Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson (The Reckoners: Book 1)

No author has been more recommended to me – either by friends or computer generated algorithims – than Brandon Sanderson. Apparently he fits so strongly into that science fiction/fantasy wheelhouse that he’s become a must read. I haven’t picked up a book of his until I decided to finally take a flyer on Steelheart. This is probably not the book that would have been suggested for me to start with, but it did its job. I finished it wanting more of the series. As a young adult series (which I didn’t know until after I started), it’s not as deep as some stories out there, but he does a good enough job with character development and unique concepts to pull the reader through.

Times are hard in Newcago – what Chicago became after the Epic Steelheart transmutated the entire metropolis into steel. Epics are humans that have developed superpowers; the downside is that they all are evil. With their enhanced powers, they subjugate the populace for their own pleasure with Steelheart running the show. David was there the day Steelheart came to power. He saw the Epic kill his dad, but not before he saw the seemingly invulnerable Steelheart bleed. Now he holds the secret to bringing Steelheart’s reign to an end. To do this, he must somehow join with the Reckoners, an underground team of Epic hunters, and convince them to help take down the strongest Epic of all.

Steelheart is a fairly fast paced book. Told in first person from David’s perspective, there is a lot of inner monologue from the near-twentysomething, but Sanderson doesn’t get bogged down with the hero’s vengeance or angst over his life. He allows David to continually act. This draws the reader down a story that could have stalled out, but the action keeps it alive. The concept of power corrupting is not a new one, but to introduce it to a superhero world where it corrupts all superheroes into villains is an excellent conceit to generate plenty of fun storylines. In essence, this becomes a dystopia-lite. Sure the Epics run the world, but none of the characters in the book have any more than just a hint of the brokenness that slavery in actuality brings. It’s meant to be a fun soft action book, and it succeeds.

First person books are a pet peeve of mine. They rarely succeed as the author continually has to throw in semi-third person vantages to get the full story across. And they can get too much into the inner life of the hero. Insight is good, a constant monologue is mind numbing. Sanderson does a decent job keeping it light without needing much objectivity thrown in. I know it’s to try to get young readers to put themselves in David’s place, but being passable is not the same as being preferable.

Check it out if your looking for a fun quick “superhero” read. I’ll probably need to get some of Sanderson’s other work to get a full exposure to his style.

5.5 stars out of 10

photo: amazon.com

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