Audiobook Review: Firefight by Brandon Sanderson
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Series: Book 2 of The Reckoners
Publisher: Audible Studios (Audiobook: January 6, 2015)
Mogsy’s Rating: 5 of 5 stars
It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Brandon Sanderson, and I admit I usually go into his books with higher than average expectations. Still, I rarely find myself disappointed. There’s just something about his style of writing and storytelling that really appeals to me, and the truth is, the man is a font of utterly amazing and creative ideas.
In 2013 Sanderson brought us Steelheart, the first book in The Reckoners series about superheroes gone bad, and I loved every moment of it. So you can imagine my excitement when I received the Firefight audiobook for review! This book is the highly anticipated sequel, and I couldn’t wait to get back to David Charleston and his fellow freedom fighters, joining them on their continuing mission to neutralize Epics and end their oppression. After destroying Steelheart and freeing the city of Newcago from his reign of terror, the Reckoners are headed to Babylon Restored, formerly New York City, to seek out more High Epics to defeat.
Their latest target is Regalia, a High Epic with water-based abilities who rules Babylar (Babylon Restored, or Babyl-R, hence Babylar). Sanderson once again proves he is the master of world-building the instant we enter the city by way of a boat, because most of what used to be Manhattan is submerged. If I had any reservations at all about the story and characters leaving Newcago for another setting, they were dashed as soon as I encountered Babylar’s watery landscape – er, seascape. Regalia has crafted hills and valleys out of the surrounding ocean using her Epic abilities, and what’s more, there’s a mysterious power in Babylar causing strange things to happen, like graffiti to glow and luminescent fruit to grow in abundance in what’s left of the skyscrapers visible above water. The result is this mind-boggling tableau of a post-apocalyptic city with an otherworldly, almost magical quality to its appearance.
In departing Newcago for Babylar, we’re also leaving a couple of characters behind, namely Cody and Abraham. However, the story makes up for that by introducing us to several new faces as Prof, Tia and David team up with the members of the Reckoners cell in Babylar. Val, Exel and Mizzy are all fascinating additions to the book, but I have a feeling it is the latter who will steal the hearts of many readers, due to her perkiness and loveable personality. Indeed, Mizzy was one of my favorites.
Obviously, a big part of this book also involves David’s conflicted feelings about Megan AKA Firefight, the girl who infiltrated the Reckoners and stole their secrets along with David’s heart. What I really thought was great is that David’s soft spot for Megan is more than just a typical vapid “forbidden love” side plot; besides causing friction with Prof and his new Babylar teammates, David’s relationship with Firefight also serves as the catalyst for huge things to come at the end of the novel.
When it comes to our main man, David is his entertaining, goofy yet charming self. I know some readers have expressed annoyance at these books so far because of the horrible metaphors David makes or the absurdity of some of the Epics’ weaknesses, claiming that these factors weaken the series by making it seem ridiculous. It’s a fair point, though on some level I think you have to see them as the running gags they’re meant to be. David’s attempts at metaphors may be cringe-worthy and pathetic, but they add some much needed humor to this otherwise very bleak world where Epics who by all rights should be humanity’s heroes turn out instead to be our worst nightmare.
This is probably also a good time to mention how much I enjoyed Firefight in audio format. Initially, I had qualms about tackling the audiobook – after all, a bad narrator can ruin the whole experience. This was absolutely not the case here, however. I believe I actually have narrator-extraordinaire MacLeod Andrews to thank for feeling a lot more connected to David’s character in this sequel than I did in Steelheart.
I’ve heard of Andrews before this; he has narrated a number of books and I’ve listened to a few of his performances. Still, I don’t remember being as blown away as I was with his work here. You can tell with some audiobooks when the narrator is really enjoying themselves, as they add their own inflections and other nuances as they’re reading, becoming the character. This is definitely one of those situations. For me, Andrews became David. Reading the character’s silly jokes on paper might fall flat for some readers, but the lines come to life when delivered by MacLeod Andrews. David is no doubt meant to be a little awkward, and somehow Andrews is able to convey that while still managing to sound very natural and real at the same time.
All told, I would say Firefight is another winner from Brandon Sanderson. New setting also means new heroes and new villains, and I’m glad things like that are keeping the series fresh. Arguably, there are even more twists and turns here than in Steelheart, with Regalia and her Epic minions like the wily Newton and utterly psychotic Obliteration mercilessly playing cat-and-mouse with the Reckoners. I loved the unpredictability of the plot, since it’s so rare that a Young Adult novel can capture my attention and keep me in suspense from beginning to end. The YA categorization is debatable though, as these books can most certainly be enjoyed by a much wider audience. I for one would recommend this to young adult and adult readers alike. Seriously worth your time.
A review copy of this audiobook was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Audible Studios!
Click below to hear a sample of the FIREFIGHT audiobook, narrated by MacLeod Andrews. With thanks to Audible Studios.