Review: The Alloy of Law

Posted: November 4, 2011 by in Books We Love (5/5 single_star) Meta: Brandon Sanderson, Fantasy

My favorite works by Brandon Sanderson are his Mistborn novels (Amazon). From the moment I picked up THE FINAL EMPIRE all the way through the last page of THE HERO OF AGES, I was loving the series. I like all of Sanderson’s novels, but the Mistborn series, for me, is far better than all the rest.

And now we have a new Mistborn novel, THE ALLOY OF LAW (Amazon). When I received a copy of this in the mail, everything else went on hold.

THE ALLOY OF LAW is set 300 years after the events of THE HERO OF AGES. The city of Elendel is in the midst of an industrial awakening, and the characters of the past Mistborn novels are all referenced by way of varied religions. The story follows Waxillium Ladrian as he goes from being a frontier lawman of sorts in the Roughs to a lord over his house in the city–think equal parts Bruce Wayne and Wyatt Earp. The woman Wax is to marry is kidnapped, and thus begins the adventure.

First things first: THE ALLOW OF LAW is a standalone novel. While I imagine a bunch of the stuff from here will end up referenced in Sanderson’s next Mistborn Trilogy, this is a stand-alone novel. The first two things that stood out while I was reading this novel was first, the evolution of the setting. Sanderson does an excellent job showing how this world has evolved from the city, to the religion, to the culture. It is all done logically and descriptively. It felt like the Mistborn world had actually evolved rather than just painted over with a vague, western facade.

The second thing that jumped out was the evolution in the magic. Waxillium (Wax) is a Twinborn. He can use both Allomancy and Feruchemy. Not only did Sanderson avoid falling back on having his hero be an all-powerful Mistborn (a nice touch), but he still managed to make his hero powerful by mixing powers together. It was an extremely refreshing blend of familiar and new, and honestly has me super excited for future possibilities. Seriously. Just think about it for a minute.

Yeah. Awesome, right?

The side characters feel like just that: side characters. They are fleshed out enough to give the story weight, and to make the reader like them. But don’t expect the other characters to be fleshed out like you would from Sanderson’s THE WAY OF KINGS. THE ALLOW OF LAW is a short (by Sanderson’s standards!) novel. I’ll tell you why I’m OK with this: the novel is focused. I wanted to get to know Wax, and Sanderson did that. No fluff. No wandering. No repetitive sections. Nope. THE ALLOY OF LAW is a focused and well-paced novel.

Did I love everything about it? No (when do I ever?). A lot of this comes to personal taste, so none of this may bother you readers at all. Remember WARBREAKER (Amazon)? Where all the characters thought they were comedians? THE ALLOY OF LAW has the same sort of vibe. Now I get that Brandon doesn’t do super dark and gritty (which I would LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE him to do… he would KILL it!!!), but to me the humor in this novel was too much. Just when I would start to completely lose myself in this beautiful progressing world, Wax or his friend Wayne (another Twinborn with some awesome abilities) would do something so silly that I would be thrown completely out of the novel. Now perhaps this is my fault for expecting an actual Western… and when I think of Westerns I think of Unforgiven. ALLOW OF LAW is hardly Western at all. It’s light Western, and light Steampunk.

But here’s the thing, that humor only makes up a very small portion of the novel. If you are OK with Sanderson’s humor, then you’ll love this book. If, like me, you aren’t a fan, then simply ignore the humor and focus on the gunplay and magic–you’ll likely love the novel this way.

My favorite part of this novel was the ending. Not only do we get a very cool set-piece that shows how far the world has come, but we get some great action, a light twist, and then Sanderson has characters choose duty over desire. I was worried Brandon was going to go all “happily ever after” on me. Whew. Didn’t happen.

Sanderson takes a departure with THE ALLOY OF LAW; while it feels like MISTBORN in some ways, in others it's its own beast.

It’s hard for me to rank this book in terms of Sanderson’s other novels. I like it better than ELANTRIS and much better than WARBREAKER. The jury is still out on how Stormlight Archive (Amazon) series is going to turn out. But THE ALLOY OF LAW isn’t quite up to the standards of the other other Mistborn novels. I think this is due to it feeling more like a long novella that was able to sneak into novel-form. That’s not a criticism, just an observation. The long and short of it is fans of Brandon’s work will love this novel.

Now I know I said this is a stand-alone. I know Brandon has said this is a stand-alone. But c’mon, man! Give the readers another novel or novella in this setting using the Roughs you describe in the beginning. Do it Deadwood style. PLEEEEEEEASE!

  • Recommended Age: 13+
  • Language: Hardly any. Abercrombie this is not.
  • Violence: Lots of gunplay and magic fighting. I dig it.
  • Sex: Nope. Abercrombie this is not.


  • koshr says:

    i really prefer abercrombies characters but for some reason i prefer sandersons story telling. i dont know why. i would love for sanderson to do some gray anti hero novel

  • Nick Sharps says:

    Does the gun fighting mesh well with the magic?

  • @koshr – I too would like to see a bit more gray in the heroes and villains. I do like how clear-cut his characters are most of the time, but at times I would love some morally…fuzzy…heroes.

    @Nick – I thought it meshed alright. It's kinda hard to look at guns mixed with magic and not think “How does this compare to Larry Correia's stuff?”, but Sanderson does a good job. The magic is better than the guns (he may want to ask Larry for some gun pointers for his next Mistborn trilogy) but it goes nicely. The way the guns are referred to is well done, as are the way they are used in conjunction with the magic.

  • J. D Wenzel says:

    I enjoyed the book thoroughly, I was a little wary going in, but in the end it was a thoroughly entertaining read.

    @Nick – Brandon Sanderson has really put some thought into how he could bring guns into his already well established magic system and it comes out great. @Steve – I mean if we HAVE to compare Sanderson to Correia, then Sanderson just lacks the base knowledge of guns and tactics that Cerreia has, and in that sense it suffers. For me, though, comparing the two didn't even come into it.

    I love Sanderson's writing, I come away from his stories very satisfied and this book is no different. It might not be as good as some of the others he's written (The Way of Kings for example), but, overall, an exiting read.

  • Eric Lake says:

    Quick thing, guys: you said “city of Scadrial,” when it is actually the city of Elendel. The planet is Scadrial.

    I don't know. I wasn't a massive fan of the ending. At least for me, it felt a lot like setup for a sequel. I enjoyed the book, I just would preferred it to stand better by itself. I'm very glad there will be sequels with Wax eventually, but I was annoyed how open-ended the ending was. It wasn't as satisfying of an ending than The Final Empire.

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