Books in Series: Steelheart, Mitosis*, Firefight, Calamity
* Mitosis is a side story set in world and best read in order after Steelheart
I’ve noticed that in recent times whenever Brandon Sanderson books are discussed, Reckoners always seem to fly under the radar. Misborn & Stormlight deservedly have their place in the limelight for being a stunning set of books, but I do believe Reckoners deserves more recognition and is as good as any of the other series by Sanderson. So here goes…
Note: The review covers the series generically in full rather than by individual books.
It is my opinion that Reckoners suffers greatly from being at the crux of a trifecta of genres that fantasy readers may not think it’s up their alley. It’s (a) an Urban Fantasy, (b) A Superhuman story and (c) It’s Young Adult. Now when I consider those holistically it’s understandable why people looking for mainstream fantasy books with imaginary worlds, magical races, spells and curses thrown around may not really look at the series in detail.
Well to be clear the trifecta above is only technically true. It is an Urban Fantasy only because it is set on Earth. The post-apocalyptic twist makes the entire world unique and as fascinating as a new fantasy world. It is a superhuman story, but the characters have all lost their humanity. It is a Young Adult only because of the protagonist’s age. It’s as much YA as Mistborn is! The themes handed are as interesting to a mature audience as they are to the characters themselves.
Hopefully this article would do some part in making them look past the naming conventions and take a deeper look at the content! Add in my personal gripe that the series name is as bland as it can get, I totally understand why this gets underrated consistently.
The world of Reckoners:
The blurb for Steelheart captures the world succinctly:
“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 will.”
The world of Reckoners is post-Apocalyptic dystopian Earth where countries as we know don’t exist anymore. Due to the passing of the comet, Calamity, random normal people start manifesting superpowers. And as the saying goes, Power corrupts. We see a world dominated by these Epics where power and strength reigns supreme. The Epics establish themselves into a feudal style of governance and carved up territories to rule. The not powerful epics serve the more powerful rulers and the rest of the population is reduced to an Industrial Society where everyone works in factories to sustain themselves. Add in the looming threat of constant battle as territorial fights between Epics may break any time. Rather than a case of grass being greener on the other side, the predominant theme for the population is fear that the grass may be redder on the other side. The dilemma of whether to accept/support their bad Epic ruler because the replacement might be even worse has been done excellently. It’s a bleak world where fear and uncertainty rule mixed with a good dose of hopelessness. Only a shadowy group known as The Reckoners dare to fight against the tyranny, but due to numbers and superpowers they are deemed to be fighting a losing battle.
It’s fast moving and we get to the story from the prologue. We start off seeing David watching his father killed by Steelheart, the ruling epic of Newcago (old Chigago). A decade later, we get to the main plot. The plot then follows David as he jumps headfirst into the running war between the Reckoners and Epics. The writing is crisp, the pace is relentless. As more and more characters get added to the cast, they all bring their own unique views to the world and their actions. Every character is well etched with their own unique personality traits making this a rich and diverse world. There are nonstop action scenes. With the bunch of Reckoners going up against Epics with various superpowers I had an imaginary visual treat that is at par with any Hollywood movie I can think of.
The magic system here is a classification on the hero powers. Though this is very subtle, we get to see a varied cast of people and powers to keep things fresh all through. What I absolutely love is the way the magic system is defined. The powers granted are double edged. The more you use them, the more corrupted you become and lose your humanity. But the choice of not using them to stay good/human still lies within the person’s grasp. How many can resist the lure of superpowers to avoid forsaking humanity? The dystopian take by Sanderson, is nearly none. Everyone gets corrupted, sooner or later. How would it be in a world where there can be no superheroes, but supervillains keep popping up?
The human elements of Sanderson carry over here too. Like we love Kelsier, Vin & Kaladin, we get to know the characters here personally. We get to see David’s anguish, the Professor’s dilemma, Megan’s harsh choices and get to live the novel with them! But then as we are talking about Humans and Earth, it all feels all the way more real. A book with a lot of heart in it!
The main protagonist is David. Having witnessed the murder of his father, he is obsessed to a fault to rid the world of Steelheart, his father’s killer. On the way, he compiled information about the various Epics and powers to become an encyclopedia of the magic system. Once he gets a wider view of the world and learns from others, his perspective changes from revenge to justice to acceptance. The character maturity arc is a standout to follow!
The Professor is a counterweight to David. They share similar, but not the same goals and their perspective to aching that varies greatly. David’s focus on immediate is offset by Professor’s agenda of macro. David’s tactical view vs Professor’s strategic view…their similarities and differences make for a very engaging read.
Abraham, Cody, Tia, Megan, Nightweilder, Conflux the cast is rich and vibrant, and everyone brings their unique perspective to make up a brilliant whole.
Books in Series: Steelheart, Mitosis*, Firefight, Calamity