Review: Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

steelheartTitle: Steelheart

Author: Brandon Sanderson

Series: Reckoners #1

Genre: YA Science Fiction

Summary (from 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.

Review

Every so often you read a book that’s so original and clever that it just makes you think ‘Damn, I wish I’d had that idea!’ Steelheart is one of these.

There are so many good ideas in Steelheart, most of which I can’t talk about, because Spoilers. But from the Calamity in the sky that gave certain people superpowers, to the ideas about power and corruption, to the Tensors and the weaknesses and all the things I can’t talk about it, this book had me grinning from ear to ear with its creativity.

Let’s take the weakness thing for example – every Epic has a weakness, and it can be something very unusual, and is usually very specific. The Reckoners have to play a game whereby they figure out what the Epic’s weakness is, then exploit it in order to kill them. Most of the book is concerned with trying to figure out Steelheart’s weakness from what David saw ten years before, and the clues peppered throughout the story lead to a really satisfying conclusion which feels wonderfully obvious in hindsight. The idea that all these superpowered beings have what’s effectively a kill switch installed is great, because it levels the playing field enough that the human Reckoners can go up against the Epics without it feeling ridiculous.

The world building is great too – the argument posed that Steelheart, tyrannical and evil though he is, is actually better for people alive because he at least provides a city with a sort of structure, cleverly muddies the moral waters. We all want to kill the badguys, or see them meet a comeuppance, but those with that line of thinking have an undeniable point. Leaving the city of Newcago open the the invasion of another Epic will probably involve a lot of lost lives. Is it better the devil you know?

By challenging readers with these sorts of questions, Sanderson makes sure his book isn’t just a fun romp with superpowered villains. It’s fun, and it’s definitely a romp, but it’s also thoughtful and clever, and a fantastic example of YA literature at its absolute best.

Rating: 5/5

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