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New 'Mistborn' novel pushes limits of fantasy

By Rebecca Rode

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Nov. 19 2011 3:00 p.m. MST

It's the typical "Mistborn" novel — captivating action, politics with a twist, magic, and hardened gunslingers who commit train robberies.

Well, perhaps it isn't much like the other books at all.

Brandon Sanderson, author of the acclaimed "Mistborn" trilogy and No. 1 New York Times best-selling author, has thrown a curve ball at the fantasy world in his new release, "The Alloy of Law." Fans of the exciting Mistborn series will find the same world, same magic but a different time period. "The Alloy of Law" occurs 300 years after the epic trilogy finale in a world of awakening technology and increasingly complicated politics.

"The other fantasy novel worlds were very static, meaning the same technology level, the same sort of culture that existed for thousands of years," Sanderson, a Brigham Young University graduate and adjunct faculty member there, said while on tour in Kentucky. "I had not seen anyone do a fantasy series where they did this great epic trilogy and then set another trilogy in the present day of that world."

Sanderson originally intended to make Mistborn a nine-part series: The first trilogy as it now stands, a second modern-day trilogy, then a third science-fiction trilogy set in the future.

"I wanted to jump out and do a science-fiction series set in that same world, where now you have technology beyond what we have right now — how would you look at magic through those eyes — how would things change there. That was really exciting to me," he said.

"The Law of Alloy," however, was not meant to be part of any trilogy. Then, where does it fit in exactly?

"I didn't want the Mistborn series to languish," Sanderson explained. "I wanted to keep it in people's minds because I did plan to do that other series. And so I devised a good story, which is more streamlined. I wrote 'The Alloy of Law' more quick, fast-paced, more of a mystery as opposed to a big, thick epic fantasy, with a really neat character dynamic that would be fun to read about."

The character dynamic is indeed fascinating. Each conversation between Wax, a witty Twinborn lawman turned Lord, and his pal Wayne, a time-slowing sidekick obsessed with foreign accents and hats, is sure to bring a chuckle. The romantic twist in the story is refreshingly different, with strong and intelligent female characters who drive the plot well.

In typical Western fashion, the gunslingers emit some colorful language. The action scenes are just as graphic and bloody as previous Mistborn books, if not more so, with the introduction of various guns and dynamite in addition to the usual magical showdown. The squeaky-clean romance, however, is almost an afterthought to the storyline and does not distract from the real plot.

With several national best-sellers under his belt, Sanderson is in a position to push the limits of fantasy. And in "The Alloy of Law," that is exactly what he does. While it has typical Mistborn elements such as strong internal dialogue, fast-paced action and the usual unexpected twist, it may be hard for some fans to adapt to the change of setting.

"I was very concerned about the fans' reaction," Sanderson said. "I wrote the original trilogy to be tied up very neatly, so because I did wrap it up so tightly I do worry that people will say, 'Another Mistborn book? We don't need another Mistborn book.' And I'm actually fine if people say that. But I do hope they'll give it a chance, because I planned this series to be more than just the original trilogy."

The recent release of "The Alloy of Law" is interesting but relatively unremarkable to those who have not read the Mistborn series — that is, unless they know about Sanderson's other projects. After the death of fantasy legend Robert Jordan, Sanderson was asked to complete the unfinished "Wheel of Time" finale — a mammoth of a best-selling fantasy series. He has released two of the three final novels and is currently finishing the third.

"I'm still not quite done. These 'Wheel of Time' books are really big to write. I plan to have it finished by the end of the month if I can. It'll be by the end of the year for sure," he said.

So while completing the 14th "Wheel of Time" novel, Sanderson still has his eye on a long list of books waiting to be written. He wrote "The Alloy of Law" while taking a break between his second and third "Wheel of Time" books.

Only Sanderson would consider his latest release a "break."

"I have so many ideas. There are a dozen books that I've plotted out, I mean things that people haven't even seen yet that I want to do," he said. "I'm not at a lack for things to want to write, I'm at a lack for time to get them all done."

Just as his gun-slinging "The Alloy of Law" characters explode into the Mistborn world, Sanderson himself seems to have exploded into the world of epic fantasy. But rather than re-creating worlds that have already been explored, he seems passionate about exploring areas of fantasy that have never been seen before.

"I've read a lot of fantasy and I love fantasy," he said. "So when I find an area of fantasy that I don't think has been tapped or played out, I get really excited because I see a place where I can add to the genre, rather than just retreading the ground of the greats that came before me."

Sanderson fans had better hang on tight — looks like it might be a wild ride.

Rebecca Rode has written for Schooled Magazine and ksl.com.

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