Book review: Brandon Sanderson's 'Calamity' doesn't quite satisfy as conclusion to Reckoners series
Posted May 28, 2016
The conclusion of an exciting book series often leaves readers with one of two feelings: satisfaction or disappointment. Sometimes the disappointment is due to the way things ended, but other times it comes from wanting more of the story.
Brandon Sanderson's Reckoners series, which began strongly with “Steelheart” in 2013 and picked up a surge of momentum in last year’s “Firefight,” now concludes with “Calamity” — which delivers plenty of satisfaction but also disappointment.
So much has happened in the series that readers will find it difficult to jump into the story, much less this review, without having read the first two books; following are major spoilers for the series.
After 18-year-old David Charleston avenged his father, who was killed by the Epic (a human who has gained superpowers) named Steelheart, at the conclusion of the first novel, the series seemed in danger of losing strength as David’s primary motivation was fulfilled. But “Firefight” packed enough heavy action, interesting settings and surprise twists to surpass the first book — and, in the process, set a very high bar for “Calamity.”
Prof has turned against the Reckoners and his former ideals, and he now seeks to rule over all as the world’s most powerful Epic — which would require the removal of Calamity, who was revealed at the end of book two to be a mysterious Epic. This leaves the Reckoners facing yet another set of seemingly impossible goals: restore Prof and the other Epics to their former selves and figure out a way to defeat Calamity.
But even with all the information they've been able to gather, not much is known about Calamity — his or her true origins, motivations and powers all remain a mystery.
The improbability of success is overwhelming, but as always, the team continues onward as a series of coincidences and unexplained motives propels them toward a conclusion that doesn't pack quite the same punch as Sanderson's other eleventh-hour revelations — it’s instead a bit of a letdown that leaves more questions than answers.
There is no shortage of action, however, though at times it feels a little heavy-handed. At this point in the series, answers are more interesting than action sequences, so readers may be frustrated as they wait for the big reveal.
Plenty remains to keep readers captivated, however. Sanderson is a master of world building, and he continues to demonstrate he’s worth his salt with a new, even more impressive city.
Character growth is another strong point in “Calamity”; it’s amazing to look back at the events of the previous books and see how far David, not to mention his metaphors, has come. However, several characters’ circumstances at the end of the story feel a little too perfect, in some ways lessening the impact of the personal journeys those characters had to undertake.
Whether they’re new to Sanderson’s writing or are returning fans, readers will find much to enjoy in the Reckoners series, and the fact that a book such as “Calamity” can be considered even mildly disappointing just goes to show what expectations surround the Hugo Award-winning author and each of his forthcoming works.
With the exception of some kissing and flirting, “Firefight” is free of sexual content. The action and violence are age-appropriate and mostly generally described. There are a few instances of mild language, but Sanderson mostly employs fictitious slang and epithets.