[Review] Calamity — Brandon Sanderson

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Book Title:  Calamity (The Reckoners #3)
Author:      Brandon Sanderson
Number of pages:  421

Synopsis:

Brandon Sanderson - Calamity - Book CoverWhen Calamity lit up the sky, the Epics were born. David’s fate has been tied to their villainy ever since that historic night. Steelheart killed his father. Firefight stole his heart. And now Regalia has turned his closest ally into a dangerous enemy.

David knew Prof’s secret, and kept it even when the Reckoners’ leader struggled to control the effects of his Epic powers. But facing Obliteration in Babilar was too much. Prof has now embraced his Epic destiny. He’s disappeared into those murky shadows of menace Epics are infamous for the world over, and everyone knows there’s no turning back…

But everyone is wrong. Redemption is possible for Epics—Megan proved it. They’re not lost. Not completely. And David is just about crazy enough to face down the most powerful High Epic of all to get his friend back. Or die trying.

(re: Goodreads @ Calamity by Brandon Sanderson)


Should this book be picked up? the tl;dr review:

– Continued excellence in an [new] immersive setting; this time taking place in Ildithia (post-mortem Atlanta)
– The once endearing metaphors/similes of David Charleston feels burdensome to read especially during fight-or-flight situations
– Expands upon existing character arcs but lacks focus on the “real” key players to the story as it relates to the world/magic systems; the big reveal just didn’t work for me
– New Epics revealed with fun powers that integrate smoothly with the action sequences
– Holds a questionable ending to an explosive series that can be both positive and underwhelming

Initial Thoughts

Reality gave the middle finger to expectation, basically.


Afterthoughts:

Premise

I gleefully ventured into Sanderson’s Calamity expecting answers, finality, and a conclusion to my highly rated experience in Steelheart (4.75/5) and Firefight (4.38/5).

Well…shit. 

It’s like if you had all the ingredients to build a perfect burger but you overloaded it with so much crap that the bread has sopped everything up and is now an epic soggy mess.

My problem is with the deviance of execution. The arc of the story, until now, had a great balance of themes and moral struggles– without taking itself too seriously–while it slowly unraveled the layers of post-apocalyptic (ish) America under the light of tragedy and nuanced backstory. But everything that happened in Calamity felt satisfactory. Maybe it’s my fault, that I built up this expectation of what ought to happen that I’m just blind to see the good in the revelations presented.

Actually, no.

Here’s my thought: the ending is a nod towards a happily ever after. I don’t mean that it’s being “catered” to young adult (being it’s intended audience), it’s that there’s this overwhelming sense of “everything will be alright” or “good guys always win” style of positive discourse being pushed as the moral backbone to this trilogy; which is polarizing to the ambiguous heroism seen previously.

That, and the seemingly random route the story took. I don’t know man…I don’t know.


Setting

In Steelheart, Sanderson encapsulated sheets of silver alloy across a grungy metropolis and gave life to an eerily claustrophobic Chicago.

In Firefight, he expanded that otherworldly fantasy by rising the tides–higher and higher so the world lived atop buildings–all while showcasing the luminescence of graffiti plastered all over New York high rises.

Calamity? It’s a moving slug called Ildithia (Atlanta postmortem) and it takes the best of both Steelheart and Firefight in masterfully rendering a locomotive city that’s gritty, vibrant, and full of sand. (It’s not actually a slug but just imagine a city moving like a slug, leaving a trail of sand.)

I applaud Sanderson on the richly textured infrastructures and unique Epic powers that thrives off the page. Unfortunately, I delved deeper into the underbelly of the world, reading into the big reveal was like running into a brick wall; an odd stylistic placement particularly because it doesn’t really get built upon (unless it’s being opened up re future installments).


Narration

While I could flail over how effortless and wonderfully paced Calamity was to read (note: Sanderon bedazzles me with his pacing and his ability to vomit dynamic action sequences), I’m finding it hard pressed to enjoy the blips of “metaphor/simile” that makes up so much of David’s character.

It was cute before–him unknowing of what these figure of speeches meant–but now it feels forced and rather necessary in so many instances. To be fair, they provide excellent visual cues for weaving together an accessible image. However, there’s a time and place for high jinks and it suspended belief when they’re literally in some major action sequence and there goes David with his metaphor. Play a drinking game with David’s sayings, I dare you.

Thankfully, Knighthawk’s interjections were hilarious additions to round out David’s forced humour.

If there’s one thing that I felt cheated on, it’s that Calamity should have been 100 pages longer (at a minimum). It’s okay that the story swerves into new otherworldly territory but I have this giant question mark over the magic system as it ties into every other narrative thread. Like, it’s there…but also not really? It just lacks focus is all.

It’s as if David exclaimed “the secret weapon is a banana–potassium!” and the book abruptly ends and you’re supposed to be satisfied.


Characters

The thing about David Charleston is that he’s this powerfully useless encyclopedic enigma who navigates through subverting popularly established superhero tropes. He has all the values of a solid protagonist but is incompetent alone to be the hero–and that’s okay–because that’s the point–mundane teamwork and shit. But Calamity takes that meticulously established “everyday hero” and throws it out the window; particularly because of his near invincibility complex where I was never once fearful for his safety like I was in earlier installments.

Then there’s the reveal of Calamity. Let’s just say it was a doozy.

If there’s one silver lining in development, it’s that the slow burn romance cultivated since Steelheart between David and Megan is a big win by the end of the story. It’s the small moments of fireworks scattered throughout the series that allows this ship to achieve a stellar payout.

Lastly, the supporting characters (Megan, Abraham, Cody, etc.) continue to be pillars of excellence. Some might have more development than others but the overall sense of camaraderie is really tight.


Overall

Basically, the more I think about this book, the more angry I get, so I’m just going to stfu now. I feel like this is a non-review and just me being disappointed with Calamity because this book otherwise has a high-er rating among reviews on Goodreads.

Trust them, I guess, idk.


Cheers,
Joey

connect: afterthoughtAn // twitter  |  anotherafterthought // goodreads

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15 thoughts on “[Review] Calamity — Brandon Sanderson”

  1. Omigosh I hated this book. I feel like everything was so confusing too and nothing was explained especially near the end. And I think the jokes in this one got a bit too campy..

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    1. RIGHT? It -could- have been really cool if was developed further. Like, it’s good and all that hints were dropped re Megan throughout the series but I could not just blindly buy into this [redacted for spoiler comment re world]. I loathed David in this book sigh. SIGHSIGHISHISHGSI.

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  2. OH NO! I’m shocked at this. This why I am afraid to finish Morning Star, and way too anxious for when the final Falling Kingdoms book comes out. I don’t want a disappointing ending.

    I grieve for your loss. R.I.P Calamity.

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  3. Practically every reviewers I trusted (that includes you by the way) are disappointed in Calamity. I always find it hard to accept the fact when a book went to a different direction than what I expected, but it’s not always bad I guess. I’ll still be reading this book because I want answers, but I won’t get my hopes up.

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      1. Oh man, that sounds awful and not at all like the usual Sanderson finale. Maybe he got too caught up in the whole “this is supposed to be a YA so make it simple :/” ?
        Anyway, YES DO IT. You will not be complaining about how Way of Kings could be further developed with 100+ pages. You might still have complaints, but it will not be that (I hope). LOL.

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  4. Awwww, Joey. 😦 It’s sad to see you so angry and disappointed rather than entertaining. I know you really hold Brandon Sanderson to a high regard and it looks like he really let you down. I’m sorry. I can’t imagine how I would feel if that happened to me.

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