Audiobook Review: Lux by Brandon Sanderson & Steven Michael Bohls
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Rating (Overall): 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy
Series: Book 4 of The Reckoners
Publisher: Audible Originals (July 22, 2021)
Length: 13 hrs and 54 mins
Narrator: MacLeod Andrews
So, imagine my surprise when I found out about a new Reckoners novel. After Calamity closed out the original trilogy back in 2016 with the feel of definitive ending, I didn’t think there would be more, though technically I guess Lux is more of a story that runs mostly in tandem to the events happening with the Newcago Reckoners. More importantly, it can be read as a standalone and it also adds more content to the universe.
Available exclusively as an Audible Original as of this writing, Lux takes place in Texas following a different group of Reckoners, a covert group of people with teams located all across the country. Our protagonist is Jax, whose older brother was killed by an Epic, a super-powered human, when he was just ten years old. Left alone in a ruined world, Jax was recruited by the leader of the Reckoners and sent to be trained in their coming war with the Epics, whose powers corrupt them and turn them into heartless oppressors. As the last surviving pockets of resistance, the Reckoners devote their lives to finding out the Epics’ weaknesses, to unlock their secrets and destroy them.
The early sections of the book read like your classic training school story. Jax and his fellow Reckoner initiate Paige are pushed to the limits, but both emerge on the other side as effective soldiers and spies. They are now ready for the group’s biggest, most important mission yet: to infiltrate Lux, the mysterious floating city brought into the existence by the powerful High Epic known as Lifeforce. Lux has recently rolled into Texas Reckoners’ territory, come to steal what’s left, but also to add to its ranks by offering the desperate citizens a glittering new life. Jax and his friends are determined to stop this from happening, but first they must find a way into this shining fortress city. And what they find there may not be anything like they expect.
As I said, Lux can be read as a standalone, though it does have some time overlap with the first three Reckoners books and reading them first would provide lots of context, plus there are also plenty of references and other delightful little easter eggs that a fan of the previous novels will be able to appreciate. For a spinoff though, it does an excellent job introducing new readers to the universe, which presents a very different kind of “superpowered” story where the Epics are villains rather than heroes. When it comes to Brandon Sanderson, you can always expect a unique twist, and while Lux is a co-written effort, it still bears all the hallmarks of his imagination and creativity. Apparently his co-author Steven Michael Bohls had quite a fair amount of autonomy on the project, but the writing itself feels pretty seamless from the original trilogy, at least to me, and of course the audiobook narration had a lot to do with that too (more on that later).
I really liked Jax as a protagonist. He’s a tough young man, and believes in doing the right thing, even if it means putting himself in danger. Like so many of the Reckoners who have survived up to this point, he’s had a hard life and has lost people close to him. He’s more serious than David in the previous trilogy, but still has plenty of humor and spirit to keep his voice interesting. There are also other a variety of side characters to support him, and among my favorites are Hershel and Paige. In addition, one of the best things about Lux is that it gives us a glimpse into Epic society, providing a few of them with POV chapters and allowing readers into their heads.
Story-wise, it’s another action-packed adventure. Admittedly, world-building in Lux is a bit slapdash, but considering we are dealing with a one-off novel, I can see why some of the main ideas have to be painted with a broad brush in order to move the plot along. Some of it can be a bit confusing, but as we gradually build up to that heart-stopping, stunning finale, it’s easy to forgive a few hiccups here and there. The ending also wraps things up but also sets us up quite nicely for possible future books, and I suppose if you weren’t completely satisfied with the way Calamity ended, kind of like how I felt, there’s hope that there’s we may get actual closure at some point.
And finally, I want to comment on the audiobook, which is the only available format right now. Read by one of my favorite narrators, seasoned voice actor MacLeod Andrews who also delivered an incredible performance for the first three books, he once more brings the characters and world of Lux to life. Despite this book featuring a whole new cast and setting, I’m glad he reprised his role of narrator, not only because it gave the book a sense of continuity, but also because Andrews’ voice helped put me right back into the Reckoners universe and immersed me in Brandon Sanderson’s world of Epics and the brave heroes who fight them. If you want to discover it for yourself, this would be a perfect place to jump on board, and I would also recommend the book for existing fans as it is a hugely entertaining spinoff that adds a lot to the original trilogy.