Wednesday, 26 February 2014

The Alloy of Law - Brandon Sanderson

When you lose yourself in the world of a book it's nice to have the change to re-visit.  However there's always the danger that the things you loved will have changed, and that reading more may even ruin your memories of what went before.  Of course, there are other possibilities as well.

The Alloy of Law is based around 300 years after the events of The Hero of Ages (the last book in Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy).  Unlike many fantasy books, the world has moved on and made technological advances.  In our terms they are somewhere around the Victorian era, with trains and new-fangled electric lights.  But advancement doesn't mean that all is well in the world, nor does it mean that magical ability is unimportant.

There are 3 types of magic in this world, although at the time of this book only two are in common use and knowledge.  Allomancy involves 'burning' metals internally to provide different powers, for example burning tin increases the user's senses.  Feruchemy involves 'storing' traits in metals for use at a later time, for example gold allows for storage of health.  Handily there is a table in the back of the book detailing the effect of each metal for the two types of magic.  I would have appreciated the addition of nicknames next to each metal as I have a tendency to get some of them muddle.

Of all the fantasy books I've read this is one of my favourite 'types' of magic, and so it was fascinating to read about its use in a whole new setting.  Technological advancements are made based on the priorities of a culture and so there are subtle but visible differences to the way things developed in our world.

Clearly this book features a whole new set of characters, although the heroes from the original trilogy are frequently referred to as 'deities' of various religions.  The new cast are dynamic, believable and somewhat crazy - so basically everything you could want in a book.  The relationship between Wax and Wayne is beautifully written, with all the casual digs and inside remarks that you would expect from a long-standing friendship.

The plot has the feel of a Western, with the 'heroes' returning from the wild Roughs to the Big Smoke and retaining the same ideas of law and order that they had before.  The era setting and prominence of guns certainly help with that feel - although of course these guns have to be specially crafted to be of any use.  I thought the storyline was really well designed, and it definitely feels like a story that happens to be set in a world with magic, rather than a series of events for the sake of magic.

So, back to those memories of what went before... Well I can definitely say that this has changed my perception of the original trilogy.  Because while I very much enjoyed what I'd read before, this was so much better.  Many of the concepts and references make more sense if you've read the Mistborn trilogy, but I think there are enough explanations that you could read this as a standalone book if you wanted to.  And you really should want to, because it's brilliant.

Monday, 3 February 2014

A Vicky Hill Exclusive - Hannah Dennison

Looking round the crime books in my local library I saw a book in the 'recommended' section by Hannah Dennison.  On further inspection it was the fourth book in a series, and the first book was nowhere to be seen.  Back at home I had a look on my Kindle and decided that 84p was an alright price to give something different a try.

A Vicky Hill Exclusive is set in a small town in Devon and follows newspaper reporter Vicky Hill.  Vicky is desperate for her big break so that she can move forward from writing obituaries but life in her little town is just to boring to get any big scoops.  That is, unless the last man she attended the funeral of had actually been murdered.

As I mentioned, I picked this book up as one of its successors was marked as a crime book, and I suppose it's fair to classify it like that given it follows a murder investigation.  However, a few chapters in my husband asked me how the book was so far and the description I gave definitely made it sound like chick lit dressed up as a detective story.  And it wasn't the best costume.  First-person storytelling very much hinges on the storyteller, and if that person is shallow and ever-so-slightly clueless then that is the impression you get of the whole story.

Don't get me wrong, I did actually enjoy reading the book once I got into it.  It definitely fulfilled my criteria of being something modern, different and not too taxing.  And the overall plot was fine.  It was mostly just the characters that were lacking, which is always a bit of a problem for me.  I'm not exactly rushing to buy the next book in the series, but given I was looking for a break from other series that's hardly a problem.  That doesn't mean I would rule out the second book in future, if I need to escape into a harmless world.