Patrick's Reviews > The Alloy of Law

The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson
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Apr 20, 12

Read in April, 2012

As always, after reading something by Sanderson, I find myself irritated at how good he is.

So let's take it as a given that the book has all the essential ingredients: character, plot, dialogue, mystery, and action. All of these things are there, some of them merely great, most of them included to exceptional degree.

What truly impresses me though, is that Sanderson has done something extraordinarily unique with this book. Something that just isn't done in fantasy.

First, Sanderson wrote the Mistborn trilogy, an amazingly good fantasy trilogy set it in a unique, carefully-constructed world with a well defined magic system.

Then he moved that world forward 300 years. He evolved it away from the low-industrial/dark-ages culture into a much more modern setting.

This simply isn't done.

You see, here's the way things work:

1. You either write secondary world fantasy which is pretty medievally, or Renaissance-y, or occationally dark-ages-ish. Maybe you go crazy and make it kinda Asian. Or you make it bronze age. That's rare though. Pretty fringe.

2. Your other option is to set something in THIS world. Most of the time when you do this, the setting is modern, which gets you urban fantasy. If you're not quite so modern, you get steampunk. If you go back further than that, it's alternate history. But again, that's kinda rare.

These are the rules. They're not written down anywhere, but generally speaking, that's how things work. This is just the way things are done.

But Sanderson has done something different here. Two somethings, actually.

1. He evolved his world through time, changing the society significantly while staying true to the world he established in the earlier Mistborn books.

(Yeah yeah. There have been a few other authors that have done this. Frank Herbert, for example. But it's so rare as to be practically unique. And in my opinion Sanderson has done it better than Herbert did for the simple fact that I want to read Sanderson's future books in this world, while I just couldn't make it through the second Dune sequel.)

2. Sanderson has written urban fantasy THAT ISN'T SET IN THIS WORLD. Call it what you want, urban fantasy, qua-western, steampunk, whatever. That's what he did.

I read this book and found myself thinking, "What? You can do that? How come nobody's done this before?"

This is what happens with all truly clever innovation. Once someone does it, it seems obvious. It seems like anyone could do it.

But everyone didn't do it. Sanderson did. That's a very special sort of clever.

What's my point?

My point is that this book is good, and you should give it a try.

My other point is that this book does something different, and pulls it off very smoothly, so you should give it a try.

My last point is that Sanderson has now been added to a very short list of authors. Specifically, the list authors whom I wish to kill so that I might eat their livers and thereby gain their power.

So yeah. My hat's off to you, Brandon. Watch your back.

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Comments (showing 1-50 of 53) (53 new)


message 1: by Kara (new)

Kara Your reviews (like your books) are always a pleasure to read :)


Johan Good review, and i couldn't agree more. Reading this book makes the "original trilogy" feel more like a set up than the actual work. While we needed that to get a good understanding of the whole "magical infrastructure", this book turns it all on it's head and makes it a lot more awesome!


message 3: by David (new) - added it

David Stewart I enjoyed the original trilogy and wasn't going to bother reading this follow up - I usually get frustrated when a series jumps x hundred years ahead. You've now made it a must read for me - thanks Patrick.


Robert Not having read any of the books (but now I may just order the lot for my Kindle, after your review), I can't help thinking of New Crobuzon / China Mieville's novels.

No, they don't take a old-fashioned fantasy world and write it into a contemporary world. But they are set in a semi-contemporary-ish, urban world where the underlying fantastical (and weird, and grotesque, and scifi-like) are all still there. So, urban fantasy that's not set in this world. All delivered through some of the most imaginative prose ever... albeit not very easy to read, because of the rather fanciful flights of language involved.


message 5: by Jessica (new) - added it

Jessica Healy The cover of this book turned me off it when I was browsing recently, but your review has just made me uber-excited about reading it... There's a moral in here somewhere, I'm sure of it...


Katharine After what happened in Mistborn I, theatrics aside, wasn't sure I could trust Sanderson again - all my emotions were torn to pieces! Yet my partner began reading this and couldn't stop babbling, so I read it, grudgingly. Then I didn't stop reading, beat my partner at finishing the book and proved that it's possible to love again after (book) heartbreak. Sanderson is amazing, and right on par with how much I adore your work, Rothfuss <3


message 7: by Murderu (new) - added it

Murderu I could not agree more :) awesome review! Can`t wait to read the book!


message 8: by Renee (new)

Renee Weekley Both of you guys are rock stars in my little world. Thank you both. Alloy was bought and read quickly after release and I love its fast pace and twists. I will read all you both write and hope like crazy neither of you ever go the Dune route.


message 9: by Robert (last edited Apr 20, 2012 05:19AM) (new)

Robert When I read the first of the mistborn series I didn't like it, in fact, I quit early. Over the years I have seen your fanboyism of Sanderson. Every time you went to say something nice about Sanderson's work I cringed a little. However, you are very consistent and I can't quite believe you - one of my favourite writers - could really love bad fantasy books, so maybe I have to give Sanderson another try. Not the first of the mistborn series though, perhaps I should try the new one.


Peter This review makes me want to go back and read the book again.


message 11: by Ben (new)

Ben Villeneuve Wait a minute, writerly ability is contained in the liver? Are you saying I've been eating all of these kidneys for nothing?


message 12: by Tim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tim the Mistborn trilogy now actually based on several recommendations. On the second book and glad to see that it continues the trends of awesome.


message 13: by Lance (new)

Lance Schaubert Kill and eat like in a Skylar kind of way?

Oh, and you sold me the book for sure.


Mags~CVAddikt~Your shock-wave whisper has sealed your fate Ohh I devoured Mistborn Trilogy in a week ... I guess I'll read this one too ...
Mr. Rothfuss, your reviews are awesome as always :D


Clinton Harding Pat, you never cease to entertain. For this reason I watch your blog like some creepy stalker. Oh, and I am proud of that fact! Nice review, sir.


message 16: by Peter Crimi (new) - added it

Peter Crimi Robert wrote: "Not having read any of the books (but now I may just order the lot for my Kindle, after your review), I can't help thinking of New Crobuzon / China Mieville's novels.

No, they don't take a old-fas..."



You absolutely need to read the Mistborn Trilogy...you can get them as an omnibus and I read the middle book in three days!
Happy reading, and enjoy the day!


Miquel Codony Good review! Do you know who is doing something like that and rather well? The guys in charge of The Legend of Korra, the sequel to The Last Airbender (the cartoon, not the mediocre movie)


Sugar I didn't even know there was a "fourth" book. Serious thanks for the indirect heads up.


Christopher Love it!


message 20: by Wm (new) - rated it 4 stars

Wm I hate to break it to you, Pat. But The Alloy of Law is just the beginning: the next Mistborn trilogy is apparently going to be urban fantasy. And there will be another trilogy that will be futuristic sci-fi complete with space travel.


Felicia I REALLY WANT TO READ THIS


Felicia Oh wait I forgot he sent me an arc. FUCk I gotta get on this.


message 23: by J (new) - rated it 5 stars

J Scott I agree, Pat. #4 was very good. I really liked the first 3, as well


message 24: by Christa (new)

Christa C Haven't read this yet... Very excited too though. I know what you mean about the whole urban fantasy in another realm not being done... I think the reason no one's done it before is because it's extremely difficult to do well. I tried to forward my world several hundred years once in a story... And wow... It ended up garbage...


Christina This is it exactly!! It's one of the reasons that Sanderson is one of two of my favourite authors. (Yourself being the other. :D )


Jason if someone were to eat both your livers they would be granted deadly powers writing books sending thousands to their death from fatal or permenant cerbral orgasm. the books would have to be burned and authur locked away . but maybe a few copies would survive on the black market like a drug or kept and used as a form of blisful euthinasia.


message 27: by Tara (new) - rated it 3 stars

Tara I was planning to read this book after I read a couple of others.. but after reading this review I decided to start with it now..


Chris I've been lent Warbreaker, got the Mistoborn trilogy for my b-day and won Elantris in a competition, but so far I've only read Warbreaker, but after hearing so much praise for Sanderson I'll make sure to read his others soon :)


message 29: by Aaron (new)

Aaron Great review, and informative. I definitely recommend Perdido Street Station by China Mieville, too; I think he hits the "urban fantasy not on this world" point extremely well.


James Bligh I really dont know if i should be lurking in the shadows with Pat or protecting Brandon from liver attack.


message 31: by Kate (new)

Kate Boots Ben wrote: "Wait a minute, writerly ability is contained in the liver? Are you saying I've been eating all of these kidneys for nothing?"

I am reasonably sure that if you want Sanderson's powers you have to run him through with a spike that then ends up in you.


message 32: by Juhan (new)

Juhan Raud Will you try this approach sometime with a future book? Setting your story in the Kingkiller world, but... like, with guns? Several centuries from the "now" of the trilogy?


message 33: by Autumn (new)

Autumn Terry Brooks did something similiar in his Shannara books. Chronologically he started in modern day that ended in cataclysm and the survivors evolved into a fantasy/dark ages world with magic. Then you watched the dark ages magic users evolve through re-discovering technology and "science".


message 34: by Tim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tim This same origin is implied by the Death Gate Cycle. That is, a 'modern' world sundered and the survivors living in a fantasy one.


Sonja S Thanks for the tip. I've read the Mistborn trilogy, but I have been hesitant to give this book a try because of the things you have praised to the skies. So, i had best give it a go. :)


Brian Having read the book, it is very good. You might want to consider reading "Heretics of Dune" however, it is one of my favorites past "Dune". Moves the story a couple thousand years in the future and completely remaps everything.


message 37: by Magnus (new) - added it

Magnus Landqvist "My last point is that Sanderson has now been added to a very short list of authors. Specifically, the list authors whom I wish to kill so that I might eat their livers and thereby gain their power. "

Don't forget fava beans and a nice chianti! Also, you probably should probably hope that Sanderson doesn't read Goodread reviews.


message 38: by Rose (new)

Rose Gust Sanderson's books are amazing!!! every single word so real, He is so Awesome Author!!!


message 39: by Sky (new)

Sky Corbelli Out of curiosity, have you watched Avatar: The Last Airbender? Aside from being an amazing series, they both went there on the fantasy Asian front and have done that in evolving the world to a steampunk setting while keeping the basic premise continuous.

Great review though, and don't forget about his toes, I have it on good authority that authorly magic pools in them as well.


message 40: by Max (new) - rated it 3 stars

Max While I agree with the positive things said in the review, I cannot share the overall conclusion of five stars. I found characters and story to be lacking, although the "integration" with the old series was indeed very well done.

In the end, I guess it comes down to what you like about books in general. If you are into Story and characters, this book is weaker than the Mistborn series (in my opinion), while fans of world building will have a lot of fun if they have previously read the mistborn series (and who hasn't?).

But well, in the end, it all comes down to taste. As long as the book was good in your eyes, more power to you. ;-)


Grant I like Sanderson quite a bit, but to me Alloy was a notch below the Mistborn trilogy. Maybe because the trilogy was so fresh and new and had a world-changing plot.

Alloy is still a great book and I tore through it in a couple of days, but it was not the epic ground-breaker that the trilogy was.


Godfrey thank you for leading me to the mistborn series.. I am forever changed. I read all of them, trusting in your judgement. Thank you Thank you thank you thank you soo much.


Erica I will certainly have to try Sanderson now. I've been sort of dancing around his books in the bookstore for a while now, wondering if they would be my thing.

I have to mention, however, that I know of at least one other author who breaks those particular "rules" of the genre to brilliant effect. Martha Wells--who is not nearly as well known as she deserves to be--set the first of her Ile-Rien books, The Element of Fire, in a 17th-century-esque fantasy world. The second book set in that world, Death of the Necromancer, took us to Victorian-esque but still true to the world set up. And then the Fall of Ile-Rien trilogy (starting with The Wizard Hunters) moves up to sort of WWI-ish with air ships and automobiles and complex wizardry. It is all very believably the same world and even the same country as the society, the monarchy, the technology all evolve. And of course beautiful characterizations and fun plots.

When I read your review of The Alloy of Law, my first thought was: it sounds like Sanderson is doing things much like Wells...I'll have to read it now!


Natalia I agree, except for one thing - Herbert's book are better. But it does not mean they are easier.


Alice Gotta agree with Patrick ROthfuss...and WHEN are we seeing part three of YOUR triolgy?? :)


Jiten I complete agree with you.

I did hear Sanderson say on a book tour that he wasn't planning on writing this book, because he was going to have 3 trilogy's one based on the past which his done, one in the present and one in the future, but he decided to write this so people don't forget about that world while he writes the few of the Stormlight archives.


Dennis I'm surprised you didn't read all of the (Frank Herbert authored) Dune stories, God Emperor and Chapterhouse were the best of the six.


message 48: by Sue (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sue So, then, you want to eat China Mieville's heart, eyes, and tongue, not just his liver, right?


message 49: by Daniel (new)

Daniel Kirkby i think to sreal hia power you need to use a spike of some kind of metal, gruesome but effective, gl


Kelsey Wouldn't a well-placed hemalurgic spike be better than eating his liver?


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