Posts Tagged ‘magic’

This week we’re reviewing a fantasy western about a butler turned god and a lawman turned noble. Also known as Brandon Sanderson’s The Alloy of Law.


Because cowboys and demi-gods didn’t have the same ring.

Synopsis

    The Alloy of law is an off shoot of Sanderson’s Mistborn series and is set about 300 years after Hero of Ages. The Alloy of Law tells the Story of Waxillium Ladrian, better know as Wax. Wax is what is referred to in-universe as Twin Born, meaning that through a combination of superpowers he inherited from his parents genes he can alter his weight and push most metal with his mind. Wax starts the story as a lawman searching for a serial killer and through a singularly unfortunate event turns in his badge and moves to the big city to take over the estate of his deceased relative whom left everything to Wax. The story then goes through his struggle to try and manage his new life as the head of a noble house as well as putting his life as a lawman behind him. Of course things don’t go as planned and Wax is forced into a new mystery that involves metal, women and magic.


Like this but with more magical acrobatics.

Review

Characters

I’ve mentioned before that I believe that Sanderson is one of the best character writers in the business today, and The Alloy of Law attests to that assertion, Sanderson fills his novella with a plethora of interesting characters. Wax being this weird combination of city born noble turned lawman leads to people in the rough calling him either refined or a dandy, while people in the city look at him as mysterious cowboy or an unsophisticated brute. His partner is a wise cracking reformed criminal who can speed up time and talk his way out of most situations, whilst the female lead is a nerd with a bit of kickass and dash genius thrown in for good measure. With The central antagonist being a immortal charismatic ex-lawman.

The only problem I had with the Characters, was with Wax, the protagonist. Wax spends most of the story swung between extremes of being noble and being lawman, which is one of the major conflicts in the books first act. The problem is that after every other chapter Wax seems to become a different person, after one chapter he becomes a metallurgist seemingly out of nowhere. Sanderson went big with multiple POVs in a novella, sometimes even multiple within a chapter. Unfortunately this left Wax feeling a little disjointed in a few scenes. The nice thing to note is that these scenes are short and don’t cause to much of a stumbling block for the reader.

Setting

For those of you new to Scadrial, the fictional land that the Mistborn series takes place in you’ll be happy to know that you won’t have to read the rest of the books to understand whats what. Thanks to some spoilers that I won’t reveal happening in The Hero of Ages.

Scadrial now features a new wild western styled “roughs” as well as some lush green plains and a large skyscraper buildings in a city called Elendel. Sanderson does a good job introducing these new environments and over the course of whats is a very short book, makes the world feel very large.

Sanderson’s series has always featured unique fantasy environment and The Alloy of Law hold true to that, replacing kingdoms and empires with republics and industrialization making for a rather different kind of story then most fantasy reader’s are used to while keeping the feel that Mistborn fan’s enjoyed. The only problem that came up was that the setting seemed to be a step down, from the Scadrial of Original Mistborn Trilogy. Luthadel was just as much Character as Vin or the Lord Ruler, it was a living breathing organism playing the parts of both the antagonist and the protagonist. The same could be said for all of the locations of in Sanderson’s earlier books albeit a bit less prominently. Elendel and the roughs are great locations, but that’s all they are.

Though it might be fair to lay blame at the constrictions of the novella, a story of this size just doesn’t get to have the feeling of a large sweeping world and  be a world with great depth. Perhaps with future novels and novellas Sanderson will bring back that feeling of a deep, evolving magical world.


Not that kind of magic.

Plot

The plot is a hard thing to review without giving out to many spoilers, I can however safely say that the plot of this novella is engaging and fun to read, With the main plot being rather straight forward, the romantic subplot being welcome even if it’s not great and with a couple of twists thrown in for good measure. On top of that the main arc for the protagonist Wax is well thought out and excellently executed. Overall Sanderson has crafted and enjoyable story to follow. Also two guys fight on top of a train.


Like this, but with 20% more magic.

Accessibility

One thing that any offshoot needs to be able to handle is accessibility, not every one who reads The Alloy of law is going to have read MistBorn series. That being said, Sanderson dumps new readers right into his world, explaining things as they come to the readers attention. It was actually interesting to read after heaving read the previous series, it’s obvious that Sanderson is expecting new readers with this book and he helping pull them in as well as inform them. His exposition works well and never hurts the pacing or the dialogue. What I did notice is that this book makes several references to it’s predecessors, and while I can’t say for sure but, I’d imagine that it would seem out of place for these random things to keep popping up that would seem to have little relevance to the actual story. However for those who have read it’s nice to see that the worlds hasn’t forgotten the events of the last three hundred years entirely.

Bottom line

Sanderson has built an enjoyable novel with strong pacing , unique concepts, well thought out characters set in an expansive world with and an entertaining story that promises future installments. The downsides is that the novella has a packed a lot of history into it’self which will be alien to any new readers as well as having a main character who doesn’t truly feel solid instead bouncing between multiple personalities(Though I’m sure many will argue thats is the point of Wax’s character). Returning readers will be glad to see that world Sanderson left it not one that simply lived happily ever after, instead they be able to see the Scadrial is dynamic, ever changing, generating new stories and always having another secret.

With the paperback and the E-book squaring out at $8 USD, the story is well worth the price of admission and advise anyone who enjoys a good fantasy book to give it a try.

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One of the more interesting phenomenon of late that’s made it’s way to the internet is the fascination that some 14-25 year old men seem to have with a show that is meant for small children of the female variety that was produced to sell a line of toys. That’s right friends, this article is all about the magic of friendship so saddle up everypony.

For those of you whom may not have yet heard or are just possily new to the whole internet thing, My Little Pony: Friendship is magic is a cartoon show based of the old line of my little pony toys that have been around since 1982 but have only recently ben pulled into media spotlight via their new cartoon. Also let’s clear something up for those of you who want to rage quit from wordpress because this article is pony related, this is still a storytelling blog and this is still a storytelling article, we’er not going to dive into who is best pony or any other non-sense.


Okay maybe a little non-sense

I’m more interested in what has come together to make ponies so popular among the demographic that normally won’t touch something if it isn’t a dark and gritty rebut of their childhood. In fact I was so interested that in one of my more sleep deprived moments I watched a solid twenty episodes of the show and you know what, it’s not that bad, in fact as far as children’s shows go it was pretty good. In fact I think that there is a lot we can learn from MLP.

Animation

A shows animation is the first thing that a viewer see’s, and much like a person looking at the clothing you wear the viewers start making assumptions about the show from that first glance. For a lot of shows that can be a make or break moment for them, shows like adventure time a regular show have a very particular type of animation and you can tell just from looking at them what the show is going to be like. The same thing also applies to shows who seek a more adult audience who give there shows a much conservative appearance while shows like South Park went for childish look for a show that has a very immature nature.


alright a lot of non-sense

What does this say about MLP, well first off the animation is top notch, it’s bright, it’scartoony, it’scute, but what hooked me mostly is that it’s clean. It was obvious that the shows artist put real work and effort into creating the shows animation instead of treating it as just a 30 min commercial for little girls toys. What can you take away from this as an artist or a writer, MLP uses it’s animation to set the tone for the show, just looking at it is going to make you puke rainbows and leave you wanting more, as an artist you want your art to set the mood of the show or comic well before the characters utter their first words and writers need to be able to set the tone of their books in early descriptions and snippets of their world and make sure that this tone is conveyed in such a professional way.

Format

I think this might be the most interesting part of MLP, or at least the most nostalgic. MLP episodes are all self contained, there is no overarching narrative, there is no broad story line, there just a bunch of anthropomorphic ponies having a different moral adventure each week, and then reminding you exactly what that moral is at the end of each episode. It reminds me of all the old Nickelodeon cartoons like Rugrats, Hey Arnold!, Ah! Real Monsters and every other single piece of nostalgia I can bring to you from your childhood. On a more recent note, the Disney show Phineas and Ferb also follows this format as well as do most TV sitcoms, whether it’s big bang theory or King of Queens. This format isn’t something that went away and is now coming back, we just haven’t seen it with this kind of face for a very long time.

So what makes this format valuable? It’s simple really, or should I say it’s really simple, MLP doesn’t require complex character arcs or a drawn out narrative, Just fit your moral/joke/theme of the day into the episode and move on. It works well for folks who have lot’s of cool ideas and want to get as many of them in as possible , it also fits well with those of you who like to write by the seat of your pants each episode is it’s own little thought with little or no heed to what comes before or what comes next.


This sums up the show pretty well

What can we writers take away from this, well mostly that a series doesn’t need a long complex narrative, sometimes it can just be the six different books about how a boy and his dog find different treasures every week, or about the different planets a group of space marines visit. The point is that people can enjoy simple shorts as well as writers can enjoy writing them.

Theme

The main thing that separates MLP from other form of television that most 14-25 year olds watch is it’s constant theme of light hearted comedy and cute aesthetic design, which stands in opposition to every notion of dark and gritty that has been installed in us since Batman became a thing.

um, yes all day, yes all night, for the rest of my life.<br /><br />
{picture of batman riding through the sky on the back of a purple my little pony with a bat symbol on the rump and it’s amazing.}
Batman riding a pony, deal with it.

Simply put shows like MLP offer us a refuge from a reality where stories are getting darker and edgier everyday without any sign of stopping, between writers like Christopher Nolan, Steven Moffat and movies like Toy Story 3 and Up even kids shows and movies are pressing toward the gritty realism of everyday life. And maybe, just maybe there’s a part of you that doesn’t want to give up on a world where kids can build roller coasters in there back yard or one were the worst thing that can happen when two groups of people disagree is a really bug food fight. At the end of the day we all want to go back to those days where you knew that every episode Duke would win out over Cobra Commander and the worst thing we had to worry about was Tommy losing his screwdriver, really we all want to believe again in a world where friendship is magic.

I’d just like to send out an apology to any of my regular and new readers for not having updated this Friday, between moving to a new home and anew job I just haven’t been online for the past two days. However I plan on posting Friday’s article on Monday and then resuming our regular Friday posting schedule on next Friday. Look forward to a very bucking awesome article in a couple of days.