The Reckoners Series
Having just finished the first two books and the short story of The Reckoners series, I felt compelled to write a blog post. At the time of this writing, the third book, Calamity, has not yet been released.
This series has been quite good! I’m not usually a Young Adult reader, as I prefer to stick to my classic epic fantasies, but since it was written by Brandon Sanderson the writing robot whom we all know and love convinced me to give it a shot.
And it was totally worth it. Of course, being a YA novel has its penalties; certain subjects are off-limits, and overall things will be less gritty. It reminds me most about the Justice League universe where, from an alternate dimension, the JL turn evil and controlling. The main character seems like a fusion of Batman and the dude form How to Train Your Own Dragon. All in all, a totally awesome universe. Or perhaps Smallville where Clark goes to the alternate universe where everyone is afraid of him because, in this universe, he was raised by Lionel Luther, and he’s totally evil. The story has been told dozens of times, but for once, it focuses on the person with no super powers! And that’s what makes it so unique.
As with any fantasy series, when I get thoroughly engrossed in the universe, I want to start picking things apart. I read all three books in just under a week, so the following points are by no means insults or claims that this is a bad series. It’s a great series, and Brandon Sanderson will always be one of my favorite authors. These are just some thoughts I can’t get out of my head.
David Needs a Nerf
David is right a little too much. He makes thoroughly groundbreaking discoveries back to back with little to no effort. Of course, he’s been researching this for 10 years, yadda yadda insert nerd joke. But seriously. The fact that weaknesses are tied to fears.
I know Sanderson did a lot to talk about this in the book itself.
a. It’s only been 10 years, and much of it was total chaos b. The Reckoners haven’t interrogated other EPICs because they’re interested in killing them c. David himself wasn’t sure, it was just a hunch, etc
I guess my problem is that, although he spent a lot of text on it, I’m not compelled. At all. This sort of thing seems to happen over and over. There are literally 2 data points, and David will extrapolate some incredibly complex theory. This happens over and over. Think of Newton; he spent maybe three sentences over the entire book thinking about her weakness. And he just magically comes up with it. Same with Prof, who he never bothered to think about a weakness, since he likely assumed they would always be on the same side. He seems incredibly quick on his feet. I get it - he’s a point man who is supposed to be. But there’s a difference between making earth shattering discoveries on your feet versus good instincts when it comes to guns. David’s lucky. Too lucky.
Contrast this with the approach that was taken in the first book with respect to Steelheart’s weakness. There were five dominant theories, and none of them were correct. It’s only in the very end that they find out by accident. Here, on the other hand, within four chapters the main character has somehow solved the mystery. That seems a little… weak sauce.
Megan seems to be a revolving wild card that doesn’t really seem to make any sense. So in the first book, we seemed to know what her powers were: she’s an illusionist. Cool. Oh wait, not at the very end. Because now she can reincarnate. Erm, okay. Illusionist + Reincarnation. Right? Nope! Ta-da! She’s a master of string theory.
Okay. So remember how she couldn’t set the buildings on fire in the first book as firefight? So… how can she manipulate Prof’s forcefields? She’s manipulating energy and/or matter in this realm by another EPIC, no less. So why can’t she set fire to a little old building?
Also, she’s 20 right now. And apparently Steelheart recruited her fairly early on. So she must have been around 11 or 12? I guess I’m having trouble believing that she was recruited by him that young, which begs into question how deeply she was embedded in his organization. This is a man she supposedly served for nearly a decade. Did she like him? How does she feel now that her lover killed him? She believed in his message, and yet she doesn’t want to be an EPIC. So why did she join his organization in the first place? All of these issues are glossed over in the name of “Oh, you were an EPIC. You’re nothing but a super powered druggie. Stop using the drugs, and everything will be fine.” I really think there are a lot of unaddressed issues here.
But, she’s the main character’s love interest. So… there-ya-go.
Is Obliteration dead or not?
I shouted, then brought the blade down.
And killed my second High Epic for the day.
This is the scene right as he is killing Regalia. Only, it has been very clearly established that she is not a high epic, though powerful, since she does not have an immunity power. None of her powers protect her. Newton was one, so… who was the second? And why would David say this as he was killing Regalia?
Has Sanderson just made an oopsie here? Not sure. The only other option is Obliteration, who very clearly teleported away.
The fact that Calamity was an EPIC was awesome, if perhaps a little predictable. Maybe that’s just the way my brain works, but I figured that’s where this was going. One thing I was terrified about was the whole David becoming an EPIC. There could not have been a single thing that could have ruined the series more than this happening. Remember Eragon and what a clusterfuck that was? Thank. The. Heavens.
If This Weren’t YA
This is one of the reasons I wish it weren’t a young adult novel. There is so much awesome, super dark, gritty material here. Experimentation on EPICs by the government? People killing EPICs and defiling their corpses like vultures? The remorse EPICs must have felt when they returned back to normal. Think Lews Therin in Wheel of Time when he kills everyone he loves. All of these are, of course, not acceptable for a children’s novel. And Sanderson skirts away from these issues by having David, a rather naive character, as his point of view. I understand the decision. I just wish it could be another way. I think in many ways GRRM has spoiled me; I’ve fallen in love with dark material and can’t go back.
Update: October 2016 - just finished reading Calamity
The book was decent overall. I like the fact that they kept Tia’s plan, particularly because she was always portrayed as such a remarkable planner, and it certainly didn’t feel like simply turning Prof into an Epic was the end of the plan. The third book does a great job on extending it further.
The idea of the alternate universe is a neat one, and it’s an idea that always captivates me. It reminds of me of DC’s Ultraman. Unfortunately, I wish this was introduced a lot earlier in the series. It’s a super neat idea, and I feel too little was done with it. What was done with it felt supremely cheesy by the end.
Don’t get me wrong - it’s a Sanderson novel, so we know we can expect a happy ending with most of the loose ends wrapped up neatly in a bow. But the fact that his father was alive and that they got a happy reunion felt a little too happy. But maybe I’m just a sadist secretly wishing for Game of Thrones.
Larcener being Calamity was a neat twist, but everything after prof’s defeat with Calamity felt a little fake to me. Trying to describe Calamity’s powers or his existence felt a bit like the ending to Interstellar - in other words, don’t try to explain the inexplicable.
Still, overall, it was a great series - and particularly so for a YA.
P.S. Mitosis is horrible. Just skip it.