The Alloy of Law: Western setting adds a new twist to Mistborn

Brandon Sanderson The Final Empire 4. The Alloy of LawThe Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson

I loved Brandon Sanderson’s MISTBORN series, so I was excited to learn that he was publishing another novel set in the MISTBORN world. The Alloy of Law takes place a few hundred years after the events in the original trilogy. By this time, society is in the midst of an industrial revolution and is expanding into uncivilized frontier lands, making The Alloy of Law, I suppose, a Western Steampunk or Weird West tale.

A minority of citizens still inherit Allomancy or Feruchemy or, in the case of Twinborn Waxillium Ladrian, both. Even though Wax is heir to a rich noble house, he uses his powers to fight outlaws in the frontier lands… until he’s called back to run his family estates after his uncle’s death. Wax isn’t interested in being a stuffy nobleman, but hundreds of people rely on his family for their livelihood and he can’t let them down. It’s not long before Wax realizes, for better or worse, that life in the civilized city is even more dangerous than life on the wild frontier.

I’ve read all of Brandon Sanderson’s novels for adults and what I like best about his work are his imaginative magic systems (he’s the best!), charming characters, and pleasant sense of humor. I am happy to report that all of this is present in The Alloy of Law. Those of us who’ve read MISTBORN are already familiar with the magic system, so no surprises there, but the Western industrial setting adds a new twist — steam power and firearms let allomancers and feruchemists do really cool things with bullet casings and railroad tracks. Sanderson gives a nod and a wink to his influences by freshening up some Western clichés. In one scene, a group of armed outlaws bursts in on a high society dinner and demands that the ladies hand over their jewelry. There are pistol fights, train robberies, and even a shoot-out on top of a moving train! But The Alloy of Law is not just a Western with magic — it feels like a beginning to further fascinating explorations in the MISTBORN world. At its heart, it’s still epic fantasy.

Even though I don’t like his name, Wax is a great character — tough but sensitive, gentle but forceful when necessary, duty-bound with a touch of restrained idealism. I was disappointed with one of his actions at the end of the book, but I think that Sanderson wanted me to be disappointed and, for this reason, I think we’ll be seeing more of Wax in the future — there’s still time for him to make things right.

During his adventures in The Alloy of Law, Wax is accompanied by a funny sidekick named Wayne and a young female student who studies criminal behavior and thinks of Wax and Wayne as heroes. [Ouch. I just re-read that sentence and noticed the pun in “Wax and Wayne.” Oh my, that’s a groaner!] The three of them make a great team and I certainly hope there will be more adventures for the trio.

I listened to MacMillan Audio’s version of The Alloy of Law which was narrated by Michael Kramer. He is a terrific reader, though I find his pace a little slow. I got in the habit of speeding him up a bit when I was listening to him read the WHEEL OF TIME novels, and I did the same for The Alloy of Law. With this little adjustment (about 1.2x normal speed), I greatly enjoyed the audio version and will read any sequels, if there are any, in audio format, too. I recommend this version.

Must you read the previous MISTBORN books before reading The Alloy of Law? No. But it would be good to familiarize yourself with allomancy and feruchemy, which you can do well enough by reading our reviews above. But, why would you not want to read MISTBORN first? This is one of the best fantasy series in recent years — great characters and one of the best magic systems ever. So, while you don’t need to read the original trilogy first, you should!

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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  1. What a clever idea — jumping forward from the pseudo-medieval period of an earlier series and setting the spin-off in a pseudo Wild West! And fantastic art (that’s gotta be McGrath). I may have to read this. Great reviews, both of you.

  2. At first I thought Sanderson was jumping on the steampunk bandwagon, but then I realized how perfectly his magic system works in that setting. I think that’s what makes this one special.

  3. Yeah, it was all about rocks and metal, wasn’t it?

  4. I read Mistborn, and while I’m not a fan, I most definitely understand why so many others are. This review makes me wish I had read the rest of that series cause it just sounds like a good time.

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