Michelle Herbert reviews Calamity by Brandon Sanderson…
This is the final novel in the Reckoner’s series, which was preceded by Steelheart, the short story Mitosis and Firefight, due to this there may be some spoilers from the previous novels below. As the Reckoner’s series was my first introduction to Brandon Sanderson’s writing, I found him to be very infectious, his novels are fast paced but cover a whole range of topics that you may not expect to find in a series about superpowers.
At the end of Firefight, the original leader of the Reckoner’s Professor Jonathan Phaedrus, has given into his powers and become the dangerous epic Limelight. The surviving Reckoner’s led by David must now stop him from causing more harm. The Reckoner’s; David, Megan, Mizzy, Abraham and Cody are still in mourning for their lost members, but also now have a clue to solving the Epic problem without having to resort to killing them. The Reckoner’s believe that if an Epic can overcome their fear they will still have their powers, but will not have the murderous rage which makes them so dangerous to normal humans.
Each book in this series has been based around an actual city, radically changed after the rise of the Epics. This time, the Reckoner’s need to find Atlanta now known as Ildithia, the moving city of salt. The city moves by constantly reforming itself over a two-week period, so the population along with the city are constantly in flux. Ildithia is ruled over by an Epic called Larcener whose primary power is being able to remove powers from other Epics for a short time, or if he holds on long enough he will keep their powers and make them human again. Larcener has the same ego as many others Epics, but he is also different in his actions, seemingly more like a spoilt child than the angry murderous villain we normally meet in this series. Is he really different or is it just that as far as David knows he was the youngest person to be given his powers?
Calamity has a wider goal than the other books, as this is probably the end of the series (at least for the foreseeable future), it has to switch between a viable ending for the characters that we have grown to know, but also allows us to find out why the Epics originally appeared, whilst also branching out into alternative realities and awe-inspiring super powers. Given all of this, it is easy to see why the series is such compulsive reading. The Reckoner’s need to not only stop Limelight, they need to work out what information Regalia gave him at the end of Firefight. Does this information involve Calamity and will it hinder the Reckoner’s plan to solve the Epic problem?
It is also really interesting to see how much David has grown as a character not only becoming more mature, but also realising that you have to move on from revenge, even if he was able to achieve it, he knows he must move on from anger which allows him to counsel Mizzy when she doesn’t understand why he was allowed vengeance but she isn’t. David is still not a master of metaphors, but he is better at making plans in tight situations. This doesn’t mean that he is less impulsive, rather that he can improvise from the plan in a more determined manner. David is now willing to share the motivators with the group he has come to call his family taking a back seat to allow others to shine, even if the group still lives and survives on a need to know basis with each other. Megan has always been an intriguing character and I like that she never loses her personality as she gains more skill in handling her Epic powers and remembering the person she was before Calamity’s arrival in the sky. Megan has always been complex and as she struggles with the darkness, still manages to be heroic, risking her life not just for David, but also for the rest of the Reckoner’s who with good reason still do not completely trust her after the previous events in this series.
It is a nice twist on the series that started with the intention of killing Epics as you wanted to help ordinary people. To trying to help the Epics who do not see you as anything other than minor annoyances. David’s father and Abraham once wished that good Epics would arrive to help humanity become something more, in this novel could that wish become a reality? The Reckoner’s series focuses on anger and fear, it is partly what drives the Reckoner’s to do what they do although each members motives are different. At the same time, this fear is also what fuels the Epics, the fear that their weakness will be discovered, and how much that fear keeps them angry, which keeps them destroying buildings and people, in that need for control and power. For all the humour in this novel, Brandon Sanderson has written a very menacing story that is also full of tragedy and worthless death. It is an incredible re-imagining of the superhero mythos that truly encompasses human nature.