Newcago is free. They told David it was impossible—that even the Reckoners had never killed a High Epic. Yet Steelheart—invincible, immortal, unconquerable—is dead. And he died by David’s hand. Eliminating Steelheart was supposed to make life simpler. Instead, it only made David realize he has questions. Big ones. And no one in Newcago can give him answers. Babylon Restored, the city formerly known as the borough of Manhattan, has possibilities, though. Ruled by the mysterious High Epic Regalia, Babylon Restored is flooded and miserable, but David is sure it’s the path that will lead him to what he needs to find. Entering a city oppressed by a High Epic despot is risky, but David’s willing to take the gamble. Because killing Steelheart left a hole in David’s heart. A hole where his thirst for vengeance once lived. Somehow, he filled that hole with another Epic—Firefight. And he’s willing to go on a quest darker and even more dangerous than the fight against Steelheart to find her, and to get his answers.
Firefight improved on a lot of things that I wasn’t all that fond of in Steelheart, such as tuning down David’s ridiculous analogies (and, by the way, thank you, Megan, for pointing out that they’re not metaphors, as he’s been calling them, but similes. You have no idea how much that bothered me. Technically, even my use of “analogies” is incorrect) and fleshing out the nature of Epic powers and weaknesses. It’s an incredibly solid second book overall, and it has less of a “second book in a trilogy” flavor to it than most.
David becomes even more awesome in this book, which I love to see in protagonists—and Sanderson manages to balance keeping David the same character while also building on that and changing him in certain ways. I loved the part where he had to face his fear of the water, which led him to both resist what Regalia tried to do to him as well as inspire the same bravery in Megan (technically, that happened earlier). David is a great character because he inspires other characters to be more than they were before. He inspires Megan to face her own fears and sees things in other people that they can’t see themselves. I’m looking forward to how the third book will play out in regards to David, Prof, and Obliteration (and even Calamity).
I am a bit disappointed that most of the new Reckoner team were basically Red Shirts (expendable crew, basically), though. Both Val and Exel have pretty bland personalities and we don’t get as attached to them as we do the stand-out Mizzy or the first book’s Cody and Abraham. So, it’s a little obvious that Val and Exel are set-up to be expendable characters where we won’t care much if they end up dying—a sure sign that they will, at some point, end up dying.
Recommended Age Range: 14+
Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Once, I’d absolutely hated Epics. I realized I couldn’t feel that way any longer. Not now that I’d known Prof, Megan, and Edmund. Perhaps that was why I rebelled against killing Regalia. It seemed to me she was trying to fight her Epic nature. And maybe that meant we could save her.
All of these questions led me toward dangerous speculation. What would happen if we captured an Epic here, like we’d done with Edmund back in Newcago? What if we tied up someone like Newton or Obliteration, then used their weakness to perpetually negate their powers? How long without using their abilities would it take for them to start acting like a regular person?
If Newton or Obliteration weren’t under the influence of their powers, would they help us like Edmund had? And would that not, in turn, prove that we could do the same for Regalia herself? And after her, Megan?
Firefight improved on a lot of the things I had difficulty with in Steelheart, although that improvement was slightly mitigated by Firefight’s own problems, such as the blandness of some of the characters that clearly indicates their “This one’s going to die” status. As for the plot and the action, it’s Sanderson quality as usual—which means that it’s good. I’m excited to see where the revelations in this book lead us to in the final book.
Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary people extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics. Epics are no friends of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man, you must crush his will. Now, in what was once Chicago, an astonishingly powerful Epic named Steelheart has installed himself as emperor. Steelheart possesses the strength of ten men and can control the elements. It is said that no bullet can harm him, no sword can split his skin, and no fire can burn him. He is invincible. Nobody fights back…nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, the Reckoners spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them. And David wants in. When Steelheart came to Chicago, he killed David’s father. For years, like the Reckoners, David has been studying, and planning, and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience. He has seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge.
I have to admit, Brandon Sanderson has never failed to disappoint me. Not only is he an incredibly prolific writer, churning out what feels like a book a year, but he is a consistently good crafter. His plots are tight and surprising, the action is awesome, and there is always an edge of humor to take away from the tension. I started reading Steelheart and I could not put it down.
Despite the fact that I guessed a few of the plot reveals, it was the sort of anticipatory guessing that I see as more positive than the guessing that leads to boredom; the sort of guessing where you can’t wait for the reveal just so you can squeal “I knew it!” in delight. And a few things that I guessed weren’t correct at all, so I was suitably surprised as much as I was wiggling in anticipation (I did actually wiggle while reading this book).
David’s nerdiness/awkwardness (there are not enough nerdy heroes) was a delight. I love it when heroes stave off bad guys using their wits, which is pretty much what David does the entire time (with moments of stupidity interspersed). The action scenes involving the take-down of the Epics were gripping, and pretty much exactly what I want to read when I read action.
I am glad that Megan got more dimensionality towards the end because for a while I was a bit worried that she was just the Hot Action Girl Love Interest and nothing else. But since Sanderson is awesome, and knows his stuff, she gets better, and more intriguing, and feels more like a character rather than a cardboard cutout.
I did think, though, that “Newcago” was a bit of a twee name, and the running gag of David’s terrible metaphors, while humorous, just went slightly over the edge into “too much” territory. I also spent way too long wondering how in the world Curveball’s powers worked. Does he spontaneously generate bullets so that he never runs out? Does he take them from somewhere else? Is there a giant warehouse stuffed full of ammunition just so Curveball can never run out of bullets? The characters mention at the end how incomprehensible some of the powers the Epics have are, which I was glad for since Curveball’s, above all the others, pretty much just boggled my mind.
Recommended Age Range: 14+
Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult
“Yeah, caber toss….It’s this sport we had back in the homeland. Involved throwing trees.”
“Little sapling? Like javelins?”
“No, no. The cabers had to be so wide that your fingers couldn’t touch on the other side when you reached your arms around them. We’d rip ‘em out of the ground, then hurl them as far as we could.”
I raised a skeptical eyebrow.
“Bonus points if you could hit a bird out of the air,” he added.
“Cody,” Tia said, walking by with a sheaf of papers, “do you even know what a caber is?”
“A tree,” he said. “We used them to build show houses. It’s where the word cabaret came from, lass.” He said it with such a straight face that I had trouble determining if he was sincere or not.
“You’re a buffoon,” Tia said.
I had a few slight issues with Steelheart, but the book is amazing in suspense, action, imagination, and fun. I couldn’t put it down and I enjoyed wiggling and saying “I knew it!” at plot threads I guessed correctly and saying “Oh my gosh, what?” at plot threads I didn’t guess correctly (or didn’t guess at all). Sanderson is one of the most consistently good writers out there at the moment, and Steelheart is another win from him.