Steelheart, Firefight, Calamity
The Reckoners #1-3
I am giving this book series by Brandon Sanderson a 4 star review because I really enjoyed reading it, although I must admit I did not rush to get Calamity and finish it. I find myself comparing it a bit to Brandon Sanderson’s adult fantasy books, of which I’ve been a huge fan ever since Elantris all the way up to Way of Kings. They are simply larger-than-life amazing. The way he comes up with completely different magic systems and worlds every one or two years is amazing to me, and I think few writers would be able to repeat that.
The Reckoners series is for a YA audience, and it is written with much the same features as I mentioned above, only in a more “light” version. The complexity is dialed back (but not much, I’m telling you that up front!), there is a bit more straightforwardness in the interpersonal relationships. There are nonetheless still those typical Brandon Sanderson plot-surprises, when something is revealed that you never saw coming and is so logical to the plot, that it makes everything click. I love that about him as an author, that ability to make your whole story instantly click with one or more cleverly pulled reveals. Especially because you can’t guess them beforehand.
When I picked up Steelheart, the first book of the series, I was once again amazed by the world building. Let me just say – a plot in which every superhero is inherently evil? I’m such a geek for that idea, it is absolutely amazing. Steelheart was a perfect villain; a personal connection, seemingly invincible, and the ability to turn AN ENTIRY CITY TO STEEL. How COOL is that? It’s so cool, I’m capitalizing everything. And of course, how Steelheart embraced the superhero thing, with his cape and the flying. It’s all so recognisable, and I assume to Steelheart himself as well, and yet the execution is completely different.
I find the other villains for this series written in much the same way (except for Obliteration, what is up with that dude?), even though they differ completely. With Regalia you see the personal connection because she has one with Prof, and she is so good at doing the creepy popping-up-out-of-water thing. And then in the final book, we of course have Prof himself, who has become a father figure to David – coming full circle for the poor kid. He has embraced the Limelight persona and has gone off the deep end.
David, as a hero, is a common kid in the sense that of course he is going to be weird. In such a world, with his father dying by Epic hands, who can expect him to be otherwise? But his enthousiasm is so infectious, I found myself drawn into it even though the trope itself is a bit overworked. In the Reckoners’ world, there is a co-existence of technology and magic, and that is a bit of a pet project for Brandon Sanderson. He is pioneering that sort of fantasy stories, and I think because of that, I didn’t see some reveals coming. I am curious to know who did, because when I think back on my reactions to Steelheart, surprise isn’t really one of them. I mostly just loved the weakness-riddle and finding answers to that. But considering I wasn’t as surprised as I usually remember being for Brandon Sanderson’s adult fantasy books, I think I wasn’t actually surprised at all.
But it is also very possible I’ve just been a bit lost in all the action. Because there is much more of a focus on the action (considering it is YA, that is completely logical) and a bit less contemplation. Only a bit, though, it’s just more straightforward. I liked this change of pace from Brandon Sanderson’s other fantasy books, and we were still served some awesome plot twists. I do have to say that when reading the Steelheart finale, I was a bit lost on what was happening to Megan. It felt too “should have seen that on film to get it”, which is an issue I sometimes have when there is almost nothing but action. I feel the same about the third Hunger Games book, Mockingjay. But, Sanderson makes up for that in Firefight and Calamity.
But what truly makes this story, are the Epic weaknesses. The way they are connected, and how they have to figure out its mystery before they can really do away with evil Epics, is once again a great find by Sanderson. He does a wonderful job in balancing out the mystery in all of his books, and in The Reckoners too. It keeps progressing enough to keep you hooked all through Firefight, but the final reveal comes only at the end of Calamity. It makes sure you really don’t know how this story is going to end and I love that in a book. I need multiple options to be viable probabilities, so I keep guessing.
I also have to tip my hat for the world building once again. Steelheart had an amazing world, and when we came to Babilar in Firefight, that city was so different and yet again so expertly pulled off. I also like how these cities tie into David’s changing attitude about the Epics. As he sees more of the world and gains these different experiences with the cities and the people in them and the Epics ruling them, his world view becomes more nuanced too. Though David, and thus Sanderson, never excuses the Epics. They are very much accountable for what they are doing, even if it is hard for them.
Calamity gave a great conclusion to a trilogy that is filled with action but also some great lessons. I liked what was happening to Prof, and the way Brandon Sanderson didn’t pull back from consequences even though he was writing a YA instead of an adult fantasy (which adult fantasy writers tend to do when they attempt YA, but Sanderson has experience writing for a younger audience with the Alcatraz series). While Megan’s powers turn out to be able to do some awesome things, it is Larcener who is stealing the show. You know that guy is trouble and you can’t say why.
So to me, this series is a great read, despite my feelings being a bit more “light” than usual when reading Sanderson’s books. I don’t think it is a reflection on the story itself, but more the fact that I took so long in between books reading it. Sanderson gives good in The Reckoners, his world building is – pun intended – epic, the way he balances action and emotion has been expertly done, and a world full of evil superheroes is just inherently cool. I’m convinced that if I ever had to live in a dystopian world (which, why would you when it means awful, awful things?) I would 100% choose THIS world. If David’s a nerd, then I’m a nerd. Go read this series!