Better Than a Potato in a Minefield … FIREFIGHT by Brandon Sanderson

In February 2014, my bride-to-be and I drove to South Padre Island to scout out what proved to be our wedding location. Accompanying us on that 12-hour round trip was Brandon Sanderson’s STEELHEART, read by MacLeod Andrews.

I don’t usually listen to audiobooks, but I knew I had a long drive ahead of me with very little in the way of scenery, landmarks or entertainment. It turned out to be a great decision, and so I pre-ordered FIREFIGHT and looked forward to reading it as soon as it was released. I wasn’t disappointed.

In much the same way that Sanderson’s second book in the MISTBORN series, THE WELL OF ASCENSION, handled the difficulties created by defeating the antagonist in the series’ first book, FIREFIGHT recognizes that defeating STEELHEART not only didn’t solve all the Reckoners’ problems, but it actually created some new ones.

Early in the book, the new mayor of Newcago asks David what the Reckoners’ plans are for taking on all the high epics coming to the city to challenge David and the rest of the Reckoners. David soothes her concerns, but it’s all a bluff — if there’s a plan, he doesn’t know it.

There’s also the newly-discovered knowledge that Prof, head of the Reckoners, and Megan, David’s love interest, are both epics.

“I’d grown up practically worshipping the Reckoners, all the while loathing the Epics. Discovering that Prof was both … it had been like discovering that Santa Claus was secretly a Nazi,” David muses.

One of my favorite things about these books are the way Sanderson blends the sheer fun of normal people fighting back against superheroes with plenty of character contemplation and world development. Sure, David and the Reckoners have some awesome action sequences, but there’s also a lot of time spent with thoughtful dialogue about the world they live in and what the clues they discover mean to their situation.

In FIREFIGHT, David remains the goofy kid we grew to love in the first book, but he’s also coming to grips with the fact that his lifelong determination to kill Steelheart means that he doesn’t quite fit in with other kids his age. More importantly, he’s wondering just how much humanity remains in the epics around them, and questions whether the Reckoners’ actions have the moral justification he’d once thought.

Fortunately, Sanderson blends these more serious considerations with the same humor featured in STEELHEART. David still struggles with metaphors/similes:

I mixed with ordinary people about the same way that a bucket of paint mixed with a bag of gerbils.

and David’s interactions with Megan continue to entertain.

“You’re like a potato!” I shouted after her. “In a minefield.”
She froze in place. Then she spun on me, her face lit by a half-grown fruit. “A potato,” she said flatly. “That’s the best you can do? Seriously?”
“It makes sense,” I said. “Listen. You’re strolling through a minefield, worried about getting blown up. And then you step on something, and you think, ‘I’m dead.’ But it’s just a potato. And you’re so relieved to find something so wonderful when you expected something so awful. That’s what you are. To me.”
“A potato.”
“Sure. French fries? Mashed potatoes? Who doesn’t like potatoes?”
“Plenty of people. Why can’t I be something sweet, like a cake?”
“Because cake wouldn’t grow in a minefield. Obviously.”
She stared down the hallway at me for a few moments, then sat on an overgrown set of roots.
Sparks. She seemed to be crying. Idiot! I thought at myself, scrambling through the foliage.Romantic. You were supposed to be romantic, you slontze! Potatoes weren’t romantic. I should have gone with a carrot.”

In FIREFIGHT, most of the Reckoners leave Newcago for Babylon Restored (formerly Manhattan), to take on Regalia, a High Epic who knew Prof and Tina before Calamity. At first I was concerned, as the Reckoners leave Cody and Abraham, who of my favorite Reckoners from the first book, but Sanderson uses the opportunity to introduce new characters well, and the addition of Mizzy adds another strong character to the cast.

If you liked STEELHEART, I can’t imagine you being disappointed by FIREFIGHT — Sanderson brings even more humor, even more interesting reveals and just as much emotion as we saw in the first book. It’s only a few days since FIREFIGHT was released and I’m already looking forward to CALAMITY’s release date.