Tag Archives: Brandon Sanderson

Review of Firefight – Book 2 of The Reckoners series by Brandon Sanderson

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This is the second full-length book in The Reckoners series. I really enjoyed Steelheart – read my review here – as this super-hero, near-future science fiction romp was chockful of action and adventure. Would this sequel successfully continue to sustain the pace and excitement?

Sanderson-R2-FirefightUK_thumb21David realises he has questions. Big ones. And there’s no one in Newcago who can give him the answers he needs. Babylon Restored, the former borough of Manhattan, has possibilities, though. Ruled by the mysterious High Epic, Regalia, also known as Firefight, David is sure Babylon Restored will lead him to what he needs to find. Entering another city oppressed by a High Epic despot is a gamble but David’s willing to risk it and embark on a quest darker, and more dangerous even, than the fight against Steelheart to get his answers.

I’ve dramatically pruned the blurb so that if you haven’t yet read Steelheart, you won’t find yourself beset with spoilers regarding the plot. Sanderson has shifted the environment from the metallic surroundings of Newcago, so David is now out of his comfort zone and confronted with another hostile urban landscape. The Epics acquire their superpowers when the population are exposed to Calamity, a celestial body that bathes everyone in a lurid light. But as well as gaining superpowers, the Epics also are driven to rule at all costs and regard the rest of humanity as a lower lifeform destined to do their bidding – and if they don’t, then they should die. Or… die anyway.

The Reckoners, an underground group, have evolved to try and halt the Epics is humanity’s last desperate fight back against the chaos the Epics have caused as they squabble among each other in unceasing power struggles. David is part of that group. This gives plenty of scope for non-stop action and mayhem, which is a staple for this particular sub-genre. What makes this offering stand out for me is David’s quirky first person narrative. He is a geeky, driven character who spent his formative years trying to prevail against the overwhelming might of the Epics by observing them and keeping copious notes on their habits.

He is the opposite of the classic lantern-jawed hero, with his nerdy preoccupations about his weaponry and coining cool metaphors. He is also tongue-tied and awkward around girls – come to think of it, he’s not all that at ease around anyone else, either. But his character provides some lovely moments of light relief that had me laughing out loud in amongst this ruined dystopian world.

Sanderson’s rich, disturbing backdrop whisked me away from a horrendous cold and the overarching story where we are steadily learning more about exactly what lies behind the Epics powers had me turning the pages way into the night. If your taste runs to superhero adventures – or even if it doesn’t and you want to know what all the fuss is about – then track down this entertaining series.
10/10

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Review of Steelheart – Book 1 of The Reckoner series by Brandon Sanderson

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By a curious coincidence, I read and reviewed another superhero book only a couple of weeks ago – see my review of Turbulence here. This novel is quite different, however…

steelheartTen years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics. But Epics are no friend of Man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule Man you must crush his will. Nobody fights the Epics… nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them. And David wants in. He wants Steelheart – the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David’s father. For years, like the Reckoners, David’s been studying, and planning – and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience. He’s seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge.

So there you have it, the blurb. And if you think it sounds chockfull of action, you’d be absolutely right. This book starts with a bang and doesn’t let up until the very last page. I really enjoyed this offering – it certainly presents a different spin on the whole sub-genre. Told in first person by a non-Epic human who is driven by the desire to be revenged for the death of his father, it is a story of what has happened to humankind since Epics started ruling the world. David has been obsessively studying the Epics and listing their strengths and weaknesses in readiness for moving against them. His character is the lynchpin of the story as we see the situation filtered through his perception – it was a smart move to start the action when David is a small child as we instantly feel more protective towards children and that opening scene demonstrates only too clearly just how grimly ruthless Steelheart is – and what lengths he’ll take to ensure his rule is absolute.

Not that there is any coherent rule throughout most of the country. So many flock to Newcago because although it is grim and in constant darkness, at least there is power and running water. Sanderson is an excellent worldbuilder and this gritted existence unfurls in amongst the action and adds to the tension pinging off the page. But being Sanderson, as well as providing excellent action and plenty of adventure, he also raises some pertinent issues along the way. If a tyrant provides a measure of protection and stability, does that consideration mean that rebels shouldn’t target him? After all, if they prevail a lot of innocent people will die… If that happens, doesn’t that put the rebels in the same amoral pit where the tyrant is residing?

As we are plunged straight into the action, without a lot of exposition, the readers gradually learn more about the Epics throughout the story, as well as the nature of the Reckoners, the desperate group trying to wrest some kind of control back from the Epics on behalf of a crushed humanity. The string of surprises and continual action had me reading late into the night to discover exactly what would happen – a couple of deaths early on in the story demonstrated that Sanderson wasn’t afraid to kill major characters, which certainly kept me attentive. And the climax was brilliant – a set piece where the stakes couldn’t be higher, with a number of unexpected twists thrown in for good measure. Overall, a thoroughly satisfying, entertaining read and I cannot wait to read the sequel, Firefight.
9/10

Review of The Way of Kings – Book 1 of The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson

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A health warning comes with this book – it is a beast at just over a 1000 pages. So if you enjoy curling up in bed with your fav read, you may have to rethink how you hold/balance this breeze block edition – I know I did.

wayofkingsRoshar is a world of stone and storms. Uncanny tempests of incredible power sweep across the rocky terrain so frequently that they have shaped ecology and civilisation alike. Animals hide in shells, trees pull in branches and grass retracts into the stony ground. Cities are built only where the land offers shelter.  It has been centuries since the fall of the ten consecrated orders, known as the Knights Radiant, but their Shardblades and Shardplate remain: mystical swords and suits of armour that transform ordinary men into near-invincible warriors. Men trade kingdoms for Shardblades. Wars were fought for them, and won by them.

One such war rages on a ruined landscape called the Shattered Plains. There, Kaladin, who traded his medical apprenticeship for a spear to protect his little brother, has been reduced to slavery. In a war that makes no sense, where ten armies fight separately against a single foe, he struggles to save his men and to fathom the leads who consider them expendable.

Brightlord Dalinar Kholin commands one of those armies. Like his brother, the late king, he is drawn to an ancient text called The Way of Kings. Troubled by over-powering visions of ancient times and the Knights Radiant, he has begun to doubt his own sanity.  And across the ocean, an untried young woman named Shallan seeks to train under an eminent scholar and notorious heretic, Dalinar’s niece, Jasnah. Though she genuinely loves learning, Shallan’s motives are less than pure…

And there you have the synopsis. The book follows the adventures of all three of these characters through this engrossing and enjoyable world. Initially, it was Kaladin’s story that drew me in and had me wanting to read on, however as I got further into the book, I found myself enjoying the inconsistencies and puzzles around the other two characters, who are just as contradictory and well depicted.

It is a mark of Sanderson’s writing skill that I was held throughout this monster – huge tomes of high fantasy are not high on my list of favourite reads, and I picked this up fully expecting to get about halfway through and then lose interest. It has certainly happened with other popular fantasy writers – including George R.R. Martin. However, effective characterisation isn’t Sanderson’s only strength. His world is fascinating. I loved the landscape, complete with original ecology and unusual wildlife – as well as a complicated, tortuous history and conflicting religious beliefs.

While I may have to get some serious weight training in before attempting the sequel when it comes out, I’m definitely going to track it down – although I’m not promising I’ll get right to the end of this ten part series. However, this intriguing, complex story has lodged in my head and despite the fact that I am now more than halfway through another excellent, enjoyable book since I completed The Way of Kings, I often find myself thinking about the world and the protagonists. Who knows – Sanderson may be the author who thoroughly converts me to joining the ranks of epic fantasy fandom!
10/10