Title: Steelheart (Reckoners #1)
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Acquired Via: Library
Release Date: September 24, 2013
There are no heroes.
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.
"I know, better than anyone else, that there are no heroes coming to save us. There are no good Epics. None of them protect us. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."
I loved the premise and beginning of Steelheart. The protagonist is just a regular kid caught in a supernatural world. I love that he wasn’t a mary-sue type character, wasn’t perfect, and didn’t have some grand destiny because he was the smartest, best, strongest, etc. He is mostly who and where he is because of a tragic incident, a lot of determination (bordering on obsession), and intelligence. I also love that while there are people with super powers, all of them are bad. The author even makes several philosophical statements which I thought were great. At one point the protagonist wonders if only bad people were given the powers, or if the powers somehow eventually turned all of them bad.
"Epics had a distinct, even incredible, lack of morals or conscience. That bothered some people, on a philosophical level. Theorists, scholars. They wondered at the sheer inhumanity many Epics manifested. Did the Epics kill because Calamity chose - for whatever reason – only terrible people to gain powers? Or did they kill because such amazing power twisted a person, made them irresponsible?"
The world building – Sanderson, of course, is amazing at world building. It’s one of the things he is best known for. His skill for world building is evident, but this is more like world building light compared to his Mistborn series, which isn’t exactly a negative. But I could definitely tell that Sanderson adjusted his writing from the mature audience of the Mistborn series to the young adult audience. There weren’t any huge info dumps, and I wasn’t confused trying to figure everything out. A lot of the world information was revealed in action packed scenes. And Sanderson didn’t try to explain every little thing and make some grand statement about science, religion on anything else.
Steelheart was probably the most action packed novel I have ever read, but it was a positive one. The characters are constantly DOING something, and it was refreshing. There wasn’t a whole lot of inner monologue or whining. Although there was a little bit of adolescent crushing, it was a smaller portion of the book. Even when the characters are having a heart-to-heart, it is during a high-speed car chase or climbing up an elevator shaft with handholds.
I liked the quirky characters that Sanderson created. There were a lot of similarities to the Mistborn series – David is a lot like Kelsier (the lead in Mistborn – arrogant, quick witted and good at improvisation). I hope we get some more back story on the rest of the Reckoners team in the next novel, because I want to get to know them better!
There were some things that bothered me, but not enough that it distracted from my overall enjoyment of Steelheart. First, the Reckoners (and some of the Epics) were a little too much like X-men without the powers or the anti-x-men. Instead of Professor X leading the X-men, there is just the Professor leading the Reckoners. Instead of Magneto, who controls magnetic fields and metals, we have Steelheart who, among other powers, can turn inanimate objects into steel. Otherwise, I did like that Sanderson used a lot of comic book ideas, tropes and character styles, which made the novel read more like a comic book or graphic novel, just with the graphics missing. With the constant action and the comic book feel, this made for a very fast paced novel which was very easy and fast to read.
Second, Sanderson gave us too many hints for the big reveal ending, which had two effects. I was not surprised and it kind of made the team look a little silly. There were SOOOO many hints about the big reveal, and the team was just oblivious about it. I’m really hoping that he didn’t make this so obvious because he was writing young adult instead of adult fantasy.
And last, I didn’t feel the connection in the relationship between David and Megan. It felt very forced and awkward, which now that I think about it, might have been the effect Sanderson was going for. Also, I don’t understand the awful metaphors. If they were there just for comic relief, they were pretty bad. If they have some other purpose… I didn’t get it.
Overall, I would recommend Steelheart to fans of young adult fantasy, especially those who like post-apocalyptic stories or comic books or comic book movies. I also think that fans of adult high fantasy or Sanderson’s earlier works would enjoy it too (I did!).
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