Brandon Sanderson – The Alloy Of Law

There are a limited number of authors whose novels I can buy without having to read what it is about as the story and quality of the novel always reaches a satisfactory level. Of course it can happen that there is a weaker novel among them, but even then there are always worthwhile elements that prevent disappointment. One of those authors who over the years has been claiming a spot on that list is Brandon Sanderson. For this it helped that he also wrote standalone novels besides his serials, allowing him to show his skill and me to appreciate the different approaches he took on fantasy.

For all the great novels he wrote (not counting his work on the completion of the Wheel Of Time series) there hadn’t been an outstanding one, a novel that thrilled me all the way and left a lasting impression on me. With The Alloy Of Law (2011) however, he is getting close. Even as it is a standalone sequel to his Mistborn Trilogy, it hardly depends on it, as it is very different except for the unique magic system, one of Sanderson’s specialties at which he excels. That he writes more novels with this magic system thrills me even more, as I like things that are out of the ordinary.

There are no real flaws in The Alloy Of Law. Some things might not be given enough attention or developed more extensively. That is just part of the way the novel is written. Sanderson notes that he will probably write more in the new setting, so not going into all details allows him to leave them for later. The story itself is fastpaced and tightly written. No word is wasted and there was no moment where I slumped down or lost attention. Characterization is strong with some development, although this was limited due to the fast pace and quick development of events which left little time for more. What was much better than his previous novels was the character interaction. The dialogues were sharp and witty, allowing for a comedy element that was absent or weaker in his previous novels. A bit of comedy is not really required for a good novel, it has to fit the atmosphere or help give a story something extra.

The plot itself was good, and although the fast pace left me hardly any time to think about what would happen next, some small things that were put attention to were a bit obvious. There was a good balance between action and non-action scenes, allowing the reader some moments of rest. If there is too much action you don’t get much time to relish on some fine action before the next follows.

So are there things I can be negative about (always my best ability)? Not so much. Although the world is alien with a unique magic and belief system, the world feels rather familiar, looking a lot like late nineteenth century America. It is the first novel that is set in a steampunk environment, with plenty of technology of which most is quite familiar. With all the projects Sanderson is working on I can’t expect him to give it all complete attention and some familiar elements do allow the reader to easily feel comfortable in the new environment. So it could be by choice. It’s not good or bad, just a comment.

The only other comment I can make is that the main characters at times seem a bit too skilled. Sometimes it felt I was reading a superhero tale. Their ability is logically explained, and I enjoyed it very much, but I can think of readers who might think their strength to be too much within the usual fantasy setting. Personally I think many fantasy stories tend to slowly develop the skills until the very end, while now we have several experienced main characters at the top of their ability which at least avoids those typical fantasy clich├ęs and the reader can enjoy full power from the start.

The Alloy Of Law blew me away and I was sad when I had soon reached the end. That’s how a good novel should be, so I can only recommend it highly.

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