Firefight (2015) by Brandon Sanderson

A fairly strong follow-up to Steelheart. Like any second book in a series, Firefight suffers for lacking the novelty of introducing the setting and characters, but Sanderson tells a compelling enough story here (at an uncharacteristically brisk and focused pace) to largely make up for it.

One of my main complaints about Steelheart was that the characters were very thin. The characters in Firefight aren’t as interesting or nuanced as those in Warbreaker or Mistborn (let alone in other author’s books), but they’re certainly developed more than they were in Steelheart. Grappling with the changing of fundamental worldviews works well here; the struggles of the characters were interesting, and I was invested well enough.

I find the running gag of absurd metaphors funny enough personally, but I can’t shake that it feels tonally disharmonious to me in such a starkly dystopic setting. The humour in Mistborn, the first book particularly, worked for me because it was explicitly justified by Kelsier as a conscious attempt to reclaim joy in a dystopic society, but in what is essentially a pretty glum world, the humour in the Reckoners sometimes feels off to me. It works better in Firefight when the world isn’t so glum, but it still contributes to this vague sense of the world in this series not being as cohesive as Brandon’s worlds typically are.

On that topic, the magic system (if you can call it that here) is much looser than a “normal” Sanderson system, but I actually quite like that. Sure, there’s clearly some underpinning rules here, but the powers of the Epics themselves lack any of the innate cohesiveness that systems like allomancy and surgebinding do; it’s a lot more freeform here. It’s an interesting change of pace from Sanderson’s more scientific systems.

Firefight shares a lot of Steelheart’s problems, but fixes a big one, and also shares on all its strengths.

I give it three fortune cookies, and a dolphin.

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