Review: Calamity by Brandon Sanderson

February 25, 2016
Review: Calamity by Brandon SandersonCalamity by Brandon Sanderson
Narrator: MacLeod Andrews
Series: Reckoners #3
Published by Audible Studios on February 16th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Science Fiction
Length: 11 hrs and 51 mins
Our reviews of this author: Shadows of Self, The Bands of Mourning, Oathbringer
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher

Thanks to Audible Studios for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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Calamity is the concluding novel of The Reckoners series and it was nothing like I expected, but I have yet to decide whether I feel positively or negatively about that. In truth, I feel torn because even though I enjoyed this book overall, for the first time in a long while I ended a Brandon Sanderson novel without feeling completely satisfied. Here came the long awaited answers to the questions that have been with us since the beginning, but I’m not sure that they really resolved all that much for me.

It probably goes without saying, but it’s worth mentioning anyway: This will be a spoiler-free review for Calamity, but if you haven’t read Steelheart and Firefight yet, keep in mind I may reference events from those preceding volumes. Following the devastating events of the last book, David and the Reckoners have left Babilar for Ildithia, tracking down the whereabouts of Jonathan “Prof” Phaedrus. The former Reckoners leader had ultimately succumbed to the darkness of his High Epic powers, but rather than attempting to kill Prof outright, David believes that his friend can still be saved. To do that, he’ll have to uncover Prof’s weakness, the thing that an Epic fears the most, and force the older man to turn back from the evil consuming him.

From the beginning to about three-quarters of the way through, Calamity was set to be my favorite book in the trilogy. I loved that we got to visit a new city that was once again fantastic beyond belief. After Newcago and Babilar, I wondered what Sanderson would have up his sleeve this time, and it turned out to be…salt. Formerly Atlanta, Ildithia was infused with Epic power and is now entirely made up of the stuff. By crumbling at one end while reforming at another, the city replaces itself completely about once every week or so, and gives the illusion that the whole of Ildithia is slowly “moving” across the landscape of the southern Fractured States. That’s some mind blowing world-building.

David was also once again slaying me with his sense of humor, bringing back his signature metaphors that are so bad they’re good. At certain points of the book, especially the first time the Reckoners encounter Prof in Ildithia, the tension was so thick that I was practically frozen in anticipation, simply hanging on to every word in the audiobook. Later on in the story, there’s even an exciting heist scene, and we all know how much I love those. The stakes were much higher in this book, and the greater intensity of the action scenes definitely reflected that.

So needless to say, I was confused when the first reviews of Calamity started surfacing and many of the ratings were mixed. But once I got to the final stretch of the book, I began to understand.

The ending was…interesting. After finishing Calamity I turned to a friend and tried to articulate my thoughts on how I felt about the finale, and found that I couldn’t. I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it either. Still, I just can’t seem to shake the sense that Brandon Sanderson hit a wall when it came to figuring out how to wrap up this trilogy, and in the end decided on a very random, out-of-left-field conclusion—which is not like the author at all. That is why I am so torn. On the one hand, there’s an unmistakable sense of closure, so I’m happy that we got a real ending. But on the other, there are still many important points left open that I feel needed to be resolved. For lack of a better word, it felt messy.

On a happier note though, I’m pleased to say that the audiobook edition has exceeded my expectations—but I already knew it was going to be excellent after my experience with the audio of Firefight. MacLeod Andrews is a talented narrator, and out of all the titles I’ve listened to him read, his performance on this series is by far my favorite. I think it’s because these books are a good match for his energy and enthusiasm. After all, Brandon Sanderson writes the best protagonists, some of whom are among the most vivid and unique characters I’ve ever encountered. David of the Reckoners series is no exception, though his jokes can sometimes become tedious and get in the way of his charm, but Andrews has this way of moderating that goofiness, making the character feel very sincere and likeable.

All told, I think Calamity might be my least favorite installment, but I also can’t say I’m all that disappointed. There were plenty of great moments in here, and while the ending may have dragged down my overall opinion of the book, it hasn’t really affected my love for the entire series. I adore The Reckoners, and I would still readily recommend it to anyone looking to read a fun spin on superheroes.

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