The Alloy of Law is set in the world of the Mistborn trilogy, about 300 years after the original books. The heroes of that time have become figures of myth and religion. The area around the pre-industrial capital (formerly Luthadel) is fertile and wealthy, farther out in the Roughs live is like in our Wild West. This is where noble-blooded lawkeeper Wax has made it his job to hunt down criminals until personal tragedy prompts his return to the city. He tries to blend in the noble society and behave as he should but is soon intrigued by a series of seemingly impossible thefts. Instead of preparing his inevitable engagement properly he starts to investigate, supported by his friend and colleague Wayne who has come to visit in order to make sure Wax does not die
in of boredom.
Alloy of Law is fast, fun and tragic, but most of all fast. Allomantic-Feruchemic gunfights are probably the most awesome, cinematic thing I have read in a while. They show how incredibly well-conceived Sanderson’s magic system is: it evolves and scales with ease. The story itself is a diverting piece in Sherlock Holmes style, nothing too deep. There is potential for follow-up stories, though, so we’ll see. The main characters are very well-developed considering the size of the book; Sanderson makes every word count. Besides the abundance of action, verbal exchanges between Wax, Wayne and later Marasi provide most of the fun and make the book a light read despite several tragic scenes. As a fan of the series, I enjoyed the many (religious) references—fact distorted to myth by time—to the old heroes, in particular how their way of life evolved to outright schools of philosophy.
That I recommend a Sanderson book is probably no surprise, me being a devoted fan of his. Go and read this book even if you have not read or did not like the trilogy, it is fun!
Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie continues right from where The Blade Itself left off; in this book, the story starts rolling. While all characters converged in Adua during the prequel, they now scatter in almost all directions. Collem West travels aide to Lord Marshal Burr, the army’s commander-in-chief, into the north; Bethod has finally moved his armies into Angland and forced the Union to fight back. They lead mostly untried lads, the only experienced troops under the command of two generals who put their rivalry before military sense. As if that was not bad enough, pampered Crown Prince Ladisla tags along, his mind set to harvest glory for himself.
Inquisitor Glotka heads in the opposite direction; he has reveiced a delicate mission from the head of Inquisition himself: He is to return to the country of his downfall. The city of Dagoska, won from the Gurkish during the last war, threatens to fall to its old master. Glotka is to make sure the city holds no matter what and solve his predecessor’s mysterious disappearance while he is at it.
The rest of the cast including Logen and Jezal is dragged to the far west by suspicious magus Bayaz. Their goal is to obtain a powerful magical relic with which to fight Bayaz’ former colleague Kalul who draws the strings behind the Gurkish war effort. Not exactly role-models and trusting traveling companions, the party has to meet more than one challenge on their trip, a fair number of them between the members themselves. Read more »
Joe Abercrombie’s The Blade Itself is the fist book in his acclaimed series The First Law. Tree main point of view characters stand out from the impressive cast: Logen Ninefingers,
infamous warrior from the North, Sand dan Glotka, prodigy swordsman turned crippled torturer and Jezal dan Luthar, complacent army officer training for the yearly fencing contest.
Logen barely survives a vicious attack by a pack of Shanka, barely sentient and ever hungry creatures from another age. Certain that his mates are dead he moves south. He gets tangled in the schemes of ancient First Magus Bayaz who has special plans for the barbarian, including using his muscle and special fighting talents on their trip south to the city of Adua, capital of the Union.
Glotka used to be the army’s rising star in his time. Then he was captured by the Gurkish Emperor and broken during two years of brutal torture. When he returned home both his spirit and his body are disfigured beyond repair. His friends have abandoned him since so he has joined the Inquisition where he can put his cruel experience to use. His superior Arch Lector Sult uses the bitter cripple to advance his very own schemes for power, all too sure that Glotka will always get the desired answers out of prisoners unlucky enough to end up in his chair.
Noble son Jezal dan Luthar spends his time drinking, gambling and admiring himself. He regards his training with legendary swordsman Varuz as general nuisance if not torture and wonders whether the prospect of the honors he can achieve by winning the Contest is really worth the trouble. Only when he meets his friend’s unconventional sister does he start reflecting what he does and thinks and applying himself. Read more »
Elantris is a standalone novel by Brandon Sanderson, in fact his first published book. It takes place in and around the ancient city Elantris which used to be a place of magic and peace, its inhabitants immortal and beautiful. Food, healing and any material good could be created with a handwave. Any Arelonian could be taken by the Shaod and become an Elantrian—a god, effectively—for eternity. But “eternity ended ten years ago”. Since then, Elantrians have been looking like zombies and their magic has not been working. General populace panicked, killed as many of the obviously cursed as they could and established a new kingdom. But the Shaod continues to turn people of all kinds into walking dead.
Raoden, the crown prince of Arelon, awakens one morning to find himself an Elantrian. He is immediately thrown into Elantris as custom dictates; to cover up the shame he is declared dead, killed by a hideous disease. He discovers that his transformed body can not die; the downside is that wounds do not heal either and hurt forever. Also, not needing food is not the same as not feeling hungry; in a place without food, most are plagued by a constant hunger. Therefore, most Elantrians have descended to a primal state, preying on the weak to ease their pains for even a moment. Raoden refuses to give up his humanity and tries to help his peers to overcome constant hunger and increasing pain.
Raodens bride-to-be Sarene arrives in Kae, capital of Arelon, just in time to find her spouse diseased. Contract forces her to be King Iadon’s daughter nonetheless for political reasons. Smart and emancipated—but also naive—Sarene observes that Arelon crumbles on the inside and is threatened by the fanatic emperor of Fjorden from the outside and decides to make it her job to safe the kingdom. She ends up plotting revolution with Raodens old comrades who all believe him dead. Read more »
In Shadowheart, volume four of Tad William’s Shadowmarch series, Barrick and Briony arrive at Southmarch with their respective armies and take up the fight against the overpowering Autarch whose army is breaking down the castle’s wall bit by bit. Inside, Matti Tinwright is caught spying and forced into Hendon Tolly’s gruesome employ. Unbeknownst to the castle’s inhabitants, Captain Vansen and his Funderling comrades fight in a valiant effort to slow down the Xandians; they can not be allowed to reach the Mysteries before Midsummer. With the end near, both Rooftoppers and Skimmers—until now mainly passive observers of events—join the fray alongside their Qar relatives. Midsummer is drawing near.
Shadowheart is one long, bloated battle that diminishes the actual climax. The final reveals are unsatisfying because they seem unimportant or have been obvious since two books before. Even after the finale itself, Williams goes on with some rather embarrassing explanations which try to make things plausible in hindsight.
The Shadowmarch series as a whole is rather atypical. It has a weak start, strong middle and a weak, outdrawn ending. Williams is a good writer in terms of local suspension; there are great scenes with psychological dramas between Olin and Sulepis, Yasammez is a frightening presence whenever she enters stage, the small Rooftoppers are a delight, and the Funderling defense effort is just a great read. The books are decent in other aspects, too, especially because of Williams’ worldbuilding. He took the Greek pantheon and let things get terribly out of hand. Proposing three different religious views on the godly war and having their believers battle for supremacy is a fascinating idea. Read more »