Although I wasn't thrilled with the last two Mistborn novels, I was keen to read Brandon Sanderson's The Alloy of Law. Set three hundred years following the events of The Hero of Ages, the author takes his tale to a future, more modern era. Which makes it something quite different from basically everything else on the market today.
Here's the blurb:
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.
As was the case with the original trilogy, the worldbuilding remains the most fascinating aspect of this book. But Sanderson takes it up a notch in The Alloy of Law by setting the story a few centuries in the future, in an industrial world now on the cusp of modernity. As such, the setting takes readers out of their comfort zone and makes for a number of surprises. The magic system continues to be awesome, even more so in a more modern environment. Think magical cowboy shootouts and you begin to get an idea of what I'm alluding to! As is habitually his wont, Brandon Sanderson's action sequences are incredible.
Unfortunately, the characterization is the weakest facet of this work. The original trilogy, especially the last two volumes, suffered from the same shortcoming. Sanderson's books have always been plagued by black and white characters, and the same can be said of The Alloy of Law. The good guys always look good, are too clever, never seem to make mistakes or get out of them without much trouble when they do. There is no true gray area. Juvenile humor and a general YA feel abound. Waxillium may be a better balanced protagonist than most of Sanderson's characters, yet he is no Roland of Gilead. Not by a longshot. Wayne is an often annoying sidekick and a poor man's Mat. Marasi is pretty much a carbon copy of Shallan from The Way of Kings. Didn't care much for any of the characters, and with Sanderson you just know that all the good guys will live to see another day.
Another problem is Sanderson's utter refusal to use profanities, even when the story demands a swear word or two. Even worst is the author's use of made-up expressions instead. Harmony's forearms??? Are you kidding me??? It's okay for a character to blow someone else's head up with his firearm, but it's a major foul for one of them to say "shit."
The pace is good and the action keeps you turning those pages. The plot is pretty linear and predictable. Still, Sanderson has a few unexpected surprises up his sleeves before the end is reached.
In the end, though different The Alloy of Law is no better or worse than the Mistborn trilogy. Sanderson fans -- there are legions of them -- will eat it up with a spoon. The author's detractors will find nothing to make them change their minds regarding Brandon Sanderson, however. It's no improvement and it suffers from practically the same shortcomings as the original series. But if only for the magical cowboy shootouts, you might want to give it a shot!