ARC Review: Firefight

WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS FOR STEELHEART. IF YOU HAVE NOT READ STEELHEART, STOP AND GO READ IT.

Firefight

From Goodreads:

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 more simple. Instead, it only made David realize he has questions. Big ones. And there’s no one in Newcago who can give him the answers he needs.

Babylon Restored, the old borough of Manhattan, has possibilities, though. Ruled by the mysterious High Epic, Regalia, David is sure Babylon Restored will lead him to what he needs to find. And while entering another city oppressed by a High Epic despot is a gamble, David’s willing to risk it. 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 he’s willing to go on a quest darker, and more dangerous even, than the fight against Steelheart to find her, and to get his answers.

Dear Megan Firefight,

From the moment I first laid eyes on you, I knew you were as awesome as the last hot-dog salesman in Newcago[1]. The way you took down Fortuity was amazing. You nearly had him trapped with the strength of your charms alone; he was quite beguiled by them. You’re so beautiful even a blind nun would stop to look at you… If she weren’t blind[2], that is. Regardless, when your plans went awry, you had the ability, with my help, to take him down and rid this world of yet another evil Epic.

They say that you are one too of them. You told me that you are one of them. That you infiltrated us like an oatmeal raisin cookie[3]. But I don’t believe them. I think you are a good person. I’ve seen Prof fighting the evil that comes with his powers, blocking it out by not using them. I know it can be done. And I believe you can do it. You’re as strong as an egg you have your whole hand around[4]. You can fight it, you can overcome it. You just have to get away from the Epics, away from the battles, and you need to not use your powers for a while. Trust me on this.

I meant what I said when you were dying, Firefight. I love you. You truly are a potato in a minefield[5]. I have been trying to convince the others of your goodness, but even Prof, who should know that your powers, your evils, can be overcome, will not listen to me. I recommend that if you see me with them that you avoid them at all costs. I wish you no harm, but it will take time to convince them of your goodness.

Our next destination is Babylon Restored. I have heard that you’re already there, and I hope to meet you on more amicable terms than the last time we met.

Yours Truly,

—David Charleston

[1] Read Mitosis.

[2] Pulled directly from Steelheart.

[3] Haven’t you ever grabbed a chocolate chip cookie, taken a bite, and found that it was oatmeal raisin in disguise?

[4] This actually works, surprisingly enough. If you hold the egg in the palm of your hand and wrap your fingers all the way around it, it’s basically impossible to crush.

[5] Go read Firefight.

The actual review:

I had a lot of fun trying to write the above letter in David’s voice, as he might be feeling at the end of Steelheart. I don’t know that I succeeded incredibly well, but I enjoyed it.

And if it wasn’t clear, Firefight was amazing. Steelheart was a really good book for the start of a trilogy. It bucks a lot of tropes, as is typical with Sanderson’s work, and it introduced us to an incredible cast of characters, Tia, Prof, Cody, Abraham, Megan, and, of course, David. Firefight takes us from Newcago to Babylon Restored, the home of Regalia. If you managed to get one of the exclusive editions of Steelheart with her profile in it, you know a little bit about what’s coming; if not, I’ll just say that it’s awesome.

You need to read Steelheart before you read Firefight. The events of the bridging novella, Mitosis, are mentioned a few times, and play a minor, but important role in one of the plot points of the book. You can, however, get away without reading it, and you’ll be fine.

There’s a lot of new characters that we meet, including another Reckoner team and several new epics for them to pit their powers against. I’m not going to spoil any of the introductions, because they’re truly delightful, but I will say that I really, really liked one of the new characters, and the way she was introduced/described.

The plot starts off in a very similar manner to that of Steelheart: There’s a chilling prologue, then a fight with a minor epic, and then the team heads out to start planning their main mission. Like Steelheart, the entire book is a ramping up of the tension, with a really intense pacing that never loses track of the essentials of the plot and the overall goal. But the epics are bigger, the stakes are higher, and the secrets more surprising. When you get to the last 70-100 pages, you have to be able to read it all at once. it’s an incredible experience that you really just have to experience all at once.

As you may have guessed from the letter, I actually ship David and Megan. I’m not usually a shipper type person… In fact, I’m usually the opposite. I want minimal romance and I certainly don’t want it to distract from the plot. This one, though, is just so… Perfectly right. I can’t deny that, at the end of Steelheart, I was so excited that the next book was titled Firefight, and that I had really high hopes for Megan and David. I’m not going to say if these hopes are realized or not, but… Yeah. I ship them. I think it’s largely because David is so adorably nerdy and is trying so hard to do the right thing, but he’s not superhuman or blessed with any incredible powers, and Megan is the perfect foil for him, as well as being a very exciting “grey” character.

And the twists are huge, especially near the end. I thought I was prepared for the Sanderson ending, but no… It was utterly amazing and brilliant. So many moments when I had to stop and put the book down to try to process the epicness (pun intended) of what had just happened.

One last comment to tell you how good it was: I read this book in the middle of the school semester from hell, where I had two 20+ hour projects each week plus standard homework in two other classes, and I barely kept up with all of it. I read Firefight in one sitting the night I received it, finishing around 3 AM after I had been awake at 5:30 AM the previous day and in class essentially 7 AM-7 PM. And I do not regret it. Firefight is the rare book where the author not only matches the first book in the trilogy, but exceeds it. Apparently nobody gave Sanderson the note that second books in trilogies are supposed to be boring bridging material, because Firefight is packed with 100% pure awesome all the way through.

Verdict: 5 of 5 stars, because there aren’t more than five, and GIVE ME CALAMITY!

Brandon Sanderson’s Website (With awesome Firefight theme.).

Goodreads

Amazon

Book Review: Steelheart

steelheart

From Goodreads:

Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics. But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his wills.

Nobody fights the Epics…nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them.

And David wants in. He wants Steelheart – the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David’s father. For years, like the Reckoners, David’s been studying, and planning – and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience.

He’s seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge.

Most people know Brandon Sanderson as the magic system guy, or as the guy who writes massive, 400,000 page tomes. He’s the Mistborn guy, or the guy who finished the Wheel of Time.

Yes, he has done all of those things in his short (<10 years) career, and he has done so much more. Sanderson, some people seem to forget, has written outside of his Cosmere. He’s written at the very least, YA, Middle Grade, sci-fi, and tech-thrillers. And he’s done all of those things incredibly well. Steelheart is the first book in his second YA series, and I loved it.

Steelheart is a post-apocalyptic YA action-adventure super-villain story. Many people complain about the post-apocalyptic/dystopian market being saturated… but they’re complaining about the copy-cats, the long lists of books that are all essentially the same, often even using the same characters with different names.

Steelheart is not like those books. Steelheart is a breath of fresh air into the field, with all of Sanderson’s trademark elements.

He’s got a brilliant, diverse cast of characters. The Reckoners, Tia, Prof, Abraham, Cody, and Megan, are all fun and unique, each in their own way. My favorite is probably Cody, and his constant insistence on silly things, like the magical little men living inside devices that make them run, and his ever-changing list of claimed inheritances/nationalities.

But that’s not to forget the main character, David. David could easy have become a blank, revenge-coated slate. I mean, it would have been awesome for him to say, “Hello. My name is David Charleston. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” But that’s not all of who he is. He is a nerd of the highest order, researching epics and their weaknesses, giving us someone the nerd inside all of us can utterly relate to, and a brilliant way to info-dump without being boring the reader. He’s a gun nut, and has a very personal relationship with his weapons. He also makes the most horrible metaphors. Ever. And they’re so crazy you can’t help but laugh. I love David. He’s not a flawless hunk of man-meat, single-mindedly destroying villains. He’s a real person with all kinds of quirks who wants to see things set right in the world that has collapsed around him. He is the hero I would want to be, if I ever travelled into a book.

Sanderson also has his trademark magic-system feel with the epics, the evil super-villains that David so carefully categorizes and the Reckoners are determined to kill. Sanderson’s invented an impressive set of powers and names—no mean feat in a world already full of comic book superheroes and supervillains. And yet, we don’t quite know how they got their powers, or why only the evil people get them. This is one of the driving forces of the book, and I don’t want to spoil it for you.

And the plot is driven, all the way through. Sanderson’s adult novels are sometimes criticized for being slow and boring. The first one or two, perhaps, are, though I feel in general that the criticism is unfounded. Luckily, there’s no way that anyone could make this criticism about Steelheart. It’s one heck of a ride, stuffed full of adrenaline filled fight scenes and tense moments. But, unlike so many other YA books I have read, it does not get lost in these moments, the drive for a plot that keeps you turning the page. The characters, the real story of the whole thing… That is never lost among the scenes. Ever scene, every action, is integral to the plot and they are all put together in a way that makes perfect sense.

In summary, Steelheart’s a fast, intense, adrenaline-filled read, appropriate for both YA and adult audiences, with an incredibly cast of characters, another trademark Sanderson magic system, and some very bad metaphors. Everyone should go read and enjoy this great book. Five of Five stars.

Before I give links, I’ll conclude this review with a quote from Patrick Rothfuss’ (If you haven’t read Name of the Wind, you… need to fix that.) review of Steelheart.

Why? Well, because Brandon writes so much faster than me. It only seems fair that some of his stuff should be crap. It just doesn’t seem fair that he’s brilliant AND fast….

Unfortunately for my ego, Steelheart is another win for Sanderson, proving that he’s not a brilliant writer of epic fantasy, he’s simply a brilliant writer. Period.

Brandon Sanderson

Steelheart on Amazon

Steelheart on Goodreads