Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Book Review: Calamity by Brandon Sanderson

Calamity, by Brandon Sanderson, is the final book in the Reckoners series, preceded by Firefight and Steelheart. I've been enjoying that series immensely as it's fun, action-packed, and light-hearted. I should probably read Mitosis at some point, as it's a novella taken place between Steelheart and Firefight. Sanderson is planning a new young-adult trilogy set "in a world parallel to that of the Reckoners." Now that I've read Calamity, I understand exactly what that means and I'm excited for it.

Below you can find my review. I aim to avoid spoilers, but you may encounter some if you haven't read the prior books in the trilogy.

Overall Impression
This is a great conclusion to the Reckoners series of books by Brandon Sanderson. I thoroughly enjoyed it and read it in a flash. The setting is cool as always. It makes me wonder, which city of the three books would I prefer: Newcago, Babilar, or Ildithia? The plot races on with lots of action going on in every chapter. The only drawback is that I wasn't impressed too much with the characters for this particular book, though it may be that we already know most of them from prior books.

As a Sanderson young-adult novel, this book flies through with a fast, action-packed pace. It's easy to get sucked in to the story and the chapters are short enough that you keep thinking "Just one more chapter..." before finding yourself missing subway stops or staying up far into the night. The only drawback is that the story feels far shorter than it really is and you're left wanting more.

This book has many of the same characters introduced in the prior books. Naturally, these have changed throughout the books so this review has spoilers on how some of them have developed, though I try to be cautious. One issue I had with this book is that the main character, David, though he has developed and has his quirks and flaws, still feels a little too good to be true. He is clever, smart, lucky, and charismatic and things just seem to go too well for him, at least in contrast with the prior books.

Other prominent characters are Abraham, Cody, Mizzy, and Megan among the Reckoners and the villains feature Limelight and Obliteration. The motivations of the main villain, Limelight, are not clear until far into the book and, in my opinion, that cheapens him somewhat given the fact we know him from prior books. In contrast, Steelheart and Regalia, though equally obscure, were new in their respective books and so felt far more menacing.

Overall, I'm surprised to say that while the characters are usually where Sanderson is at his best, here he is not as successful and the story is driven more by the plot and the setting.

Setting / World Building
This book is set in the Reckoners' universe as described in prior books of the series. A mysterious red star has appeared in the sky, which everyone calls Calamity. With the arrival of that star, people started getting super powers and turning evil. These are the Epics that the Reckoners fight. While some Epics can have minor powers, in general, they have devastating abilities that they use for mass destruction and can usually have incredible defensive abilities, such as the ability to quickly heal, become immune to damage, or even resurrect.

In this book we get to see a lot of new powers, mainly from Limelight, but also from Larcener and a few other minor Epics. We also learn about motivators, the technology that allows normal people to wield some measure of an Epic's power. It's always cool to see how Sanderson creates these interesting abilities and plays them off one another.

This particular book is mainly set in Ildithia, formerly Atlanta. This city is made entirely of salt... and it moves. Exactly how I'll leave you to find out when you read, but it's cleverly done.

Final Thoughts
A great conclusion to a series that leaves you wanting more. The book was very good and I would certainly recommend this short trilogy to others who are interested in Sanderson's work or in a twisted look at superhero stories. Throughout the trilogy, the plot, settings, and characters are all memorable. For this particular book, I felt the characters somewhat weaker, but that didn't detract from my enjoyment. I look forward to see if Sanderson revisits this particular universe.

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