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I read Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy last year and it is one of my favourite epic fantasy works. I hope that one day I can actually review those books here, maybe after reading them again, but for now I'll just say that I became a fan of Sanderson's writing, his world building and the way he tackles a lot of interesting and important issues throughout the trilogy's plots. He has said, to my absolute delight, that his intention for that world was to produce three trilogies in different times. Meanwhile, he seems to have decided to give Mistborn fans a dessert with The Alloy of Law.
This book has a short story, a typical gunslinger-western plot with the addition of Mistborn's magic system, happening 300 years after the events of the original trilogy. It follows Waxillium Ladrian, a noble turned lawkeeper, initially in the Roughs (the rural part of that civilization) and then as he comes back to the big city somewhat forced to assume his role as the family's heir. Although there are some references to Wax relearning to live with the aristocracy after spending years away, that's by no means the main focus of the book. There are also some steampunk elements, namely the introduction of guns, cars, trains, lamps in a magical and somewhat unindustrialised world, the emancipation of women, or even the main character with his tendency to individualism - a typical "I'll change the world by myself" kind of mind - and his do-it-yourself science (here in the form of alloying). Despite all this I wouldn't consider The Alloy of Law a steampunk novel. The plot is first and foremost that of a crime thriller and a very good one at that, with a bit of mystery kept until the end. The reference and description of the multiple weapons used adds to the western feel of the book. The characters are very believable, if somewhat predictable, though the plans they concoct aren't as obvious and keep the story quite interesting all the way through. The action is also constantly present, giving the plot a fluid and exciting development.
The fusion of magic and technology was very well done and I actually wish I could read more stories exploring the possibilities Sanderson's allomancy/feruchemy/hemalurgy system allows in multiple contexts (in other words, I can't wait for his urban fantasy and sci-fi story arcs). The way the gun fights are enhanced by the movement the magic allows, the increased bullet power, a kind of kinetic shield, the time warps and the healing ability had really cool consequences. Another marvellous addition is the association with the previous trilogy, mostly through religious (which for those who have read Mistborn is particularly good) and historical references. The characters I knew and liked became legends for this society, used as moral examples but also as everyday expressions, in Scadrial's own versions of "oh my god" or the even the boogieman.
One particular theme I enjoyed seeing explored was the effects of taking ideals as your only compass, here shown by a character who doesn't mind harming or killing innocent people in the name of his own revolution, his war against injustice and exploration. For those who have read the previous trilogy, another thing one must notice is the recurrence of nobility systems. It seems that whatever cataclysm this world goes through, the society ends up organizing itself in a similar manner, despite the consequences such injustices have had before.
The one negative claim I can make is that, probably to try to make the book readable as a stand alone story, there are some moments where the narrator slows the action and dumps some information. But I should add that this is by no means too frequent or considerably damaging to the reading experience.
With The Alloy of Law, Brandon Sanderson offers both a bonus read for Mistborn fans and a genre bending humorous and very refreshing story, probably as a bridge to his second arc in that same world, establishing a new social and technological context and defining a mythology based on the events of the first trilogy. If this is in any way a sample of what's to come, good for us all.
This review was originally published on my blog.
Versão portuguesa publicada em Clockwork Portugal.