The Reckoners suffers from something that I don’t understand considering the wide catalogue of excellent novels that stretch across the fantasy genre in a flood from the pen of Brandon Sanderson. It’s awkwardness. Firefight is awkward.
There’s a lot to like about the series. The premise of super-people, who explode into the world like a forest fire, burning as they go, is certainly an interesting take in the sf/f field that has left super-people to the pages of comics for the most part. The setting of the first novel Steelheart, a Chicago transformed into a solid piece of steel, and Firefight, a New York flooded to such a height that people lived on the flattened tops of skyscrapers where bioluminescent plants light the skyline, is intoxicating and provocative. They provide a fascinating world where people have had to adjust to rule under super powered mad men and women. The glimpses we are given show only the skill of Sanderson’s world building and planning that is the foundation of his other work.
Included in that is the interesting, let’s call it a magic system, for the powers of the Epics that control the world. In every way they are interesting and diverse, yet at the same time they conform to the rules that Sanderson has been building for the series since the first installment. Even with that strong a showing he continues to impress by building on that system and expanding it through the process of the story so that we learn about it along with the characters and rejoice with them as they come along to conclusions we drew only pages ago.
Yet in all the excellent bits of world and creation, the execution of Firefight leaves something to be desired, and I’m afraid it can be laid at the feet of the main character, David. The first person perspective puts us in the shoes of a 19 year old street rat turned assassin as he comes to turns with the infamy he gained with the finish of the first part of the series, Steelheart. The unfortunate fact of David’s character is that he is awkward. Intentionally so. It is without a doubt that Sanderson has purposely made David awkward not only in action but in word.
The most unfortunate expression of this is David’s inability to correctly implement what he calls metaphors, though any English major reading this would likely find even more awkwardness in his inability to tell the difference between a simile and a metaphor. Though there may have been some interesting exercise in writing a character with such an obvious and verbal fault, the execution is excruciating to read. David is at every turn a character that is infuriating to read. It runs deeper than my natural dislike of teenage characters that are often written to make mistakes simply because they are teenagers.
The language used in the basic description of places and things are done awkwardly as David seems to want to view the world askew and describe around the things and ideas he’s exploring. It almost feels like padding for a story that should perhaps be closer to a short story instead of the small novel that it is. Only the existence of Sanderson’s other work, which often scratches at the 1k mark in page count, would lead me to believe that this is not padding and simply the occurrence of using a voice that doesn’t quite fit the tone and setting of the novel.
This series still manages to hold my attention with the good things that were put into work in its creation, but I find myself nearly skimming through sections to get through the dialogue and David’s voice in the narration. I will stick around for the third part of the series, which we can assume David will play a part, but future volumes, I hope, comes from other perspectives in the interesting world of the Reckoners. For now I put Firefight(Reckoners, #2) at two stars out of five.