Book Review: Steelheart

I have been reading the works of Brandon Sanderson ever since he was announced as the author who would complete the epic fantasy series The Wheel of Time.  At that time he had four adult-length fantasy novels published – Elantris and the Mistborn trilogy.  I devoured those within the space of about two months and I have been a major fan of his work ever since.  The final volume of the Wheel of Time was released at the start of this year, and Sanderson’s other work has focused on his younger readers of late.  (At a recent book signing he mentioned that he likes to alternate his projects – after a major work he likes to focus on a lighter story so that he can feel refreshed before heading into his next lengthy piece.)  His latest release, Steelheart, is geared toward the teen age group, but is still a fairly enjoyable read even as an adult.

Steelheart is the story of David, a teenage boy, who wants to join a resistance group called the Reckoners as they attempt to rid the world of evil super heros known as Epics.  The story takes place in Newcago (the city formerly known as Chicago) after Steelheart takes over the city as the center of his evil empire.  The government has given up trying to control the Epics – they might as well try to forbid a hurricane from blowing.  The city is a dangerous place – Epics can kill you on a whim if you live above ground, though the seedy underground isn’t much safer.  Most Epics are nearly indestructible – unless you know their one weakness and can find a way to exploit it.  But since each Epic’s weakness is completely unique this is a nearly impossible task.  Most people have given up and simply try to find a way to exist.

The Reckoners are the only real resistance group taking a stand against the Epics.  And even they tend to pick off the weaker ones rather than facing the stronger Epics head on.  David’s father was shot and killed by Steelheart when he was just a boy.  David narrowly avoided death himself, and has made it his life’s mission to see Steelheart destroyed.  This book follows David as he attempts to join the Reckoners, find out new secrets about the city’s most infamous Epics, and finally take revenge on the being that murdered his father.

All in all I have to say I thought this was a pretty good book.  This is the first time Sanderson has really done anything in the urban fantasy genre, and while I much prefer his work in epic fantasy, I thought he created an interesting post-apocalyptic world.  Perhaps I have read too much of his work, but I thought a lot of the story was somewhat obvious.  At least until the end.  I could see some of the “twists” coming a mile away, but a lot of the events at the ending were still pretty exciting.  I thought the pacing of the book was good – it was a very fast read and there was always something exciting happening in the book.  It didn’t really leave a ton of room for as much character development as I would have liked, though that does keep me interested to learn more about these characters in the upcoming sequel.  And, well, considering that this is geared for the teen market I think the story pacing is spot on – it is hard to put the book down once you have started, and the action picks up as you approach the climax of the story.

In the end I would have to say I recommend the book depending upon the reader.  If you haven’t read any of Brandon’s works I recommend you start with another book – Mistborn is my favorite of his works so far.  If you have read and enjoyed Brandon’s other works I think you will enjoy this story – it has the great world building and exciting ending that are the hallmarks of most of his tales.  I highly recommend this if you are looking for a book for a younger reader – perhaps a bit too much violence for very young readers, but definitely suitable for the pre-teen crowd.  It isn’t one of my all time favorites, but it was a quick read and a fun story so I am glad I read it.

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