Thursday, December 10, 2015

Firefight Book Review

by The Wanderer

Author: Brandon Sanderson
Publisher: Delacorte
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
Series: Reckoners Book Two
Pages: 434

Buy on Amazon!

(Spoilers for Steelheart and Mitosis are below).

I was surprised at how much I liked Steelheart when I first read it last year. There was a great setting, a tough villain, and a great concept – the epic concept – that really made it a lot of fun to read.  It ended with a lot of potential, especially regarding the future of the titular character of the sequel.  Firefight takes some time to get going, but it pulls itself together in the last half and turns out to be a fun read.

After defeating Steelheart, David and the rest of the Reckoners continue to defend Newcago from other epics who would wish to subject it to their rule.  After a recent string of Epic attacks, it’s revealed that they’re all being sent to the city by the mysterious High Epic, Regalia.  Taking David with him, Prof heads to Babylon Restored, the former borough of Manhattan, which is not only Regalia’s home turf, but the last known location of Firefight.

Firefight struggles in the beginning.  It features a typical action packed fight scene that’s starting to become commonplace at the beginning of a lot of Brandon Sanderson’s books.  What really irritated me about the fight with Sourcefield is that it basically echoed the plot of the Reckoners short story Mitosis, making it feel redundant.  From there the book slows down as David, Prof, and Tia head to Babylon Restored.

The setting once again is memorable as Regalia has raised the water level of the city, and another mysterious epic named Dawnslight provides power to it via numerous pieces of glowing fruit.
However the first half of the book is trying to figure out Regalia’s game plan.  Needless to say she’s a decent villain, but she never captures the imagination like Steelheart did, nor does she feel as threatening.

Young adult books aren’t usually my thing, but a good written book will always be a good written book.  Sanderson continues to adapt to the publishing/stylistic constraints on YA books, so expect those short chapters with cliff hangers at the end of nearly every one, an exploration of first love, and a plot that moves a mile a minute.  Minus the cliff hangers at the end of every single chapter, Sanderson tends to do a lot of these things in his other books, making him a good fit for this type of writing project.

The urban environment can get a bit tricky for him though.  Urban fantasy, especially urban fantasy that takes place in our real world, tends to require a bit of extra realism in the writing style.  I can’t help but shake the feeling that writing here feels more like it belongs in a high fantasy – especially the dialogue.  One scene in particular really stands out, and that’s when David attends his first party.

Not only do these rambunctious group of college kids drink juice at their parties, the dialogue includes the most unrealistic social dialogue I’ve ever read by Sanderson. I may not be the party expert, but this had me asking what kind of parties does Brandon Sanderson think young people attend? Generally speaking, a large urban environment in our world, especially one like New York City, usually features a lot of different dialects and a lot of different cultures, and it felt like diversity was really lacking in Firefight.

Introspection helps improve a lot of the major characters. David really starts to grow into a character that moves beyond revenge.  He starts to examine his feelings for Megan, whom he had romantic feelings for throughout all of Steelheart. When David discovers she was really Steelheart’s lieutenant, the High Epic Firefight, it forces him to really look at the morality of what the Reckoners are really doing and to question whether or not all Epics are evil?  This motif is helped along by how different the culture of Babylon Restored which is largely a peaceful city, compared to Newcago, where it’s inhabitants don’t constantly live in fear of being killed by epics.  That’s not to say that epics don’t kill people here.

While I enjoyed David’s growth, it was really Megan that not only drove the story but happened to save it, too.  Sure she helped Steelheart, but she also saved David at the end of that book, too. Rest assured a lot of Megan’s motives, her past, and her reasoning is explored and that happened to be the most fulfilling part of the story for me.

The action and violence is toned down quite a bit.  There are still plenty of great scenes, but there’s nothing that comes close to the moment where Steelheart’s head gets blown off by David’s jacked up gun. A lot of questions are answered, and the premise for the final installment is set up and it looks like the plot is heading down a more traditional direction.  I’m no less deterred to read it.

Score: 7.5

No comments:

Post a Comment