Steelheart

February 20, 2017
Steelheart Book Cover Steelheart
The Reckoners, #1
Brandon Sanderson
Science Fiction
Delacorte Books for Young Readers
September 24th, 2013
eBook
384
Library

 

Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics. But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his will.

Nobody fights the Epics...nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them.

And David wants in. He wants Steelheart — the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David's father. For years, like the Reckoners, David's been studying, and planning — and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience.

He's seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge.

(via Goodreads)

 

Brandon Sanderson is a powerhouse of science fiction and fantasy writing. He has published over thirty novels in his 41 years of life and continues to write more and more and more. He has announcements for at least another three series of books he hasn’t even published yet! How he does it, no one really knows (I swear it’s black magic). I haven’t read many of his books, but I’ve adored everyone one I have read. Steelheart is no exception.

Steelheart begins with one heck of a first line, which kicks off one heck of a Prologue.

I’ve seen Steelheart bleed.

A phenomenon known as Calamity occurred and seemingly random Earthlings are suddenly developing superpowers. These people are called Epics. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to who got which powers, but they have thus far all used their powers for their own use. The United States collapsed and now the Fractured States are each ruled by an Epic, or group of Epics. David, our narrator, watched his father be murdered by the leader of Newcago (the state he lives in), Steelheart, and is now on a quest to find the Reckoners– the only known group rebelling against the Epics. David wants his revenge.

You can’t be so frightened of what might happen that you are unwilling to act.

What follows feels like a brilliantly written novelization of a graphic novel or superhero film. In Steelheart, David and The Reckoners are constantly on the run; pulling off jobs and preparing for the next. I was constantly glued to the pages. In the beginning, we get a glimpse of how powerful the Epics really are, and this is only the tip of the iceberg.  Sanderson’s world building is, as always, completely on point. We learn more about Newcago and the Epics watching this team of misfits try to take them down. Our merry band all has their quirks. Through their relationships and experiences, we better understand the social and political standing of Newcago and the Fractured States, as well as understand what little there is to know about the Epics at large.

Don’t just act because you can; act because it’s the right thing to do. If you keep that in mind, you’ll be all right.

That said, the comic book-esque imagery sometimes frustrated me. Specifically when David is describing Megan. I don’t know if it’s that I can’t relate to an infatuated 18-year-old boy, but David’s constant descriptions of Megan drove me crazy. Megan starts out with the typical Action Girl trope in David’s eyes, and while she does develop depth as a character, visually she never breaks out of it. He won’t stop talking about how she looks, or how attractive it is that she is a professional soldier, or what she is wearing, or how his body is reacting to it. I honestly found myself willing David to get separated from the group or Megan to die just to STOP his babbling about her.  (Thankfully, this doesn’t turn into Insta-Love. But, it might be a thing eventually. I hope Sanderson leaves David in the lurch here. #Heartless It didn’t happen often, but each time it did, I was incredibly distracted. That said, I do still like David’s character overall. He’s awkward, smart, and terrible at metaphors:

They looked so dangerous, like alligators. Really fast alligators wearing black. Ninja alligators. 

I really appreciate the importance Sanderson places on research and information throughout Steelheart. In a world where monstrous people have god-like powers, the only way to fight back is with information. These superpowers are seemingly unexplainable. They are inconsistent and random. When confronted with such a problem, only quality research and truth can break down the fear of the unknown. David is a valuable new member to the Reckoner team because he has spent 10 years researching, cataloging, and trying to better understand the logic behind the mystery. As Sanderson is known for developing incredibly detailed and logical magic systems, this was a refreshing and welcome change. I look forward to seeing how research defines our heroes successes in future books.

I’d never heard of any of this, despite my research into Epics. It served as a reminder. I might have figured a few things out, but there was an entire world out there beyond my experience.

It’s obvious from the start that this is a David vs. Goliath story (I see what you did there, Sanderson) as our heroes go up against the Epics. But it’s the mystery and the philosophical questions which arise that really keep us on our toes. What is Calamity? How did the Epics manifest? Why are there no good Epics? Is Newcago really better off with Steelheart as the leader?  I couldn’t stop turning the pages trying to find these answers. Sanderson even has a religion which as developed since Calamity– the Faithful. They believe that where there are villains, there will be heroes. And the good Epics will come. This leads to all sorts of wonderful conversations and discussions, not just in my head but also between our characters about right and wrong, good and evil.

It’s good for you to think of this, son. Ponder. Worry. Stay up nights, frightened for the casualties of your ideology. It will do you good to realize the price of fighting.

After a strong and gripping beginning, I can’t wait to see what the following novels deliver. Finally! It’s time for me to read an ENTIRE Sanderson trilogy.


What do you think?

  • What do you think of superhero stories? Anti-hero stories? How do they compare?
  • Have you read Brandon Sanderson’s works before? What are your favorite books of his?
  • Do you like philosophical questions being asked in the books you read? Why or why not?

20 Comments

  • Resh Susan @ The Book Satchel February 20, 2017 at 11:50 am

    Glad you loved it. I am reading Brandon Sanderson for the first time now. I have finished two parts of the Final Empire and enjoying it very much

    • Jackie B February 20, 2017 at 4:02 pm

      I have been waiting for The Final Empire to come in from the library *forever*. There are 96 people ahead of me. O_o Someday, Sanderson. Someday!

  • Lost In A Good Book February 20, 2017 at 12:20 pm

    Excellent review. I have only just started reading Sanderson’s books and he is absolutely incredible! I feel like this Steelheart series is Sanderson-Light. I’m going to need to buy a physical copy so I can give it to my son. He’s a serious comic book fan and this looks perfect for him.

    • Jackie B February 20, 2017 at 4:03 pm

      Oh yes, Steelheart is YA Sanderson. This and The Rithmatist are his two YA-focused series. All the rest are intended for adult reading levels. I just haven’t been able to get a copy of The Final Empire from the library. There are 96 people ahead of me! Absolutely the worst. O_o

      I hope that your son enjoys this book! What Sanderson are you reading?

  • MyBookJacket February 20, 2017 at 10:49 pm

    I agree with what you say about Megan. It’s one of the reasons I didn’t pick up the next in the series. It was just so much that I felt pages were wasted.

    • Jackie B February 21, 2017 at 10:16 am

      I also struggled with how her character changed as the book went on. She was… well, frustrating by the end. However that only made me more curious. I wonder how Sanderson will portray her in the next book. I’ll keep reading and let you know. 😉

  • LizScanlon February 21, 2017 at 11:13 am

    Whoa, what a powerful review… I think it was you who recommended I check out Sanderson and I truly have to do that very soon. This book sounds like some proper reading and I like it…

    • Jackie B February 21, 2017 at 12:37 pm

      D’aw. Thanks Liis! I do really love Sanderson. I’m trying to make an effort to read more of his works this year. This is more YA, but the Mistborn series (starting with The Final Empire) is adult high fantasy. That might be more in your wheelhouse. I hope that you enjoy it when you get to his works!

  • Read Diverse Books February 24, 2017 at 8:22 pm

    I own all the books in the series, but I have not read them! lol
    I mostly bought them because I wanted Brandon Sanderson to sign them. 🙂 So I have signed copies and I will read Steelheart sometime this year, I hope. I love Brandon Sanderson’s stories so much. His Stormlight Archive series is masterful and I adore the Mistborn trilogy and the follow-up side stories. This man is a fantastic writer!
    I’ve read many reviews for this book and the series as a whole sounds fantastic. Glad you liked it too!

    • Jackie B February 26, 2017 at 10:18 pm

      Hahaha– I have definitely done that before! There’s nothing like having personal author-signed books!

      I would definitely recommend Steelheart. I haven’t read Mistborn yet, but it’s on my TBR. I just love the way Sanderson writes his characters and seamlessly integrates world building in his storytelling. I hope that when you get to The Reckoners trilogy you enjoy it! 🙂

  • theorangutanlibrarian March 6, 2017 at 2:29 pm

    Great post! I do like superhero and anti-hero stories- and I agree with you about Sanderson being a powerhouse in fantasy and sci fi- although I didn’t end up connecting with this as I would have liked cos I didn’t relate to the characters unfortunately

    • Jackie B March 8, 2017 at 5:15 pm

      I can completely understand that. I struggled to relate to David and Megan in particular. But I really enjoy the premise and all the other Reckoners. Particularly Tia, Abraham, and Cody. I am intrigued to see where this is going. But, I’m a HUGE superhero nerd. So, this plays well into my childhood fantasies of, “What if there were never any good guys?”

      Do you have a favorite Sanderson? I am waiting for The Final Empire to come in from the library. I can’t wait. 🙂

      • theorangutanlibrarian March 9, 2017 at 3:23 pm

        Yeah I really didn’t connect with either of them. That’s good- I did like the ending of the first book which made me wonder if I should continue, but for me, if I don’t click with the MC, I’ll usually just call it a day. Yes- I do like that idea too! And I do enjoy superheroes. I’ve only read a couple, but I do love The Final Empire and have loaded up my kindle with the rest of the mistborn series now 🙂

        • Jackie B March 13, 2017 at 12:28 pm

          I’ve heard great things, and at least one of the Mistborn trilogies is done already! I struggle to keep all the details of a book series in my head over time, so it’s nice for me to read completed series. I hope that you enjoy the rest as you get to them!

          • theorangutanlibrarian March 13, 2017 at 5:33 pm

            Ah yes- I have the same problem- but I agree it’s great to read a completed series for sure!

  • Grab the Lapels March 8, 2017 at 4:33 pm

    All those questions you asked at the end of the review are the ones I had when I read the synopsis! Are they answered in this book, or do you have to read all 30 of this guy’s novels?? Holy moly, please tell me that not all 30 go in order…I couldn’t commit to a series like that at my age. 12, 13? Sure, bring a 30-book series on. Not today!

    • Jackie B March 8, 2017 at 5:20 pm

      Hahaha. Well, luckily The Reckoners is merely a trilogy. That said, many of those questions are answered in the novel to some extent or another. They aren’t all answered, or answered fully, but that is one of the reasons I’m going to keep reading! I want to better understand. I like that not all the answers are given away up front.

      That said, these books are part of Sanderson’s Cosmere universe. So, while you don’t need to read more than these three books (and the novella, if you are so inclined) to get this story resolved, these characters and what they face will probably reappear in other books at some point. More like easter eggs, I imagine.

      • Grab the Lapels March 9, 2017 at 12:42 pm

        Oh, my! That a lot of books! Another highly prolific fantasy author is Mercedes Lackey, whose writing I can’t even keep up with. I have six of her books (SIX!) out of what must be 100. And no one really knows where to dip their toes into her world because she’s writes the worlds linking and forward and back and adds stuff to books she published ten years ago. Oy.

        • Jackie B March 13, 2017 at 11:36 am

          Oh yeah, it is a ton of books. Fantasy authors, amirite?

          I completely understand that anxiety of where to start. One of the good things about Sanderson’s works is that he is relatively new to the high fantasy scene, so his series are all still “young”. We haven’t gotten to all the interwoven world linking and publication-order-not-matching-chronological-order-not-matching-recommended-linking-order problems. Yet. I’m certain he’ll be there someday. For now, I’ll just read his series as they wrap up. I like to binge read. 😀

          Mercedes Lackey’s works are on my TBR. Specifically, the Arrows of the Queen trilogy. It’s been recommended to me that I read her works in order of publication. But, I know everyone has their own thoughts on where to start. Which books do you have? Do you plan on starting there?

          • Grab the Lapels March 13, 2017 at 9:11 pm

            I have the Arrow trilogy and the Magic trilogy. See, Arrow was published first, but it makes reference to a character named Vanyel, like they knew each other in a different life… but Vanyel was in Magic, which was published years later! With Lackey, I have no clue. I had two friends​ push the Magic trilogy on me, and I loved it.

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