Sunday, 11 November 2012

Review - The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson

The Alloy of Law (Mistborn, #4)

Goodreads summary: Fresh from the success of The Way of Kings, Brandon Sanderson, best known for completing Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time®, takes a break to return to the world of the bestselling Mistborn series.

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.

The Alloy of Law is Sanderson’s follow-up to his epic fantasy trilogy, the Mistborn series. Sanderson is an extraordinary fantasy writer, with the enviable ability to create unique alternative worlds operating on fascinating and totally original systems of magic. The Mistborn trilogy is far and away one of my favourite fantasy series of all time, and I was eager to read this follow-up novel despite knowing that it would not feature any of the classic characters from the original series, being set in the future.

The Mistborn series contains one of the most original magical systems I’ve ever read. Allomancy and Feruchemy are magical abilities which work by ‘burning’ metals to enhance one’s abilities, and those with either skill generally have only one such ability. An issue I often have with adult fantasy is that it can get too bogged-down in world-building and complex details. As original as Ian Irvine’s fantasy world in the Well of Echoes trilogy may be, I confess that most of the detailed explanations of Geomancy went right over my head (possibly because I’m not a science person!). But this never happens with Sanderson’s novels:  they’re both complex and readable, and that’s no easy feat.

The protagonist, Waxillium Ladrian, is a Twinborn, one of the few people with abilities in both Allomancy and Feruchemy, capable of Pushing on metals for limitless movement, and of becoming lighter or heavier at will. A reluctant aristocrat who spent most of his life in the Roughs, catching criminals, he is expected to assume his role as the head of his House and to find a suitable wife.  But in the city, mysterious crimes are being committed, with seemingly random thefts and kidnappings. He and his former partner-in-crime Wayne - a man capable of healing himself even of a life-threatening injury - and Marasi, a friend of his kidnapped fiancé, have to join forces to uncover who’s behind the robberies – and what their true motives are.

Whilst not quite as intensely gripping as the original trilogy, The Alloy of Law is an excellent book, drawing us into a future world far away from the world left ravaged at the end of The Hero of Ages. The book is intended as a companion to the series and, as such, it would be better to have read the trilogy first (I highly recommend them!) to gain an idea of the context of the events. That said, The Alloy of Law is a great story in its own right, with the same page-turning quality, epic fight sequences, and vivid, well-developed characterisation that makes his Mistborn series so stunning.

Rating: *****

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