The Sanderlanche cometh, and this time it’s riding a hulking metal locomotive. All aboard, because Brandy Sandy’s taking us back to the world of Mistborn. For me, it’s an especially exciting journey, because The Alloy of Law marks my first ever written review of a Brandon Sanderson book. Reading this one made me feel like a Coinshot myself, launching right back into the mists and quickly becoming re-enamored with this impressive epic fantasy world.
If you’re looking for a review of the original Mistborn trilogy, check out our Book Rookie discussions:
The Alloy of Law opens in a world that would be unrecognizable to the Skaa of Mistborn’s ill-fated medieval dictatorship. 300 years after the events of The Hero of Ages, the world oozes wild west vibes. Waxillium Ladrian, a man of noble blood who left the prosperous city of Elendel to become a lawmaker in the Roughs, finds duty calling him back to the city after the death of his uncle leaves the Ladrian estate vacant. Waxillium returns to Elendel to manage his estate’s affairs and quickly finds that trouble is afoot. This trouble, in true Western form, includes a string of train robberies. Rather than focusing on keeping his estate’s staff and assets in order, Wax dives headfirst into the web of crime, aided by his old pal Wayne and his new friend/will-they-won’t-they partner, Marasi.
I don’t know how else to say it: Brandon Sanderson’s prose just hits different. Reading the first few pages of Alloy felt like reuniting with an old friend, a friend who had evolved and grown, but who’s still recognizable as that person you knew from way back. Even though the world of Mistborn has transformed, it still feels authentic and true to the experience I had reading the first three books.
In Alloy, though, the world feels more focused, and more reliant on the characters. It’s not a massive POV-jumping epic journey like the Final Empire trilogy was. Instead, The Alloy of Law tells a sharply honed story that beckons readers back into a world that has fundamentally changed. The characters are immediately relatable: Wayne provides comic relief and loosens up Wax. Marasi knows how to investigate a crime by the books and brings that knowledge to the forefront as a straight shooter among wild west vigilantes. Wax, like Vin before him, struggles to balance the pull to live in the Roughs and keep the law and the push to manage his family’s estate and keep it afloat. Immediately, Sanderson crafts characters that make the massive changes to the world easy to comprehend because they each have their own distinct place in it.
Another grounding force in The Alloy of Law is the magic system (grounding to the reader, despite allowing characters to fly around willy nilly). Magic is common-ish in the world of Mistborn now, and some lucky folks are Twinborn, able to use multiple magic systems in tandem to greater effect. Wax and Wayne are both twinborn, and they use their powers to stunning effect. I’m constantly in awe of how Sanderson makes such a complex system, complete with 16 metals and two separate ways of using them (not to mention Hemalurgy…) feel completely accessible. Every time a character uses his or her Allomancy or Feruchemy, I flip through the pages in a manic dash, eager to devour Sanderson’s descriptions of these awesome powers. The magic system alone is reason enough to dive into this series, and the amazing prose and characters simply feel like a bonus.
The figurative magic of Alloy’s literal magic systems owes a lot to the original trilogy. Mistborn era 1 lays all the groundwork needed to catapult this world into a Western-era revolution. The original trilogy serves as a blueprint for the religion, history, and lore of the world. Given the frankly mind-blowing amount of context Sanderson gave in Mistborn and its two sequels, the world of Alloy feels real and palpable in a way so few fantasy worlds do. Societies evolve over time, and Alloy shows us one possible path forward for a world filled with metal-based magic. The religions and beliefs that evolve out of this reborn world are fascinating thanks to 1) the thoughtful examinations of these themes in the first three books and 2) the way those themes manifest in characters 300 years removed from earlier events. In some ways, Sanderson’s worldbuilding feels like it draws from evolutionary tales of fantasy’s sibling genre, sci-fi. By melding the concepts, this book becomes something completely unique…almost as if it combined two metals to make a new, stronger alloy.
And of course, there’s the story. The Wild West motif is a fun hook and a welcome change from Mistborn’s more traditional epic fantasy sheen. That backdrop makes the interlaced stories of Wax’s duties to his estate and the ongoing banditry an intriguing mystery. Plus, the addition of guns to the story levels the previous playing field that was dominated by magic to a significant degree. This decoupling of magic and agency in the story paves the way for new characters to play more meaningful roles than they might have played in previous installments, which, in Alloy, fleshes out the narrative and gives us an admirable cast. I’m staying hush about the details of the story, but if you like train robberies or heists in general, you’ll enjoy this plot.
The Alloy of Law culminates in an epic battle and a quick conclusion. In true Sanderson form, the final 100 pages were a mad dash for me. One major reveal already has me hankering for Shadows of Self, and a working theory I have about a certain Kandra is burning a hole in my brain. Think of the great green doors of the Emerald City creaking open, revealing a world of wonders to Dorothy and her companions. That’s what Alloy’s ending feels like. It’s an invitation to explore the sparkling new world you’ve just encountered, and it promises joy, fear, and action in equal measure. Let the Sanderlanche take me–I’m ready for the ride.
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