I was about a third of the way through the third book in Brandon Sanderson’s Reckoners trilogy when I finally realized that they were young adult books. That was when I noticed that while there was graphic violence and a lot of examinations of ethics and morality, there wasn’t any swearing or sex scenes.
Let me say before anyting else that I won’t be discussing the plots of any of the books because there would just be too many spoilers.
The books in the trilogy are Steelheart, Firefight and Calamity. In theory, they are super hero fiction but (not in a remotely bad way) they didn’t read like super hero fiction but post apocalyptic science fiction.
Ten years before the start of series, a red star appeared in the sky. Some people became epics, gaining eclectic mixes of super powers. And every last one of them became corrupt and destructive murderers. By the time the first book starts, the entire world is a devastated ruin that makes the Mad Max movies seem like a happier place to live.
Our hero is David Charleston, who has become an expert on Epics after one killed his father. He basically forces the Reckoners, the underground resistance dedicated to killing Epics, to recruit him. From there, we follow his journey into becoming an action hero and growing up. It’s actually more subtle than most young adult coming of age stories. Oh and one of his best characteristics is that David is hilariously bad at similes.
Seriously, I read digital copies from the library so I could see how many of his terribly similes other folks had underlined.
While I don’t want to discuss the plot, I do want to discuss the setting. I can’t say it isn’t comic book-like since The Walking Dead and Uber are comic books. But despite having super powers, it does not feel like the superhero genre.
Super powers in this setting are a literal curse. Not a Spider-Man everything goes wrong curse but a curse that drives you insane. And there are quirky elements to them. Oddball weaknesses (they all have them) and mishmashes of powers. It’s a plot point that one epic has ‘conventional’ powers.
More than that, power epics have geographic effects. In addition to the collapse of society, each book features a city that has been warped by Epic powers. Chicago is enshrouded in night and changed to steel, including part of Lake Michigan. New York is flooded with sky skraper top islands with glowing plants. Atlanta is a creeping mass of salt. (That last one is really weird)
Much of my super hero reading has been real world + super heroes. The Reckoners trilogy is its own crazy thing in a pretty realized setting. Which is what made it worth reading.
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