This book was a complete joy to read! (Or, should I say, it was a complete joy to "listen to," as I listened to the audiobook for this one).
For those of you who have already read the original Mistborn trilogy (which isn't necessarily required before reading The Alloy of Law), this book was definitely "lighter." That's not to say that it's all rainbows and sunshine, because it certainly isn't. However, it's much shorter, so there's a lot less world-building than Sanderson usually employs in his novels, and, the events themselves are much smaller in scale. For example, while the Mistborn trilogy dealt with the fate of an entire city, empire, or even world, the adventures in The Alloy of Law take place on a much more micro level of cause and effect.
As for the aforementioned world-building, The Alloy of Law relies a lot on previous world-building that Sanderson had already done in the Mistborn trilogy, but with a slightly more modernized spin, as this book takes place 300 years or so after The Hero of Ages ends. This is not a bad thing, especially if you're like me and have a lot of love for the series as a whole. Also, to keep things fresh, there are updates to the magic system, such as new metals for Allomancers to burn (temporal metals!), and the existence of "Twinborns." See, Mistborns no longer exist in this world, but some people (including the main character, Waxillium "Wax" Ladrian) are Twinborn, meaning that they can use one allomantic power, and one feruchemical power.
Unabashedly, my favorite part of the world-building was the fan service. Okay, now "fan service" is way too derogatory of a term to use, as Sanderson includes references to the prior Mistborn trilogy in The Alloy of Law because it made sense in the context of the book, and not just to make people like me completely squee . Yet, all of these things, like Wax being of House Ladrian (i.e., a descendent of Breeze), the religion of Harmony, the city of Elendel, a gun called Vindication, and so on and so forth - they made me pretty damn giddy, I'm not going to lie. That's a big reason why I think people should read the trilogy first before tackling The Alloy of Law, even though this book technically can be read as a standalone. (Well, that, and the fact that the Mistborn trilogy is freaking awesome, but I digress.)
Yet, I think that the true strength of this novel lies in its characters and character interactions. While the characters may not have too much depth in this book, per say, as there's a pretty distinct line between "good" and "evil" here, Sanderson just manages to write them in a way that brings them to life.
Also, I've come to realize that one of the things I love most about Sanderson is his constant inclusion of strong, female characters in his stories. Take Marasi, the most prominent female character in The Alloy of Law, for example - I freaking loved her. She's smart, capable, and rambles about statistics when she's nervous or afraid. She can handle a gun, or at least a rifle, but she doesn't like to use one if she doesn't have to - she prefers using her intellect to fight crime. She's also quite feminine, unlike a lot of female protagonists in contemporary literature, who tend to shun their femininity to show that they're "strong" and "just as good as a man." Finally, she has an unrequited crush/love, which I think almost all of us can relate to from some point or another in our lives.
Wayne, who can be summed up (perhaps unfairly) as Wax's sidekick, was another constant source of joy for me. Again, he's not exactly a deep character, but he's ridiculously hilarious. I laughed out loud during most of his interactions with Wax, as the two characters had great banter. Wayne also had some great conversations with Marasi:
"Shouldn't they have been worried about bringing you, an experienced lawkeeper, back to town? Removing your uncle and accidentally putting Waxillium Dawnshot onto them. . ."
"Waxillium Dawnshot?" Wayne asked, cracking an eye. He sniffed softly and wiped his nose with his handkerchief.
She blushed. "Sorry. But it's what the reports call him."
"That's what they should call me," Wayne said. "I'm the one who likes a good shot of whiskey in the morning."
Sidenote: For those of you with the audiobook version or who are considering getting it, Michael Kramer does an amazing job voicing Wayne's large repertoire of accents. I really can't recommend the audiobook enough, Kramer is fantastic.
And then finally, let's talk about our protagonist Wax, wonderful, wonderful Wax. It actually took me a bit to warm up to Wax, since an event that takes place in the first chapter pretty much sucks the soul completely out of him. This event and his sense of duty bring him away from his life as a lawman and into the life of a nobleman. Yet, as much as he might wish he could, he finds that he can't quite turn a blind eye to the events taking place in the book. It's around that time I found myself totally falling for him, hard. I mean, he's completely brilliant, which hits all of my girly swoon triggers, and when you add that to the Michael Kramer voice/portrayal in the audiobook... well, ahem, I'll stop gushing now. Ultimately, Wax is a lot like Kelsier in that he's always the man with the plan, the one people look to for leadership, yet without Kelsier's hard edge.
I'm pretty sure that if I had read this book in high school or at a more impressionable age, the passage with Waxillium waxing poetic about metallurgy would have inspired me to find a profession in chemistry.
"Alloys are remarkable things, Lady Marasi. Did you realize you can make an alloy with a metal that reacts to magnetism, but end up with one that doesn't? Mix it with an equal part of something else, and you don't get something that's half as magnetically reactive- you get something that's not reactive at all. When you make an alloy, you don't just mix two metals. You make a new one.
That's a fundamental of Allomancy, you see. Steel is just iron with a pinch of carbon in it, but that makes all the difference. This aluminum has something else in it too- less than one percent. I think it might be ekaboron, but that's really just a hunch. A little pinch. It works for men too, oddly. A tiny change can result in creating an entirely new person. How like metals we are. . ."
Why couldn't my science teachers have talked so romantically about metals? If they had, then maybe that would have saved me from getting a useless degree in history, hah.
Anyway, the point I'm trying to get to in all of my nonsensical ramblings that I have labeled as a "review" is that, this book is great fun. Ultimately, it's a bit too shallow in its characters, story, and world-building to earn that fifth star from me, as I would have liked to have seen just a bit more complexity, but that doesn't change the fact that this book was an absolute pleasure to delve into.