Nov 7 2011 4:00pm

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

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 myself and perhaps 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 the anime shows superior to what he found on television. He started to find more and more anime, and in doing so, he told me that he discovered something. He liked all of 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 the jump across cultures. He found that he didn’t like 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 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 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, 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 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, a new book in the Mistborn series, is out November 8th. You don’t have to have read the original trilogy to enjoy it, so strap on your guns, down a vial of allomantic metals, and dig in!

You can read the Prologue and the first six chapters of The Alloy of Law here on

Brandon Sanderson is the author of Elantris, The Mistborn Trilogy, and, with Robert Jordan, the New York Times bestselling The Gathering Storm, Towers of Midnight, and the forthcoming A Memory of Light, the final volumes to the epic Wheel of Time.

1. Cralic
Thanks Brandon! I completely agree with what you said and have started noticing this lately as well. I talked my girlfriend (who never has read fantasy series before) into reading The Wheel of Time (after years, and she enjoys it alot). In return I promised to read a few of her books. Turns out there are good non-fantasy books out there!

I have thoroughly enjoyed your books and have this one payed for and on the way. I can't wait to see what happens when Allomancers get to shoot/"fly" around with bullets :)
2. Ken St. Andre
A lot of us realized from the beginning that there is no logical reason to bar guns from fantasy. Burroughs put John Carter in an essentially sword and sorcery situation and gave the Martians guns, swords, and airships--princesses, monsters, and radium rifles. Roger Zelazny had Corwin retake the city of Amber with firearms. (The Guns of Avalon). Mark Twain used firearms in A Connecticutt Yankee in King Arthur's Court. Tunnels & Trolls very quickly introduced some rules for guns as weapons in the game. Guns are a big equalizer in combat. A little guy with a gun may be even more deadly than a big guy with a gun. I don't think wizards would like guns much--too easy to be slain at a distance. If I were a wizard in a fantasy world, I'd do everything I could to keep guns away from the general population, but you know, it wouldn't work forever. As a wizard I would also be working on the idea of bulletproof. There should be spells to ward one against getting shot.
Captain Hammer
3. Randalator
I don't care if my fantasy has guns in it and never did. All I'm interested in is a good story with great characters in an interesting and consistent world. I'm confident that The Alloy of Law won't disappoint in that regard...
Ian Johnson
4. IanPJohnson
Brandon: 14-year-old you has overly simplistic notions of what fantasy is. Don't worry– we were all morons of one kind or another when we were fourteen.

(Loved Way of Kings, by the way.)
Paul Howard
5. DrakBibliophile
One of Barbara Hambly's fantasy worlds has guns in it (see her _The Silent Tower_).

Of course, one of the reasons that guns can be used against wizards is that the guns can be "treated" so magic can't work against the guns.

Otherwise the wizard could just prevent the gunpowder from igniting (or worse).
Theresa DeLucci
6. theresa_delucci
@5 One of the cooler fantasies I read last year was The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman. Magic guns were a huge draw for me. I was suffering from sword fatigue.

Looking foward to reading Alloy of Law!
7. jelsel
guns hum? Can't help but remembering the Jon Shannow novels from Gemmel.
8. Matt D
I think the most useful thing to do would be to examine WHY your fourteen year old self felt that way. Were there specific books he had encountered which tossed guns into a fantasy setting, or was it just conventional wisdom, and if so, why? USUALLY, there's truth in rumor and a good reason for such prejudice. I know my gut tells me that someone who is inclined to toss guns into fantasy is someone who is somehow immature, who wants to be "kewl" or powerful or live out some sort of edgy escapism instead of focusing on things like world building or characterization. It's not true in the least, but I probably have met ten or twenty people over the years that would fit that mark, very likely this a high majority of those I've met that DO want to toss guns into the genre. So it's based in some anecdotal experience for me, and I imagine it was worse 10+ years ago.

That said, tastes change and genres change and grow. I don't think people could have predicted the rise of steampunk a decade or two ago, for instance. There's also the rise of a new generation of writers who are also deeply fans and who want to get away from the things they've seen a thousand times before (as opposed to a generation or two back where the writers were trying to emulate the cornerstones of the genre). So who knows.

All I know for sure is that I'm stoked to read Allow of Law and think it will be a blast.
9. Sean C King

Coming from the perspective of someone currently in the world you have created (I am a little more than halfway through the audiobook) I am quite frankly amazed at how much I am enjoying this particular twist on the Mistborn world. I will admit that like your 14 year old self I was skeptical about how the Mistborn series could accept the Industrial Revolution. Your Mistborn series is one of my cherished favorites because of its fantastically different twist on the normal world presented in high fantasy. I found it so easy to get lost in that world and the new laws that govern it. Introducing not only guns but a full blown Industrial Revolution is a ballsy move but I have to say that you have pulled it together beautifully!

I am fully engaged into the Mistborn world again. It is a wonderful thing to come back to a world that I have loved for so long and get pulled in like I did the first time around. That is something rare indeed and I applaud you for it. To have that familiarity yet the also experience that sense of wonder again has been truly refreshing.

Thanks for expanding an already GREAT series in such a new and exciting way.

Now that I have said my piece… I am going to listen to the last 3 hours or so.

Keep up the Great work! I am anxiously awaiting the finale for The Wheel of Time, the next installment of A Way of Kings, and now whatever is to come with the new Mistborn.

Thanks Again!
10. SignOfTheTimes
I just finished Alloy of Law and loved it--I really dig your sense of humor. But if this is a stand alone and not part of the second trilogy I'm sad! Will you revisit these characters? I feel like I need some more of this . . .

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