If you’ve been following along, you’ll realize that I’m breaking my standalone reading parameters this week. Previous reviews have also heavily concentrated on science fiction works, and although Brandon Sanderson’s Steelheart take place in the future it is very clearly, a fantasy novel.
After the advent known as Calamity, scores of humans begin to attain varying and remarkable superpowers. The bigger problem is that all of these Epics (as they’re called) uses his or her power for evil. The only way to kill an Epic is to discover his or her unique weakness and exploit it. The most powerful of these super humans is an Epic named Steelheart. He has usurped rule over the city once known as Chicago and as far anyone knows, he has absolutely no weaknesses. Introducing David Charleston: he watched Steelheart kill his father, and ever since then, he’s been plotting his revenge. Through detailed research and planning he joins up with a (human) rebel gang known as The Reckoners in order to kill epics and reclaim the city.
While this novel is considered young adult fare—and that argument can certainly be made as David’s awkward boy-meets-girl dialogue will attest—I nevertheless found it deliciously entertaining, well-plotted, tension-chocked, and satisfactorily concluded. Chiefly, however, what I have been told and what I am discovering about Brandon Sanderson is that his world-building is unrivaled. Any drawn-out explanation will not suffice, so in this instance, think of the narrative of Steelheart as Pokemon on steroids. Maybe that doesn’t appeal to everyone, but I was a part of the initial Pokemon generation and reading this novel felt like an upgraded nostalgia flashback. When I spent hours scouring the tall grasses and battling gym trainers as a kid, I didn’t consider the world building that went into the game of Pokemon. I just enjoyed it. But as an adult, and moreover a writer, these considerations of craft cannot be ignored. It might be easy to say “this guy can fly—because I said so,” but to create an entire culture of evolved species, each with different abilities and then to have it all make sense in a compelling way and within the never violated rules of the world is an accomplishment to behold.
Speaking of behold, when I’ve chanced a gander at some of Sanderson’s other works, specifically the concluding three volumes of Wheel of Time and his Stormlight Archive series, I’ve balked at the girth (ie 1,100 pages each. But reading Steelheart is making me reconsider. Excepting a few subplot threads that hint at the content of the sequels, Steelheart could have stood alone—but I guess like with everything Sanderson, the world was just too big, complex, and enthralling to keep contained in one book. 4.5/5 stars
*And we have copies in stock!!