years after the events of the original trilogy, this book is part western, part high fantasy, part mystery and all action. The book starts off with a bang (literally!), sending you on a ricochet ride through a world which is just beginning its own industrial revolution. Trains, electricity, automobiles and fire-arms are beginning to find their place, but Waxillium Ladrium is having trouble finding his own in the high society of Elendel. Originally an old-west style law-keeper (think Clint Eastwood), Wax has inherited his family estates, and all of the various financial and social obligations that come with them. But the arrival of an old friend marks the beginning of a series of mysterious kidnappings which Wax’s law-keeping instincts simply can’t ignore…
“But Lyndsey,” I suspect you might be thinking at this point. “That sounds cool and all, but I didn’t read the original trilogy. Why would I want to read a sequel to a series I haven’t read?” Well, for starters, I would highly recommend that you put the original trilogy on your reading list, as it is well worth the time. But if you really aren’t ready to delve into a full trilogy and just need a quick fantasy-fix, The Alloy of Law could still be for you. You might be left a little in the dark when it comes to a few references to past events, but those references (with two notable exceptions) are off-hand mentions. Mistborn fans will get a huge kick out of these references (as I did), but without prior knowledge they will likely come off as exceptional world-building.
There were quite a few things that I enjoyed about this novel, but I’ll try to keep it brief (and spoiler-free). The banter between Wax and his friend Wayne was immensely enjoyable and actually resulted in my laughing out loud once or twice, a rare occurrence for me. Seeing the evolution of the magic system was fascinating, and something I’ve never seen in a fantasy novel prior to this book. The characters have adapted their use of magic to fit with the technological advances of the world, and learning each new use of Allomancy was just as interesting as it was in the original trilogy. The action sequences were gripping and easily imagined – at times it felt almost as I were watching a movie instead of reading a novel. And the twists. Oh, the twists. I feel that this is where Sanderson’s writing really shines – his ability to throw me curve balls never ceases to amaze me. There weren’t as many as in The Final Empire, but once or twice I was caught completely off-guard by events in the story.
As for negatives, I will say that Sanderson doesn’t describe his characters’ surroundings as well in this book as he has in others. Perhaps this was an attempt to keep the page-count down, but it resulted in the city and the Roughs feeling rather flat, like a bland color-less tapestry the characters moved through. A fifty-page segment around the middle of the book dragged a little, but thankfully the action picked back up relatively quickly. Also, the biggest “reveal” in the book requires knowledge of the original trilogy, so it might fall a little flat for a new reader. Thankfully it is very near the end and isn’t essential to the plot, feeling more like a hook for a second novel than an integrated plot-point.
Overall, the book stands well on its own (although the potential for a sequel might leave your thirsting for more). It will be a fun introduction to the world of Scadrial for new readers and lovers of old Western movies, and an intriguing look at the evolution of a world for pre-existing Mistborn fans.