This is a great novella that feels like a full novel. As usual with Sanderson, the characters feel real, the magic system is intricate and well-thought-out, and most importantly everything works together to form a rich world and an interesting plot that could only exist in that world; everything is a piece of a puzzle and none could be transplanted elsewhere.
I think this may be the perfect introduction to Sanderson’s work for those who have not read him, as the story contains pretty much everything that characterizes his writing in a much shorter form. It can be hard to expect a new (or skeptical) reader to dive into a long novel like Mistborn or The Way of Kings, but a 6 hour read is an easy sell, and sure to hook anyone who might like the rest of his work. I may purchase a second copy just to lend out.
Well done, Mr. Sanderson, I am continually impressed by your masterful creativity.
Rating: 5 out of 5
Quite an enjoyable story, however brief.
I’m happy to have received it as an early birthday present, though I do hope that one day the author makes it available in a collection of other short stories and novellas that he has been publishing on and off. The price of this 88 page book was $20, $45 for the limited edition, and while I do think that is a fair price tag for a collector’s item to a huge Sanderson fan like myself, the promised ebook priced at a couple of bucks makes far more sense for most people who simply want to read the story.
Rating: 4 out of 5
As I may have mentioned before, Brandon Sanderson is my favorite Fantasy author (and there is really no author of any genre I like more, just a few I like equally). So although I am never much interested in reading Young Adult fiction, it’s no surprise that I’m willing to try some out when Sanderson writes it.
Alcatraz Smedry has just turned 13 and found out that he comes from a long line of Oculators (people who can use magical lenses to produce all sorts of effects) with odd Talents (his is breaking things). The world as we know it is really controlled by Librarians who want to keep us in the dark about all the advancements that have been happening on the continents we’re not supposed to know about. The Librarians have stolen Alcatraz’s birthright and a cast of characters have just shown up to rescue him and help retrieve it.
This is a fun, quirky adventure story with a whole lot of teenage attitude. Sanderson’s penchant for creating unique magical systems and surprise endings is fully in tact.
There is unfortunately a lot of snarky commentary in every chapter by Alcatraz the narrator. I think it’s supposed to be funny, and perhaps it is at times, but it heavily breaks up the flow of the story at the beginning of every chapter (except one, which he very quickly points out a page later), which got old very quickly.
Since I don’t read YA novels as a rule, I don’t know how well this book compares to others in its genre. I’m certainly not its target audience. But despite my complaints, the resolution of the story was good enough that I would consider picking up the next in the four book series.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5
The original Mistborn trilogy was a masterwork of fantasy, artfully combining a cool magic system, detailed and lush worldbuilding, and a plot and characters that were incredibly enthralling, weaving them together so perfectly that every piece depended completely on every other piece.
Sanderson has spoken and written about his goal for the world he created: three trilogies, spanning many centuries on the same world. Sometime in the future we will see an “urban fantasy” trilogy and finally a “science fiction” trilogy, all based on the same magic system and, if The Alloy of Law is any indication, religions and mythologies derived directly from the first series.
But the author decided to give us a treat in the meantime, something that initially started out as a short story but due to an epic writing style, even “short” turns out to mean 300+ pages. And so we have this novel, in a setting similar to the American Old West, with the most notable difference of gunslingers with magical powers.
Overall, this is a very fun action/mystery novel for anyone looking for something unique or genre-bending. The tone is a bit lighter than Sanderson’s other work, so while crime and death and moral questions abound, it is still not quite so dark and serious as it could have been. I am certainly glad, though, that these ethical issues were not left out, as they are one of my favorite aspects of his writing. There are some great twists and turns, exciting gunfights enhanced by abilities to push and pull metal, manipulate time, and heal quickly, to name a few.
Because it’s a short novel, however, there is a distinct lack of Sanderson’s trademark world building; the reader is largely left to imagine a vague western setting. It’s also not nearly the intricately planned masterpiece his other novels tend to be, so expectations should be set appropriately for a more straightforward novel where the author is simply having some fun in his fictional playground.
Some have claimed that this book stands on its own, and that one needn’t read the original trilogy in order to enjoy it. That may be so, but I suspect that anyone who does will have a distinct sense of being left a little bit out of the loop. Many of the original characters are referenced in passing as parts of various religions, and so without that prior knowledge of the world’s history, such a reader would be at a disadvantage. There are also a couple of more important passages that cannot be fully appreciated without knowing those characters. For those of us who loved the first trilogy, they point to an exciting potential aspect of the future trilogies, and make me very excited for the next Mistborn book, whenever that may arrive.
In the end, the last couple chapters are the most meaningful, both to the story and to the world itself, so I would recommend that this not be the book that introduces you to the Mistborn series, as the best parts of the climax and resolution would go right over your head, and the trilogy novels are each superior to this one. Those books are the main courses; The Alloy of Law is just a delicious snack meant to hold you over until the next big feast.
Rating: 4 out of 5
UPDATE: How exciting! Mr. Sanderson commented on my review:
This is a really solid review of the book, Gunner. Thank you. You basically captured what I feel is the spirit of the book. One of my primary worries with this is that readers will expect too much. It’s meant to be fun and enjoyable, but the shorter length and smaller scope means that it’s not going to have the depth of the original trilogy or of TWoK.
I kind of look at this like I view some of the great sf television series out there. Many, like DS9, had beautiful, long-running arcs with enormous scope. But occasionally, they’d stop to do a stand-alone episode that was just meant to be fun. That’s what Alloy of Law is.
Holy crap… after seeing a post of mine on reddit stating my desire to get my hands on his upcoming book, my favorite fantasy author, Brandon Sanderson, is personally sending me a free advance reading copy of The Alloy of Law. Can’t wait! If you haven’t read his Mistborn trilogy, you’re seriously missing out.
UPDATE: I received it, and it’s signed! Totally thrilled, cannot wait to start reading it.
UPDATE 2: My review (and the author’s response) can be found here.
Sanderson is a masterful storyteller. Although he is known for his incredible worldbuilding, what impresses me the most is that every page of this 1000 page novel can be interesting, filled with just enough detail to make you want more, but not so much that the story stalls. On top of that, he writes some of the best book endings I’ve ever read; bringing all those details and clues together into believable and surprising climaxes that answer mysteries you didn’t know needed solving and bring up more questions to make you wish the next book in the series was already here.
There’s a reason The Way of Kings has one of the all-time highest average ratings on Goodreads; this decade is going to be an exciting one thanks to the Stormlight Archive.
Rating: 5 out of 5
Another amazing book! The Mistborn series is easily up there with Dune as some of the best fantasy ever written, and, like Frank Herbert, creates a world and story that seamlessly combine political intrigue, espionage, economics, religion, and so much more with beautifully described characters who grow and develop throughout the story.
I cannot say enough about this book or Brandon Sanderson. He is one of the greatest fiction authors of our day.
Rating: 5 out of 5
After giving this a day to settle in my brain, I have to put this in the same company as Dune. He builds an entire world, history, religion, political structure, social structure, magical powers, inhuman creatures, etc. and then builds a story that is inherently glued to every single one of those pieces, all while developing interesting characters and giving us unforseen twists to boot.
This was my first Sanderson novel, but I will be reading a lot more of him in the next few months.
Rating: 5 out of 5