Steelheart – Brandon Sanderson

About the Book

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.

386 pages (paperback)
Published on Septemer 24, 2013
Author’s webpage

On the surface, there’s nothing about Steelheart that I should actually like. That’s a huge reason why I really had almost no desire to read it. I am not into comics. I don’t enjoy superheroes. Obvious good vs. evil plots don’t do much for me. I don’t really go for books about young adults (or “new adults” in this case). However, there was a Black Friday sale on Audible, and I decided to go for this one. (It was $4.95. You really can’t go wrong for that price.)

Steelheart is a homage to comics. It’s loud and dramatic. There’s tons of flashy action and the woman who David (the absolutely fantastic protagonist) becomes almost unreasonably obsessed with. There are villains, and underground aspects of society (in the literal and figurative ways). Really, Stealheart is basically a comic book in novel form….

Wow, I really should have thought of a better way to say that.

The story will instantly hook readers. Sanderson has a way with writing. Of course, he should. The man certainly is a practiced author. However, the other books I’ve read by him were pretty serious, and very epic. Even Mistborn, while being a bit more “fun” than his other books, are still epic and serious compared with Steelheart. The style of writing due to that, and due to the age group that this is written for, makes Steelheart a different reading experience.

Steelheart is, at its heart, fun. It’s very fun. It’s not incredibly serious, and has a unique, Sanderson-esque spin on the superhero tale. Yes, it is predictable, and yes, it can be kind of tropey, but this is one of those rare books where it works. It’s supposed to be kind of predictable. The evil guy is supposed to be evil and the good guys are supposed to be good. Tropes and predictability, in this case, work very well.

David is an easy protagonist to like. He tries hard, almost too hard, and he’s incredibly awkward. His awkward moments had me laughing out loud quite often.

Megan’s eyes could have drilled holes through . . . well, anything, I guess. I mean, eyes can’t normally drill holes through things, so the metaphor works regardless, right? Megan’s eyes could have drilled holes through butter.

His obsession with Megan is endearing. His bad metaphors are fantastic, but toward the end of the book I started wondering what the point was. David is a really fun protagonist. Everything he does, he does all the way. He doesn’t just have a crush on someone, he almost falls head-over-heels in love with them. He doesn’t just have a hard time figuring out what to say, he awkwardly trips over his words and makes a mess of them. He doesn’t just dislike Epics, he dislikes them to such an extent it basically dominates his life. That shouldn’t work in a character, but with David it does, partly because I smiled remembering the days I was so passionate (I’m still passionate now, but it’s a different sort of passionate) and awkward, and partly because David’s inability to do anything halfway is just endearing.

I am using the word “endearing” a lot. I can’t quite think of any other word that fits David so well, which is why I’m using it so much. David just grows on you, and it’s hard not to smile and fall in love with him at least a little bit.

The plot moves very fast, and while some points are pretty predictable, it is very enjoyable. Steelheart is one of those books that surprised me with all the flash – the flashy weapons, the flashy action, the flashy plot points. Perhaps my one nagging plot point is how David, awkward as he is, seemed to be able to do just about everything. However, that’s small potatoes, and I realize that’s part of the point – the underdog rises up to defeat the ultimate evil. It doesn’t get much more comic book than that. And, let’s be honest, sometimes it’s nice to just sit back and enjoy a book, and Steelheart is the perfect book for occasions like that.

In typical Sanderson form, Steelheart does have its unique qualities. The world has been built with some post-apocalyptic details, but has been overwhelmed by the Epics, and their various gifts. Steelheart, for example, has turned everything in his city (read: empire) into steel and there are hints that other cities and areas are just as bad off, if not worse. The magic system works into this well, and will keep readers hooked and asking important questions that will hint at things to be covered in future books.

Steelheart is a solid effort and a fantastic introduction to a series that promises to be a ton of fun. Is it Sanderson’s best work? No, but I didn’t really feel like it had to be. Sanderson didn’t sit down to write this book and explore the morality of (insert profound thing here). He wrote this book as a homage to his obvious love and enthusiasm for comics and superheroes, and it works in that respect. This book is written with infectious enthusiasm, and despite the few things in it that bothered me a little, it still managed to enchant me. Sometimes it’s good to sit back, unwind, and read a book about obvious good and evil, big weapons and flashy explosions, and the awkward kid triumphing.

For all the reasons that matter, Steelheart was a win.

I listened to the audiobook, narrated by MacLeod Andrews, who slipped into the story so naturally it felt like he was born to read it. He switched between voices flawlessly, and packed the book with personality. He brought it to life for the reader and made an already fun book, an absolute joy to absorb. It was hard to stop listening and I can honestly say I was kind of sad when it ended due to his narrating


4/5 stars

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