Top critical review
Hard to put down but ultimately unsatisfying
Reviewed in the United States on April 10, 2019
The headlines says it all about this book, and is sequel, Calamity.
I'm a big fan of Brandon Sanderson, and his Stormlight Archive series are outstanding. The "Reckoners" series has been good, but not great.
The problems with the second (this) and third (Calamity) books in the series are that they sacrifice reader satisfaction for "hooks". The reader is teased along with hints and promises, keeping them reading, but ultimately the delivery on those promises is lacking.
At the end of this, and Calamity, I felt frustrated and underwhelmed. Not exactly cheated, but still disappointed. The "fun" stuff just wasn't delivered, but it was hyped up to the point where not delivering it left a feeling of something lacking. Though the plot is tied up very neatly, and there isn't the feeling of a lack of things being explained or justified, nor is there the sense that things were totally demystified and the magic sucked out of them (as happened at the end of Mistborn).
Nevertheless, the big pay-off that was hinted at repeatedly wasn't delivered.
This arises (in my opinion) from serious structural problems in Firefight that continue on to impact Calamity as well. A kind of climax occurs some time after the half-way point, which is strong enough to totally overwhelm the actual climax, which follows too soon.
The conceit that is used in Firefight becomes a critical plot point in Calamity, but not in a fun way, and this continual bait and switch teasing leads to frustration when Calamity later bogs down in a overly long "rescue" scene that forms a kind of sub-climax and then, just like Firefight, the real climax follows after, weaker, and less impactful.
In short, both Firefight and Calamity deliver a kind of anti-climax at the end. Perhaps that puts it too strongly... They are decent endings, but they are not as powerful as the scenes that precede them.
In direct comparison, the poor, and often overlooked Rithmatist, is beautifully structured, and builds progressively to a solid climax, with exactly the ever increasing roller-coaster ride of ups and downs we would expect, finishing off with a satisfying wrap-up that also holds a teaser for the future.
Sanderson delights in trying to buck convention, in trying to avoid cliche, and trying to surprise the reader. He frequently refuses to deliver what you expect, and sometimes that works well, but more often it can lead to frustration and disappointment.
In Firefight, it creates the feeling that the plot was twisted simply to not deliver what you expected, in a way that harmed the story to some extent.
It's a pity, because there's a lot of good stuff in Firefight, and it does have some powerful hooks to keep you reading, but at the end it doesn't deliver the goods in a way that creates sufficient catharsis.