Opening with a murderous rampage at a party held by a corrupt politician, once again, Sanderson plumbs the possibilities of his Mistborn universe in Scadriel extending the reach of the characters Waxillium Ladrian, Wayne and Marasi, whom he had introduced in The Alloy Of Law. The feel of this novel is distinctly Industrial Revolutionary with the rising prominence of factories and unemployment. Marches on the streets of Elendel and proletarian disgruntlement. You almost expected a thinly disguised William Blake or Karl Marx to wander around a corner.
We are also reacquainted with some of the original characters and concepts again: the kandra get to take centrestage this time and we see a cameo from both TenSoon and the ascended Sazed, now known as Lord Harmony. It was an interesting exploration of a god’s role maintaining balance between Preservation and Ruin: his power and limitations.
The plot itself is simultaneously straightforward and byzantine and breaks away frim the suspiciously evil uncle. Elendel’s Lord Governor is the target of an assassination plot which utilises a range of both feruchemical and allomantic abilities. Speed, strength, healing and the coinshot skills of Wax himself. Added to that, we have the shape-shifting abilities of the kandra and the novel has the potential to be a terrifyingly claustrophobic and intense one. No one is safe; anyone could be the killer in disguise. It would be tricky to follow for anyone not familiar with the Mistborn magic systems. Along the way, we encounter food shortages, industrial unrest and violence between different religious groups.
It doesn’t quite reach the potential which the premise has: Wax leaps into the mist just a little too often; there are a few too many shifts on point of view; just one or two too many info dumps about politics and history. The twist itself was – or perhaps twists were – relatively recognisable from half way through. It was good, but a little too heavy on action for my liking.
The original Alloy of Law was apparently written as an imaginative exercise by Sanderson after his stint on The Wheel Of Time and I think that that showed in the fun and playfulness of that first book which he hadn’t intended to publish. This time round, he seemed to be taking things more seriously and trying to invest more depth into his hero… we see Wax and Wayne haunted by their past actions is great, but some of the fun seemed diminished somehow. It’s still a good read… but the gusto of the Alloy of Law seems to be reduced. Wax continues in the archetypal role of crusading unconventional detective moving outside the limits of the law, in the model of Batman and Holmes – and Harry Dresden.
The next book, Bands Of Mourning, is out soon – apparently this month – and I’ll probably pick it up and I’m sure I’ll enjoy it. Apparently, the Lord Ruler’s bracers are discovered….