Firefight (The Reckoners)
by Brandon Sanderson
Review by Drew Bittner
Delacorte Press Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780385743587
Date: 06 January 2015 List Price $18.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
The city of Newcago (formerly Chicago) has been liberated from the tyrant Steelheart, an Epic (that is, a superhuman) with the powers of Superman as well as the ability to transform matter into solid steel. David is a young man whose father was murdered by Steelheart because of the possibility he might have figured out the Epic's weakness.
David spent the years after preparing to kill Epics, and joining a resistance called the Reckoners let him do just that. Now that Newcago is liberated, the Reckoners are under increasing attack by "random" Epics hitting town. As Firefight opens, David and his team are hunting (and being hunted by) a teleporting Epic named Sourcefield. Although they think they've figured out her weakness, the battle is not going well--and David has some deep reservations about the outcome.
David's hatred of Epics led him to become an expert on them. Now, however, that very obsession with understanding may be betraying him. He got to know a young woman named Megan...who turned out to be an Epic named Firefight. He believes that Epics can be redeemed, that they do not have to spiral down into homicidal psychosis. The Professor, his boss and leader of the Reckoners, does not agree, even though the Prof is himself an Epic--and a powerful one, too.
But the attacks in Newcago cannot go unanswered, in any case, so the Prof takes a small team to Babylon Restored (aka the sunken remains of Manhattan), where an Epic named Regalia rules. Once there, they discover a cult based around a possible Epic named Dawnslight, who seems to manipulate plants at will, and they also discover the depths of Regalia's madness: it appears she has invited an Epic named Obliteration to Babylon Restored with the single goal of blowing it up and killing every inhabitant.
It becomes a race to try and identify Regalia's hiding place--she uses watery replicas to appear to people, with her actual body safely hidden--before Obliteration can charge up to detonation. Working alongside new Reckoner teammates like Mizzy and Val, David has to master new skills (such as a water jet that lets him almost-fly) and persuade his teammates to give his crazy ideas about Epics a chance.
Oh, and he has to survive an attempt to make him into a weapon against his very ideals, leading to surprising insights about the Epics.
If he can get past all that, maybe he'll be in time to figure out Regalia's real plan and the insidious threat it poses to everyone, everywhere. And why killing an Epic doesn't always mean you killed their schemes.
Sanderson is on fire with this book, delivering a hammering blow of a sequel to Steelheart, the first of the Reckoners series. (Quick note: interested readers can also find a short story by Sanderson on Kindle, accounting for some of the time between the two novels.) David's burning fixation on killing Epics has not survived his time with Megan, who may or may not be irredeemable. He's willing to give it his all, however, and trust in his beliefs about Epics, their weaknesses and their psychoses.
Unfortunately, he is forced to unethical extremes, which breaks bonds of trust with his teammates. By the end, nobody is sure if they can depend on him--even when the worst happens and a new, greater threat arises in their midst.
With one heck of a cliffhanger ending, it'll be hard waiting a year for the next volume of the series. One of the best new "superhero" entries out there, this is great stuff all around.