Brandon Sanderson, known for — among many other works — his contributions to the Wheel of Time series, won himself a lot more fans with his hit YA debut Steelheart, which set off the Reckoners trilogy. The action-packed sequel, coming Jan. 6, 2015, will continue David’s epic battle against the Epics. EW has the first look at the cover of Firefight (Steelheart will be getting a new look as well) and a preview from Sanderson himself. Read on for some cryptic answers to burning questions.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Explain how the new look of Steelheart and Firefight reflects themes from the series.

BRANDON SANDERSON: I love the original cover for Steelheart. For the paperback, however, we felt we wanted to transition away from the image of a single individual on the cover. Though David is the narrator of the books, the story is about an ensemble. It becomes a story about the Reckoners as a team. In particular, the characters Megan and Prof both really struck a chord with readers. And both have larger roles in Firefight. In a lot of ways, we’re trying to approach the books more like Disney approached their film Tangled — where they chose specifically not to call it Rapunzel, but instead theme it toward the larger cast. These new covers convey the explosive nature of the books, while at the same time allowing the entire crew to shine.

How will David be challenged in new ways in Firefight?

In Firefight, David leaves Chicago for basically the first time in his life. The first book was personal to him, and his quest for vengeance, on his home turf. The second book forces him to expand his vision, and ask himself what he’s really fighting for. Is this about survival, revenge, or something greater? For the first time, he feels sympathy for Epics, these larger-than-life supervillains, and yet, his entire purpose since his father’s death has been to find and kill them. His story will lead toward revelations about the nature of the Epics, and the origins of the Reckoners themselves, as the epic they decide to bring down is an old friend of Prof’s.

There’s also an element of a love story in this book. I can’t give away any secrets, but David is searching for someone who might end up becoming a bigger part of his life, and she represents a very large challenge.

Will there be any notable deaths?

Yes. Also, lots of David’s bad metaphors, many of which are equally painful.

Have you noticed more of your teen audience venturing into your adult work, and vice versa?

Fantasy occupies this odd space in literature where it’s very difficult to divide the “teen” books from the “adult” books, despite the covers and marketing. I remember discovering this genre as a teen, and not caring what it was supposed to be for what audience. So it’s really hard to tell what effect releasing “teen” branded novels is having on my audience. I certainly hope that both groups will venture into the abode of the other, and I do seem to see more teens at my signings now — but then, I might just be looking for it.