Book Review: Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

Written by: Brandon Sanderson
Release Date: September 24, 2013
Pages: 386, hardcover
Series: Reckoners, #1
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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 wills.

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.

LetsTalk

This was my first Brandon Sanderson book, and I have to say, I understand the appeal. The basic premise of Steelheart: people get superpowers and become Epics, and they use their superpowers to do evil. David, whose father has been killed by an Epic named Steelheart, joins a group called the Reckoners to get revenge. I loved the premise of the book, and the way Brandon Sanderson built his world around the concept. After reading this book, I have so many questions about why the Epics are the way they are, both in terms of the origin of their powers and in what makes most of them so corrupt. My biggest drive to read the rest of the series is to explore these questions.

Steelheart is a very action-packed book, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked the action sequences; in other books, I tend to skip over them, but here, they were a highlight of the book. The excellent writing helped a lot, as did the high stakes and the many creatively thought-0ut Epic powers and weaknesses. Steelheart himself is a particularly terrifying, powerful figure.

There were some lighter moments as well. David has a tendency to (a) be incredibly awkward, and (b) come up with some of the most hilariously terrible similes. I kept waiting for the similes to get old, but it hasn’t happened yet. I enjoyed David’s character a lot more than I expected, actually. Everything that came out of Cody’s mouth was also excellent. I didn’t really fall in love with the characters, and that prevented me from falling in love with the book, but I have to admit that they were enjoyable and reasonably well-written.

Didn'tWork

The book’s biggest weakness was the characters. Don’t get me wrong–I didn’t dislike anyone. As I previously mentioned, David was a solid protagonist whose determination and cleverness made him admirable and whose awkwardness made him endearing. I also found Megan intriguing; I enjoyed her extreme competence and I knew from the beginning that there was more to her than met the eye (and I was right WHAT A GOOD PLOT TWIST). However, I don’t think that I’m really invested in any of the characters, or that I would be particularly sad if one of them died. They just…felt more like a collection of quirky traits, badass one-liners, and occasional plot twists than actual characters, you know? I’m hoping my opinion on this will change when I read future books. The romance set-up between David and Megan also felt very typical and underdeveloped and didn’t really do much for me, though I’m hoping their dynamic will become more interesting given a certain Thing That Happened.

DidWork

I’ve already mentioned most of the things I like. The premise! The questions it brings up! The action! The plot twists! The worldbuilding! The way the Epics operated! Basically, it was a fun, fast-paced book with some incredibly cool fight scenes and it kept me invested the whole way through.

The strongest parts of Steelheart are the beginning and the ending. The prologue is probably one of the best book beginnings I have read recently. From the first line–“I’ve seen Steelheart bleed”–I knew I had to continue reading. Brandon Sanderson is wonderful at creating tension and maintaining it all the way through. I’m not sure I can accurately describe how it made me feel without (a) quoting the entire thing, or (b) waving my arms around and screaming BOOM a lot. The final few chapters are full of surprising reveals that bring new dimensions to the characters and the world of the book, and the ultimate confrontation was just as exciting and heart-pounding as I’d been led to expect.

Pickup

Pick up if you like well-written action sequences, a break-neck pace, and superheroes with a twist. I feel like this review is extremely short and doesn’t really do this book justice, but I loved it a lot. I can’t wait to read more of Brandon Sanderson’s books. I have a signed (!!!) copy of Firefight sitting next to my laptop as I type, and I’ll make my best effort to get to it as soon as I can!

Polina 

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