Calamity by Brandon Sanderson

There are points of brilliance but not enough to be relied upon.
Calamity book cover

This year has been absolutely atrocious for me. That might seem an odd way to open a book review, but I believe it somewhat necessary to preface my review with the possibility that the last several months of more-intense-than-usual depression I have been enduring might have negatively affected my enjoyment reading Calamity by Brandon Sanderson. I can find little help in my reviews for the preceding ‘Reckoners’ books – having reviewed Steelheart 7/10 and Firefight 9/10.

Calamity is the third and final book in this series (plus the short novella Mitosis). While Sanderson has definitely seeded a return to the world if he ever chooses (where did they come from?) this book wraps everything up, in quite a neat and hurried little bow. Which left me a little disappointed, because this book really wraps up quickly. Out of a 421-page book, everything is wrapped up in approximately 50 pages – and by everything, I mean this book’s central Epic, as well as the trilogy’s overarching villain. Even the explanations for everything only come in the final 20 pages of the book, promptly followed by a two and-a-half page epilogue.

This is actually part of an issue I have had with this series from the get-go. I never felt that the series lived up to the quality of all of Sanderson’s other books. Characters were two-dimensional and the stories themselves were half-hearted. Brandon Sanderson’s ability to world-build is second-to-none, in my opinion, and this was again on display in the ‘Reckoners’. But we weren’t ever allowed to explore it. We went to three cities, were locked into those three cities, and that’s it. The potential to explore the world was wasted on three very quick books which are now finished and the paradigm reversed (mostly).

Then there was my biggest pet-peeve from this series – David’s inability to come up with a sensible simile/analogy/metaphor. It’s one of those character traits that you can totally tell was written down in the author’s original character sheet:

Name: David Charleston; brown hair, blue eyes, falls in love with Megan; Qualities: smart, quick-thinking; Negatives: impetuous, can’t create sensible similes.

At each point it happens, you’re drawn out of the story and back onto the writing desk of the author. What’s worse is that it’s not consistent. While every spoken simile is absurd, it’s 50/50 for the rest of the time. Whenever it comes to the narrator, the similes are sometimes perfectly fine, or completely absurd, meaning the author just gave up caring about adhering to his own character rules.

In the end, the ‘Reckoners’ is a missed opportunity. Unsurprisingly, the germ of an idea is brilliant – as with anything Brandon Sanderson creates. However, unlike literally everything else he has ever written, the execution here is lacklustre. There are points of brilliance, sections of fast-paced action or dramatic character development, but not enough to be relied upon.

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