Written by: Brandon Sanderson
Published by: Delacorte
Release date: September 24th 2013
Genres: Dystopian, Sci-Fi, Young Adult
Buy: B&N, Amazon, Book Depository
Add on: Goodreads
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.
Question for you: What happens when your favorite author decides to write in your favorite genre about one of your favorite subjects?
Answer: Really good things.
Yep, it’s true. Brandon Sanderson, the author at the top of my auto-buy list, decided to write a YA book about SUPERPOWERS. Or, more precisely, supervillains (even better!!). Sanderson’s Mistborn series is my favorite series of all time, but it’s technically shelved in the regular “Fantasy” section, not YA (despite much of it being planted firmly within very YA-applicable territory). So when it was announced that Brandon Sanderson’s Steelheart would be finding a home in my favorite section of the bookstore, I was ecstatic. New Sanderson! YA! Supervillains!! I knew this was going to be good. And it was.
Steelheart is the story of David, a young man who lost his father years ago to an Epic (supervillain!!) named Steelheart, who now rules
Chicago Newcago. The book opens with the day Steelheart assumed control of Newcago, David’s father being one of the casualties — and this is not an opening scene you want to miss. Sanderson never fails to impress, but I was blown away by how much he was able to pull me into the story just in the first few pages, and there was no turning back from there.
Just a child when Steelheart took over, David has grown up in a world dominated by Epics: ordinary people who somehow gained superpowers – and who all, apparently without exception, were corrupted by those powers. Epics embody everything you DO NOT WANT in someone with superpowers – they’re so crazy powerful that they’ve basically been categorized as natural disasters – you can’t fight them, you can’t defeat them, you just have to run and hide, or bunker down and hope you can weather the consequences.
David’s main focus in his life is learning about these Epics, researching and collecting all the knowledge he can about their powers, strengths, and especially their weaknesses. He’s basically a super-badass nerd (go nerds!), learning and cataloging all he can about these supervillains so he can figure out how to defeat Steelheart, whom everyone thinks is invincible. To achieve his goal of defeating Steelheart, David has his sights set on joining up with the Reckoners, a group of “mere mortals” who have banded together to fight the Epics and do all they can to resist them.
The Reckoners themselves are yet another standout part of Steelheart. Staying true to his strengths, Sanderson again deals with a large group of characters effortlessly – an effortlessness I wish were more commonly found in YA. I feel like so many books juggle large casts like they’re unwieldy and awkward, always having certain characters who don’t feel like they’re given enough details to make them stand out. I will admit I was expecting even more from the secondary characters than what we got (I was basing my expectations on Mistborn, which is hands-down the best I’ve seen an author deal with so many fantastic and well-developed characters). However, considering this was written from David’s first-person POV, and you can only learn so much about other people through one person’s eyes, the Reckoners were fantastic. They are all detailed, vibrant, and interesting characters, and I’m hoping we get a lot more background about each one of them in the sequel.
David’s narration was fantastic overall, too. It’s super accessible, funny at times (David is terrible at metaphors, and laments this fact a lot, lol), and it’s perfectly suited to relating the fast-paced plot and bringing this Epics-dominated world to life. Once again I’m astounded at how Sanderson is able to build these unique worlds and magic systems (the Epics’ powers are unfailingly unique and incredibly detailed), without ever hampering the reader with confusing or boring info-dumps. All the worldbuilding is just there, and you learn about what you need to, when you need to. It just works.
I mentioned earlier how the prologue is absolutely riveting – the same goes for the entire book. If you’re expecting Steelheart to start with a bang, and then slow down until picking up again for the epic (Epic?) conclusion, think again. The book does start with a bang, but then it continues at a break-neck pace, and doesn’t let up until the very end, with a conclusion more explosive than anything I could have expected.
I am so happy that Steelheart turned out so well, and that it’s been getting such fantastic buzz in the YA community. It’s an awesome taste of what makes Sanderson’s books… well, awesome. Amazing worldbuilding that feels so real it’s ridiculous; a great cast of characters, none of whom are neglected and all of whom are awesome and memorable; and a plot that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the final page.