Tuesday, December 26, 2017


by Brandon Sanderson
Recommended Ages: 13+

In Book 2 of the "Reckoners" trilogy, 19-year-old David Charleston begins to entertain doubts about his calling as an assassin who kills super-powered people. It was all very well when he was on a mission to avenge the murder of his father by the virtually indestructible Steelheart. He's proven himself very good at finding the weaknesses of Epics, the usually monstrous people who (for unknown reasons) have gained superhuman abilities since the red star Calamity first rose in the night sky 13 years ago. But David, nicknamed Steelslayer, just isn't sure it's the right thing to do anymore.

For one thing, he believes in the goodness of his personal hero, Jonathan "Prof" Phaedrus, the leader of the Reckoners - even though Prof is secretly the Epic known as Limelight. Then there's the reincarnating Epic Firefight, a.k.a. Megan, who seems more able than most of her kind to control the urges to murder ordinary people indiscriminately. Even though Prof and the other Reckoners believe Megan to be a killer and a traitor, David is convinced she is living proof that Epics can fight the darkness that grows each time they use their powers. But while David is still trying to work out a way to prove the Epics can be turned to good, the epic ruling Babilar - Babylon Restored, formerly known as New York City - maneuvers Prof into a trap from which neither he nor the Reckoners can escape unscathed.

Just as Steelheart, the first book in this series, transformed Chicago into a maze of steel blanketed under eternal night, Manhattan gets the full Brandon Sanderson treatment in this story. Thanks to Epic activity, the sea level has risen to cover all but the top few floors of the city's high-rise apartment buildings. The people have become docile, grooving to music and the juice of glow-in-the-dark fruit that grows, against all the laws of botany, inside the partially submerged buildings. Order is kept by a gang led by Newton, who can deflect any force aimed at her, and whose henchmen seem to be gaining new Epic powers somehow. Disorder is ensured by a mad prophet named Obliteration, who plans to wreak exactly what his name advertises on the Big Apple. Behind it all is a wily epic named Regalia, who keeps her own location carefully hidden while trying to sniff out the Reckoners' lair.

While the Reckoners are trying to lure Regalia into a trap, David realizes she is doing exactly the same to them. He may have realized it too late, however. To save New York and his friends, he must regain their confidence after losing it in a spectacular way. Meantime, he also faces a terrible temptation. Megan must face her worst fear. And Prof must face the dilemma between saving the world and losing his soul.

It's a super-powered action fantasy with lots of blood-quickening action and loads of mind-blowing fantasy. The thrill-ride is enlivened still more by the often goofy narration of tough, stupidly brave, good-hearted, natural-born-leader David. He combines a frequently commented-on ability to persuade people to go along with his plans, a reckless tendency to improvise that, somehow, usually pays off, and a fantastic ability to mangle metaphors (for example, comparing how he can't keep Megan off his mind to a penguin who can't accept that the plastic fish in its aquarium tank aren't real). His love for Megan, his faith in Prof, his struggles of conscience, and the growth in his outlook all go right to the reader's heart, in spite of his sometimes chilling willingness at times to shoot superheroes dead.

More is in store for fans of this trilogy. Book 3 is titled Calamity, and I'm already reading it. I can bear witness, there is an arc of tension that builds throughout this series, and it continues to increase straight through Book 2 and into Book 3. For more by this author, see also his "Mistborn" series, The Rithmatist, Elantris, and the final three books of Robert Jordan's "Wheel of Time" cycle, which Sanderson completed after Jordan's death.

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