Steelheart, by Brandon Sanderson, was published in 2013 by Delacorte Press.
Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary people extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics. Epics are no friends of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man, you must crush his will. Now, in what was once Chicago, an astonishingly powerful Epic named Steelheart has installed himself as emperor. Steelheart possesses the strength of ten men and can control the elements. It is said that no bullet can harm him, no sword can split his skin, and no fire can burn him. He is invincible. Nobody fights back…nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, the Reckoners spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them. And David wants in. When Steelheart came to Chicago, he killed David’s father. For years, like the Reckoners, David has been studying, and planning, and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience. He has seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge.
I have to admit, Brandon Sanderson has never failed to disappoint me. Not only is he an incredibly prolific writer, churning out what feels like a book a year, but he is a consistently good crafter. His plots are tight and surprising, the action is awesome, and there is always an edge of humor to take away from the tension. I started reading Steelheart and I could not put it down.
Despite the fact that I guessed a few of the plot reveals, it was the sort of anticipatory guessing that I see as more positive than the guessing that leads to boredom; the sort of guessing where you can’t wait for the reveal just so you can squeal “I knew it!” in delight. And a few things that I guessed weren’t correct at all, so I was suitably surprised as much as I was wiggling in anticipation (I did actually wiggle while reading this book).
David’s nerdiness/awkwardness (there are not enough nerdy heroes) was a delight. I love it when heroes stave off bad guys using their wits, which is pretty much what David does the entire time (with moments of stupidity interspersed). The action scenes involving the take-down of the Epics were gripping, and pretty much exactly what I want to read when I read action.
I am glad that Megan got more dimensionality towards the end because for a while I was a bit worried that she was just the Hot Action Girl Love Interest and nothing else. But since Sanderson is awesome, and knows his stuff, she gets better, and more intriguing, and feels more like a character rather than a cardboard cutout.
I did think, though, that “Newcago” was a bit of a twee name, and the running gag of David’s terrible metaphors, while humorous, just went slightly over the edge into “too much” territory. I also spent way too long wondering how in the world Curveball’s powers worked. Does he spontaneously generate bullets so that he never runs out? Does he take them from somewhere else? Is there a giant warehouse stuffed full of ammunition just so Curveball can never run out of bullets? The characters mention at the end how incomprehensible some of the powers the Epics have are, which I was glad for since Curveball’s, above all the others, pretty much just boggled my mind.
Recommended Age Range: 14+
Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult
“Yeah, caber toss….It’s this sport we had back in the homeland. Involved throwing trees.”
“Little sapling? Like javelins?”
“No, no. The cabers had to be so wide that your fingers couldn’t touch on the other side when you reached your arms around them. We’d rip ‘em out of the ground, then hurl them as far as we could.”
I raised a skeptical eyebrow.
“Bonus points if you could hit a bird out of the air,” he added.
“Cody,” Tia said, walking by with a sheaf of papers, “do you even know what a caber is?”
“A tree,” he said. “We used them to build show houses. It’s where the word cabaret came from, lass.” He said it with such a straight face that I had trouble determining if he was sincere or not.
“You’re a buffoon,” Tia said.
I had a few slight issues with Steelheart, but the book is amazing in suspense, action, imagination, and fun. I couldn’t put it down and I enjoyed wiggling and saying “I knew it!” at plot threads I guessed correctly and saying “Oh my gosh, what?” at plot threads I didn’t guess correctly (or didn’t guess at all). Sanderson is one of the most consistently good writers out there at the moment, and Steelheart is another win from him.
You can buy this here: Steelheart