Read Recently — May 2016 — Famous Fantasists

The Alloy Of Law: a Mistborn novel by Brandon Sanderson

This is not just a sequel to Sanderson’s Mistborn; it’s a sequel to the entire Mistborn trilogy (and the first of another series of novels; two sequels are already out). Set centuries (at least) after the events of the trilogy, those events have faded into myth and legend, and even religion (and I’ve realized that I never read the last two books of the trilogy, so I’m not sure how to interpret the popular interpretations mentioned in this book. On the other hand, those events aren’t really relevant to the action in this book, so I don’t think it’s necessary to have read any of them to read this one.

When we first meet Waxilium Ladrian, he is hunting a serial killer through an abandoned town in The Roughs, the frontier of civilization outside of the Elendel Basin. He’s the closest thing to legal authority in the area, though whether he has actual legal authority isn’t clear (or, really, important to the story). He guards the nearby towns with the help of his deputy, Wayne, and his lover, Lessie, one of whom survives the encounter with the psycho. Wax blames himself, as well he might, under the circumstances.

When next we see Wax, he’s back in the city of Elendel, playing Lord Ladrian, a role he had no intention of taking on some time ago when he received the news that his uncle, the former Lord Ladrian, had died. But, for obvious reasons, he couldn’t stay out in the Roughs, and there was no point in coming back to the city and not taking up the job. But he can’t keep his mind off of crime, either, being particularly interested in a group of railway thieves who have turned from simple robbery to hostage-taking (though the robberies may be simple they are completely mysterious–no one can figure out how they do them. The mystery of the hostage-takings is in the why). The interest turns more than academic when the same robbers invade a party that Wax is attending and seize his fiancee (he doesn’t love her, nor even like her much, and vice-versa, but their families need the marriage for their various reasons). Fortunately, his former deputy Wayne has shown up to pester him and helps with the investigation, as does his fiancee’s cousin Marasi, who is a criminology student at the university. Between Wax’s detective brilliance and gunfighting skills, Wayne’s disguise mastery, and Marasi’s knowledge, they should be quite a team. But will it be enough?

One thing Sanderson does that’s interesting here is advance the technology of the world. Where most fantasy worlds seem to stay locked in a permanent middle ages forever, the Mistborn world has moved to steam power and gunpowder; roughly the middle/late eighteenth century CE of our world. Allomancy remains a factor too: Wax can push or pull on ferrous metals as well as alter his own weight (pushing against a well-anchored metal larger than he is, such as the steel girders in a building or the tracks of a railway and making himself lighter he can almost fly, while increasing his own weight and pushing against a steel-jacketed bullet he can accelerate it once it leaves his gun and take out opponents who thought they were safely behind cover), while Wayne can create bubbles of faster time in which he can quickly change disguises, as well as heal himself rapidly from any injury.

Overall I enjoyed this one a lot. It’s got fast action and enough of a mystery to satisfy, and I enjoyed the characterization. I’m a little unsure about the beginning; not every motivational death is a fridging but this one might be. Anyway, if you can get past that, it’s a fun book with an interesting background and a different magic system that’s spelled out clearly enough in the text that you don’t need the references at the end.


Blood Red: Elemental Masters book nine by Mercedes Lackey

Lackey updates her Elemental Masters series to include Little Red Riding Hood. Of course, this being Lackey, she’s not so little, at least not by the end. The classic story occurs in the prologue: little Rosamund is an Earth master and so can’t handle the pollution in the typical city of whatever date this is (because Lackey manages once again to get through 313 pages without ever once having someone mention the date (talk about fantasy!)) and so has to be raised in the countryside, near the Black Forest, where a woman she calls Grandmother (but who isn’t her actual grandmother) is teaching her Earth magic. On the day in question, Rosa leaves her parents in the bucolic little German village full of liberal, accepting peasants curiously free of religious intolerance (talk about — wait, I did that one already) and heads into the forest, where she encounters a friendly stranger who she finds curiously unlikeable. After leaving him, she makes her way to Grandma’s house, where Grandma has been of course murdered and replaced by a werewolf, who does not make a very convincing grandmother. Rosa manages to lock herself in the closet and scream for help through the earth, and is rescued by foresters who are part of a brotherhood of earth mages who hunt evil. They take Rosa away with them (with her parents’ and her own permission) and raise her to be one of them.

When next we see Rosamund, she’s an adult and a hunter, and is in Transylvania, hunting a vampire (no, not him) who’s been bedevilling a small village, with a local werewolf to help him. With that accomplished, she takes a souvenir (a satanic medallion that no one in the area recognizes but which the werewolf had been wearing) and heads for home. Her train is stopped just outside of Vienna, though, and a fellow passenger, a water mage who recognizes her as an earth master, asks for her help. It seems that he had been in the city investigating an evil air master on behalf of the local white lodge, and while he thought he had hidden his presence well and gotten away clean, it seems the air master has followed him, stopped the train by using lightning to knock down a tree on the tracks, and now is coming to kill the water mage, unless Rosamund can help.

Of course, she can and with the air master disposed of, Rosamund gets invited to stay with the Graf von Stahldorf in Munich. The Graf is a huntmaster (though there isn’t much hunting in Munich; he also coordinates things for the surrounding countryside) and while Rosamund’s stay involves new clothes, comfortable bedding and big parties, the Graf knows trouble is coming and Rosamund could be what is needed to take care of it . . .

Considering this is a book about a werewolf hunter, it is surprisingly light on both action and werewolves, though it does eventually pick up on that front. Rosamund is Lackey’s usual . . . I don’t want to call her a Mary Sue, exactly, because this is, after all, her story and anyway, I’m starting to think I don’t believe in Mary Sues, at least outside of fanfic. But she’s very competent (which is fine) and gets everything she wants (which can also be fine . . . and Rosamund does pay for it all) . . . I guess the best thing to call her is a typical Lackey hero and let it go at that. I liked her, and I liked the other good guys, and disliked the villains, though not necessarily for the reasons Lackey wanted me to. The action was good; there was a bit in a cave that quite took me back to Skyrim (which isn’t hard to do, since I’ve been playing the game back to back for the last year) and that’s a good thing. And you don’t need to have read any of the other Elemental Masters to make sense of this one, though if you have, it will make more sense. And of course, if you have read the others, you will probably read this one.

Mildly recommended.


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