First Line (Prologue): Wax crept along the ragged fence in a crouch, his boots scraping the dry ground.
First, I’ll remind you that I’m a tremendous fan of Sanderson’s Mistborn universe. I flew through Mistborn, The Well of Ascension, and The Hero of Ages and have been sorely tempted to go back and reread them on several occasions but haven’t yet. Not because they aren’t worth a reread (they most definitely are), but rather because of the size of the “books to read” pile in my reading room (yes… I have a reading room. It’s awesome. You should get one). One thing I’ve learned since completing that trilogy is that most of Sanderson’s storylines are contained within the same universe, which makes me really want to read his earlier novels (Elantris and Warbreaker, specifically). Yay! More books for The Pile(™)!
The Alloy of Law (AL) takes place 300 years after the conclusion of the Mistborn trilogy, and the evolution and progress that have taken place is a joy to behold. Sanderson put a lot of time into developing both the technological and magical advances that occurred in the intervening centuries, and I found them quite breathtaking at times. I’ve heard AL called a blend of Fantasy and Steampunk, but for me, not being overly familiar with the Steampunk genre, it read as more of a combination of Fantasy and a Louis L’Amour western (which I gobbled up as a kid). The addition of iron-based architecture, gunpowder, and firearms to Sanderson’s magic system results in some amazingly fun and fast-paced action sequences, something that Sanderson excels at.
The biggest difference between the trilogy and this standalone novel is the scope of the story. You aren’t going to get the same type of intertwining storylines and multiple character PoVs as you do with a typical fantasy novel. AL is much shorter and much more focused, so it’s a different kind of read. It’s almost as if Sanderson thought to himself “what if Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday had allomancy?” and just started a story about those two characters in his universe. Brilliant!
I found Wax, the hero, to be a particularly engrossing character. His battles with moral conscience and his own memories and demons let him have an inner journey that, at times, I felt more compelling than the outer journey. He’s a flawed, rogueish, reluctant hero torn between doing what’s right for himself and what’s right for the city he abandoned years ago. The inner conflicts fuel the outer, and with twists and turns galore, I found AL to be more closely related to Mistborn in style than the later two books.
While The Alloy of Law is certainly a stand-alone novel, knowing the history of the Mistborn trilogy will reveal some very subtle details. Streets, cities, and religions are all named after events or based upon the actions of characters long dead, much the same as we have today with Martin Luther King Boulevard, Independence Day, Washington DC, and Calvinism (among many, many others). It’s another extremely nice touch that indicates the level of detail and skill Sanderson applies to his worldbuilding. Not knowing these references won’t interfere with the story (Sanderson gives brief explanations of the history from time to time), but being aware of them adds depth to the story.
All in all, The Alloy of Law a very good read and I recommend it, especially if you enjoyed the previous books set in this universe.