It’s been 13 years since Calamity begat a new breed of supervillains. These Epics (with comic book-inspired names like Steelheart, Mitosis, and Obliteration) were cruel and immune to comeuppance. They were like lions among gazelles.
But their reign of terror had recently been challenged by a small group of rebels called the Reckoners. When these insurgents killed Steelheart, the ruthless leader of Newcago (see our review of the series’ first book here), they made a bold statement. “The day of Epic tyrants is over,” said Jonathan Phaedrus at the time. “No Epic, no matter how powerful, is safe from us.” The Reckoners had declared all-out war on Calamity’s progeny. There was no turning back.
Looking for their next big kill, a trio of Reckoners travel to Babylon Restored (aka Manhattan). The city, now mostly submerged under water, was ruled by a crafty hydromancer named Regalia. Like Kamandi, the last boy on Earth, Phaedrus and his gang paddle into Regalia’s watery domain not sure of what fate had in store for them.
In tow with Phaedrus was David Charleston, the 19-year-old kid who took down Steelheart. In less than a year with the Reckoners, Charleston had killed almost a dozen Epics. Now known as Steelslayer, Charleston was a Reckoner rock star. Like it or not, he had become a champion and a hero for millions of people.
Once in Babylon Restored, however, Charleston turns his back on his pals in support of a cute Epic named Megan. The two had a flirty romance back in Newcago. And now hormonal sparks are causing drama again. No surprise: the power of love is everlastingly epic.
Author Sanderson is writing this series in a brisk, propulsive manner. Much like Dan Brown, James Patterson, and Naoki Urasawa, he knows how to keep a reader’s attention. Short chapters, endless cliffhangers, chipper dialogue, and a penchant for plot twists make Firefight fly by like a speeding bullet.
More than anything else, however, Sanderson keeps things light. It’s true that Epics are a vile and self-absorbed bunch (they have a tendency to quote doomsday Biblical scripture when obliterating entire cities). But Sanderson takes the time to temper moments of intense drama with spikes of quirky levity.
And, as it turns out, David Charleston is a pretty good conveyance for the author’s wacky humor. He may be an OMAC-like killing machine, but Charleston can’t escape his own goofball nature. “I felt like a cupcake on a steak platter,” he says at one point. And later, when trying to articulate his newfound ambivalence toward Epics (especially pretty ones like Megan), he tells a colleague: “I’m like a donut, and somebody has sucked all the jelly out of me.” Charleston’s (and Sanderson’s) penchant for confectionary similes make Firefight a treat for anyone with a superhero sweet tooth.
[Firefight / By Brandon Sanderson / First Printing: January 2015 / ISBN: 9780385743587]