Firefight is Book 2 in the Reckoners series. You can read my review of Reckoners Book 1, Steelheart, here.
FYI, there are some minor spoilers in the footnotes.
Notes on Diversity:
Compared to Steelheart, there was nowhere to go but up, really.
Sanderson did go up. He could have kept Firefight populated by only white people1, but he branched out a little. The book is still defined by a masculine voice and masculine quest, and the team of Reckoners is still led and organized around male leaders (though women are present), but at least there are some prominent characters of color: Regalia and Newton, specifically.
But. Regalia, the main antagonist of the book, is a Black woman. That in itself is not a problem. Black women can be the bad guys, sure. But. In making Regalia an Epic–specifically an Epic with powers that manifest as omnipresence and her positioning as the owner/protector of Babilar, she is like a cross between the Magical Negro trope and the Black Boss Lady trope.2 That is to say that clearly some effort went into making her race visible, but I’m not sure Sanderson pulls it off. She seems like a collection of cliches to me, which is distasteful in itself. Readers of color might bounce especially hard off her. YMMV.
And Newton zips around, being horrible, for a long, long while before being revealed as Asian canonically. Given her assumed Epic name, and given that we get no actual description of her as a person–but elaborate descriptions of the havoc she wreaks–I assumed she was White until halfway through the book. That she was Asian seemed to be mostly an afterthought.
I read Firefight on the strength of the plotting in Steelheart. But Firefight lags. It’s a middle volume with middle volume weaknesses: it builds lore up, and the plot of this volume is mostly setup for the Grand Finale coming in the next book.
It’s not a terrible book. I devoured it in days. I would have devoured it quicker except that Sanderson indulged far too often in his gimmick of writing in David Charleston’s terrible metaphors. One or two absurdly bad metaphors I can handle, but not one per page. David Charleston, as a character, seemed to be on a one-man-mission to teach himself how to produce elegant metaphors on demand, going so far as to stop conversations with his elusive Epic girlfriend who is maybe but probably not evil but that everyone thinks is evil but he knows better in order to write down her better metaphors.
The book could have been trimmed. Reading it felt like a prelude, or perhaps, the first act of the final volume. The Reckoner series should have been a duology, maybe, not a trilogy. Too much setup, too much effort, for too little payoff. Too many characters and settings that we’ll likely not see again in the third volume.
There were interesting things in the book. The difference between how David expected Obliteration to be and how Obliteration actually was was well done–but again unless this plays some role in the last volume this could have been a separate short story.
In sum, those who loved Steelheart and are captivated by the Reckoners will probably love this slightly less. It’s a little meandering. If you’re looking for diversity, this isn’t and never was the place to look. I’ll check out Calamity because I’ve read the rest, so why not?
1I think Nightweilder in Steelheart was Asian? He came and went so fast that honestly I don’t really remember, but I think so. Pretty sure everyone else was White, though. And despite Tia and Megan being in the mix it read like a sausage party. A straight sausage party.
2The fact that both of these tropes are typically reserved for ‘positive’ portrayals of racist caricatures actually fits with what Sanderson does with Regalia’s character over the course of the book. Regalia has an aborted redemption arc; she’s dying of cancer, and wants to hand her city over to a ‘trustworthy’ Epic–a one Jonathan Phaedrus, Prof, of the Reckoners. Which means her entire plot is about a Black woman handing her power over to a White man. Yes, she is dying. Yes, they were friends. BUT STILL. THAT IS WHAT THE BOOK HINGES ON. It…rubbed me the wrong way.
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