I was torn between three and four stars on this but came to the view that having read through it in 4 days it was a four, but I do have reservations about this book.
It is without doubt a great read, fun enjoyable and lighthearted. It evokes the atmosphere of the 1800s in the Wild West style Roughs in which Wax and Wayne act as lawmen; and also the atmosphere of Victorian England, setting the majority of the book in the city emerging into modernity, almost reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes. In fact, the two protagonists Wax and Wayne are very much a Holmes and Watson double-act, Wayne specifically deferring to Wax’s powers of deduction on at least two occasions. They also reminded me very much of Batman and Robin: Wax is the discredited heir of a great house returning to the City and Society to assume the mantle of the head of house, but disappearing into the night and the mists with his mistcloak flapping about him. Is the decision to use the name Wayne an homage to Bruce Wayne? There’s even an old retained butler! The other writer that it reminded me of in its lightheartedness undercut by darkness was Pratchett: Wax seemed to have echoes of Sam Vimes at times.
I think the biggest problem I had with this book was the expectations I had of it. I was looking for the same character building, mythologising and originality that Sanderson had displayed in the original trilogy. The most intriguing and satisfying moment in this book was, unfortunately, the cameo by Marsh from the original trilogy as Ironeyes, who has evolved in the mythology of the world into a demonic Lord of the Dead figure.
The book suffers from the inevitable comparison with the original series. There was a definite arc to the original: the characters developed from rebels and urchins to statesmen and finally reached apotheosis. This feels much more static in its momentum: as a member of the society created by the events of the Mistborn trilogy and, therefore, one that we have to have faith in, Wax is interested in maintaining a status quo rather than overturning it which has inherently limited the scope of the novel. It is interesting that even Wax himself seems to recognise this: he tells the reader that in the Final Empire, his nemesis Miles would have been seen as a hero.
Nor is it in any way as original as Mistborn. Again, this is not the fault of Sanderson’s writing but of the premise. The book is set in a previously created universe and therefore cannot be original without being unfaithful. I did like the combinations of the allomancy and feruchemy to produce a different style of skills (magic doesn’t seem to be the correct term for a power system based on science and metallurgy).
Apparently conceived as nothing more than a personal creative writing exercise without the intention of being published, the book does have that feel of derivative fan-fiction rather than mythologising high fantasy, albeit done extremely well and by an extremely competent story teller. Great fun though.