This Week, I've Been Mixing it Up With. . .
The Alloy of Law
I was so pleased to see that Brandon Sanderson had extended his original Mistborn Trilogy, as I found the magical system he’d developed for the series, that of Allomancy, Feruchemy, and Hemalurgy – processes whereby practitioners burn/employ different metals, and, after blending & activating them with the essence of his or her own body or mind to produce the desired outcome – to be innovative, and somewhat different to other fantasy novels I’ve read of late.
And what an extension it proved to be. This is what the back cover reveals:
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.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I found the premise to be rather refreshing. Scadrial has been brought forward in time, and we’re given a glimpse of what has become of the world and its people after our heroes and heroines put things right at the end of the last trilogy.
For the most part, society has drawn together in what is now the Elendel Basin, a prepared and cultivated region surrounding its namesake capital and other provincial towns for many miles in all directions. Life is good. People are civilized. And culture, law and order is an accepted way of life. Beyond the encircling mountains, however, is The Roughs; a wilderness plains area, much like the wild west of cowboys & Indians fame. Life is much harsher there, and people look to gun slinging lawmen and women to keep the peace.
The three metallic arts still exist, though Allomancy and Feruchemy are by far the most widely practiced. (Hemalurgy, it seems, is unknown in the modern world, its secrets being kept by the kandra who survived Scadrial’s rebirth)
Of the populace, there are those who are capable of burning just one of the 16 arcane metals, be it as an Allomancer or as a Feruchemist in a single form, or there are the twinborn. Those blessed with both an allomantic and feruchemical capability combined.
So what happens?
Vin, Elend, Sazed and Spook may have guaranteed the world’s survival and the coming of a new age, but people are still people. And as we see, while society as a whole has advanced – to a degree – there are those still intent on getting what they want by any means necessary. Fair or foul. Lords continue to be aloof. The downtrodden, rebellious. And villains? Oh, they’re always out for what they can get. And when you combine all three?
Great rollicking fun! That’s what.
I’ve often thought it odd when successful writers allow their universes to remain static for so long. Brandon Sanderson hasn’t made that mistake. And by allowing Scadrial to progress over the intervening three hundred years, it injects a breath of fresh air into a well-established world, and a superb slant on his ever-evolving story arc.
The Alloy of Law is markedly shorter. At 325 pages, its half the length of his other Mistborn novels. But that doesn’t reduce the enjoyment. Our protagonists and antagonists are well thought out and skillfully introduced. And the relationship between Wax and Wayne is particularly engaging. (Reminding me, to some degree, of Alias Smith & Jones) – You’ll see. The dialogue is sharp; the slow burn a treat; the action – when it comes – relentless; and that story arc I mentioned? It’s a treasure to behold, as it allows the continuing mystery to establish deeper roots, to develop, and evolve into an appealing murder-mystery-whodunnit-action-adventure.
Or to put it succinctly: Sherlock Holmes meets Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid.
(And yes, I’m already into the second in this series) J