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.
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?