My love of Brandon Sanderson only continues to grow.
My spoiler-free review of book one, Steelheart, can be found here.
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 now he will go on a quest darker and even more dangerous than the fight against Steelheart to find her, and to get his answers.
This was an amazing “second book”–it avoided the pit falls that sequels often experience. It continued the plot of the first book without copying it; new elements fit with the original story but also made it clear that the second book could stand on its own.
I loved Babylon Restored. It is an oceanic version of New York, with a healthy dose of nonsensical, semi-magic elements (such as the fact that all spray paint glows in the dark). The new setting helped to develop the series and keep it from being a one-trick pony–Babylon Restored challenged the Reckoners with new dangers. The resulting fight scenes were just as heart-racing and action-packed as the ones in the previous book, but they were also new and unexpected, because of the difficulties of fighting in a city dominated by water.
Firefight introduces a cast of new characters, as well as keeps a few of the original characters from Steelheart. They meet a new Reckoners cell, which helped to move the plot along and fulfill the promise that had been made in book one: as soon as I knew there were other cells, I wanted to eventually meet one of them, and I was happy when this happened in the second book of the series. However, the new Reckoners’ characters were somewhat flat for me, and I never fell in love with any of them.
David’s character continued to develop, growing more fully into his role as a strong and endearing protagonist. He’s still the reckless, determined, awkward, and moderately bloodthirsty character I loved in Steelheart, but I could also tell that he had grown and that his values had changed. A world without Steelheart left vengeful David feeling lost, and enjoyed seeing him refocus his energies on larger and more meaningful goals. His new fame as Steelslayer also exposed an interesting side of the dweeby, socially inept guy who began the series. But he still sucks at metaphors, which might be my favorite of his character traits.
Prof continued to be one of the most interesting characters in the series. His relationship with David grew more strained in this book, which I actually liked. Both characters were able to develop their own unique quirks when David stopped “worshiping” Prof. I liked the dual father/son and general/soldier relationships the two shared, as well as the growing difference of opinions as to what the Reckoners should do about Epics.
The characters in this book don’t all agree about the course of action that the Reckoners are taking (even the Reckoners themselves). I liked that discord and differences of opinion were included–it added a dose of realism that is often missing from “kill the Big Bad and everything will be okay” plots. The ethical dilemmas surrounding taking down Epics who rule “civilized” cities such as Newcago and Babylon Restored were interesting and conflicting, and I appreciated that the debate was included in this book. I also liked the discussions of the laid-back, “whatever happens will happen” lifestyle that Babylon Restored residents adopted and its role in the perpetuation of tyranny.
The plot of Firefight is solid, well-paced, and full of Sanderson-brand stunning reveals. I will say that I never found the new villain, Regalia, to be all that scary. She wasn’t quite evil enough for me to take her as seriously as I had taken Steelheart, but I liked her backstory with the Reckoners. The subplot surrounding Megan/Firefight was interesting and presented appropriate conflicts, but I never really believed Megan was evil. It didn’t work with the story, or with David’s affection for her. In the next book, I might be proven completely wrong about this, and look like a freaking idiot, but in this book, I felt like any attempt to make Megan evil was transparent.
All in all, I would strongly recommend reading Firefight if you’ve read Steelheart, and I can’t wait to continue the series (why do I have to wait until February 2016 for Calamity?!). The Reckoners series is a powerful combination of action-movie fight scenes, sci-fi elements, endearing characters, and suspenseful plots.
Also! I now have a copy of this book SIGNED. In person! It was so great to meet Brandon Sanderson, and to get one of my favorite books by him signed. AHHH *still fangirling*