My 14-Year-Old Self Might Take Issue with The Alloy of Law

By Brandon Sanderson

As we get ready for the release of The Alloy of Law, I find myself wondering what the teenage me would think of what I’m doing in this book.  You see, I became a fantasy addict when I was about fourteen, and one of my mantras quickly became, “If it has guns, it’s not good fantasy.”

Now here I am, adding guns to my most successful fantasy series.

Despite the ways I’ve changed over the years, despite my belief that fantasy should be (and is becoming) something more than the standard “guy living in idealized chivalrous England leaves his farm and saves the world,” a voice inside of me is screaming that nobody will buy this book.  Because it has guns.

I don’t believe that voice, but I think it says something interesting about me and others like me.  Perhaps we fantasy readers sometimes mix up correlation and causation in our fantasy novels.  In fact, I’m more and more convinced that taste for a specific genre or medium is often built on shaky ground.

An example may help.  I have a friend who once claimed he loved anime.

Over the years, he consistently found anime shows superior to what he found on television.  But as he started to find more and more anime, he told me that he discovered something.  He liked the anime he’d seen at first because these were the shows that were successful and well made, the ones with the quality or broad appeal to make the jump across cultures.  He found that he didn’t like all anime—he only liked good anime.  Sure, the medium had something important to do with it—but his enjoyment came more from the quality of his sample than the entire medium.

Likewise, I’ve come to find that what I enjoy is a good story.  Genre can enhance this—I’m probably going to like a good fantasy more than a good thriller or romance because worldbuilding and magic appeals to me.  In the end, however, it isn’t the lack of guns (as my young self assumed) that draws me to fantasy stories.  It’s the care for setting, pacing, and character development.

This is actually a correlation/causation fallacy, and I wonder if I’m the only one to have made it.  Many of the books in the fantasy section we love (perhaps because of the setting attention or the types of writers attracted to fantasy and SF) have dragons.  Do we therefore make the assumption that we only like books with dragons?  These two things (the dragons and our enjoyment) are parallel to, but not completely responsible for one another.

On the other hand, maybe I just think about this kind of thing too much.

Either way, I present to you The Alloy of Law.  A look at the Mistborn world several hundred years after the events of the original trilogy, where the industrial revolution has finally hit and knowledge of gunpowder is no longer suppressed.  That means guns.  Lots of guns.  And magic too.

The young me might have been horrified, but the thirtysomething me finds the mix to be exciting, particularly in a world where the magic is directly related to metal.

The Alloy of Law (978-0-7653-3042-0; $24.99) is the new stand-alone novel by Brandon Sanderson set in the Mistborn Universe.  It releases from Tor Books on November 8, 2011, so strap on your guns, down a vial of allomantic metals, and dig in!


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30 thoughts on “My 14-Year-Old Self Might Take Issue with The Alloy of Law

  1. Can’t wait to read it. I love that fantasy and sci fi can really go anywhere and cross so many boundaries in subject matter and in genre. Thank you for your stories!

  2. Reading Brandon’s books has actually made me rethink my perception of what makes for good fantasy. And since he always delivers a good story, then I say bring on the guns! ;p

  3. I love it when book series do the time jump. David Gemmel’s Rigante series did it. 2 books in a roman like era, followed by a pair of books in an era where flintlock rifles are common.

    the settings lose none of their magic, and the alternate point of view you get can just draw you in even more.

  4. There are plenty of fantasy readers who enjoy steampunk as a sub-genre. There have been very few instances where it has been novelized compared to other sub-genres but it can certainly hold its own as a platform on which to develop an excellent story.

    I think you’re selling yourself short with your self-doubt. The worlds you build are only one piece of why we like your work overall (although the world you inherited may be an exclusion to that statement).

  5. I’ve actually talked about the fan-filtering effect of anime for years.

    I guess that is also why I like to know what my friends are reading, and I like to know what writers I like are enjoying. I suppose if I could ask a dragon for a good book rec….

  6. Im looking forward to this. Other fantasy/scifi book series have crossed these boundaries successfully. But it takes a special writer to pull it off. Brandon probably fits this bill.

    I agree with him, genre is just “type” thats it. We prefer things with magical/fantasy qualities. But a giood story is a good story. I like Tom Clancy too. Because he is a good writer. I like good books and certain elements within those books. I also dislike certain elements. guns are not an element I dislike.

  7. It’s not like you decided “guns are cool! I’m going to throw them in my fantasy series for no reason!” The jump forward to a gun-toting era is a great fit for the Mistborn universe, especially. A magic system based on metal practically screams for speculation about what an increasingly metallic, industrialized society would look like in that world–so as Andrew (#5) says above me, don’t sell yourself short. 🙂 You take a clearly meticulous amount of care building your worlds, so when I saw guns on the cover of this book, I might’ve raised an eyebrow, but I was instantly willing to go along for the ride.

    Sidenote: I can’t wait to see how Allomancers would cope with plastic. Or how blisteringly expensive plastics would be, given the great quirky detail of the aluminum economy that you’ve already given us.

  8. You are not alone, Brandon. I, for one, thought that dragons were a ‘necessary’ part of fantasy as a teenager. Twenty years later (and thinking about your prompt) has made me realize how different I am. Most of the fantasy books I love don’t have dragons, and I don’t enjoy Dragonriders of Pern, so go figure.

    The same goes for technology. It isn’t a bad thing to have a lot of variety in a novel. In fact, the clash of magic and science can make a good foundation for a story.

    I look forward to Alloy of Law!

  9. Me, I also enjoy a good story rather than a genre. Yet I have read many books in my life, ranging from classics to pulp, and found that, IMO, only fantasy/scifi may contain a good story. So, the best reaction a thriller set in realistic world) may evoke in me is “meh. that was ok”, while a fantasy (especially, although a scifi may be ok too) may go all the way to “That was GOOD”. For that reason, only fantasy (guns or no guns) for me.

  10. I think there’s an important distinction being overlooked here. Fantasy is too broad of a term to ever be able to make the claim that guns don’t belong in fantasy. There are plenty of abstract fantasy stories set in the modern world and throughout different points of both real and imagined histories. But in a more specific/pure high fantasy story, I would say that guns would be quite anachronistic. Imagine Legolas sporting a rifle. It changes the feel of the world too much.

    I don’t think that the Mistborn world fits that description, so I can’t say that I would find the presence of guns/gun powder to be ill fitting, especially with the passage of a significant amount of time that could easily allow for those types of technological advances.

  11. My initial reaction when I heard about this book was “Mistborn … plus steampunk? AWESOME!” Which isn’t exactly what the book is about, of course, but that still reminds me that I’m always game for a good mash-up of things I like. Mistborn and guns definitely qualifies as that.

  12. Sample Case:
    I enjoy dragon stories; particularly when there are intelligent dragons that are on the protagonist’s side

    I recently read a story where it was looking like the dragon was the hero of the tale. I could not finish the book (This is an extremely rare event for me.). There were no sympathetic characters in the story — two-thirds of the way through I concluded that the best ending would be “Everyone died. The end.”

  13. I have always disliked fantasy epics that span or have a history of “thousands of years” but never explained why they made no technological advancements over that timeline. You just have you look at our own history to see what happens over 1000 years and what advancements are made.

    That Brandon explains that the Emperor suppressed any invention was a fresh take, a good explanation of this. In the Wheel of Time, they went thousands of years from the breaking to the current timeline without any technological advancement, despite the decline of magic.

    I’m glad to see that in Alloy of law, Brandon will be taking that step that is rarely taken, advancing the timeline and ALSO the technology level with the new book, while at the same time maintaining the fantasy genre, keeping magic in play.

  14. Brandon, I am sure this book is going to every bit as good as your earlier novels. As a reader I realized the correlation you speak of a long time ago which is why my genre of choice (besides good fantasy) these days are westerns – either in film or in books. A good western is almost always heavily character driven and that is what I look for in stories – and it’s why I like your books so much.

  15. Hey, if they shoot dragons in the face with guns, I’m all for it!

    Just kidding. I may be one amongst many millions of high-fantasy fans, but that doesn’t mean I only _enjoy_ non-tech fantasy. Magic, suspense, and story-driven emotional and character development are what draw me into any fantasy story. But throw in technology, or explosions, and especially unique takes on what gives people abilities, and it makes a story that much more exciting and fulfilling.

    Brandon’s an excellent story-teller and there is no way that a book which offends his much younger self will let any of us down. 🙂

    1. Geckomayhem :
      Hey, if they shoot dragons in the face with guns, I’m all for it!
      Just kidding. I may be one amongst many millions of high-fantasy fans, but that doesn’t mean I only _enjoy_ non-tech fantasy. Magic, suspense, and story-driven emotional and character development are what draw me into any fantasy story. But throw in technology, or explosions, and especially unique takes on what gives people abilities, and it makes a story that much more exciting and fulfilling.
      Brandon’s an excellent story-teller and there is no way that a book which offends his much younger self will let any of us down.

      Oops, I highlighted the wrong word. It should read “that doesn’t mean I _only_ enjoy…” :/

  16. I’m having trouble finding a place where I can actually buy your books online AND have them shipped to my country.I wish it were as easy as throwing my money at the computer screen -believe me I tried. My hardcover of Way of Kings still hasn’t arrived and I ordered it around July. Please please please, find a way to get your books in stores here in Romania -not that bookstores are flurishing here but I digress.
    And don’t you dare have them translated because I want to be the one that does it when I finish college.

  17. My genre of choice is fantasy. I read for the story and characterization but it does seem that every author wants to show us his idea of the Utopian society and the errors in the one we have. While you are not exempt from this exercise it does not seem to be your main focus. Thank you.

  18. I have long been in agreement with your 14 year old self – and yet there have been, from time to time, fantasies I have liked that were slightly more modern. Robert Jordan and the way ‘guns’ are starting to peek into the very end of the WoT series is about the closest to guns I like to get, but there is the rare exception. I think that having guns is not what makes me feel it isn’t fantasy – but the industrial and modern feel. I CAN like that kind of fantasy, but it makes it harder for me to like it. It’s like getting someone to like a delicious fish dish when they, like me, hate fish – it is a good dish, but that fishy taste IS still there whatever they say!! I have found exceptions, those that are modern feeling but do well – it isn’t just good pacing and characters that make me like it, though. It is an infusion of a certain amount of other-worldly fantasy elements, and a departure from the mundane in just the right way. Fantasy with modern elements has to, in particular, remain infused with ‘high fantasy’ or else it will bomb for me. There has to be something extraordinary alongside it, some mystical or magical world outside the obvious. A good example is a video game series that has been around since the 90’s, just two released in it, and in the first one the main character is in a slightly futuristic – but familiar- world called Stark. Then the boundaries begin to break between this world and another alongside it, and soon she travels to the OTHER one- Arcadia… which is true, pure fantasy. So you end up seeing two opposite worlds connect and clash, or sometimes work together. That said – maybe one day I shall give that new book of yours a try. For now, I’m just waiting for the final Wheel of Time book. 🙂 I won’t start ANY new series until I finish that one!

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