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Monday, July 15, 2013

“Steelheart” by Brandon Sanderson (Reviewed by Casey Blair)

Order “SteelheartHERE (US) + HERE (UK)
Read An Excerpt HERE
Read FBC’s Review of “The Rithmatist

ABOUT STEELHEART: 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…

FORMAT/INFO: Steelheart is 400 pages long and is the first volume in a new YA series. September 24, 2013 marks the North American Hardcover publication of Steelheart via Delacorte Press. The UK version (see below) will be published on September 26, 2013 by Gollancz.

ANALYSIS: Steelheart is Brandon Sanderson's latest foray into the world of young adult fantasy, and like with The Rithmatist, he nails it.

David, our protagonist, bears some similarity to Joel in The Rithmatist (Reviewed HERE), mostly in his tone—and also that he's fearsomely clever, nerdy despite himself, and desperately wants to be taken on as an apprentice. That's pretty much where the similarity ends.

Steelheart is essentially a post-apocalyptic superhero novel, where the superheroes called “Epics” are really more like supervillains, and the Epic Steelheart rules Chicago, which he has turned completely to steel and had his henchman shroud completely in night. Chicago is now called “Newcago,” which irritated me a bit, but I loved all the superhero names, especially the ones that were deliberately awkward.

The setting is compellingly drawn, and Sanderson pays attention to the details that do more than help it feel realistic; they also do double-duty fleshing out characters. The arguments David and Megan got into about the relative merits of rifles and pistols were great for example. I especially loved David's bizarre metaphors and all the jokes about his failure to make any that make sense, except for when he's trying to do them badly.

Sanderson deals with most of the problems of physics by hanging a lampshade on them, which worked for me for a while, but eventually I wanted a more concrete answer or for the text to stop drawing attention to the ways physics are only sometimes relevant. Mostly, though, I look forward to learning more about this “Calamity” phenomenon.

Steelheart came full circle with a solution I didn't see coming that was nevertheless absolutely perfect. I love it when a book surprises me. Overall, Brandon Sanderson incorporates differing attitudes about pre- and post-Epic rule, the implications of a world with superheroes, the ethics of surviving dictatorship, and other similarly weighty topics while maintaining a fast pace and a plain fun read.

5 comments:

Blodeuedd said...

What more can I say then I love Sanderson, I will read all the books he publish

Straker1980 said...

Just finished this and thought it was excellent. I've no idea why it was designated as YA except that the protagonist is in his late teens. Like Casey I did not see the ending coming (except for a revelation about one character that was telegraphed very early on) and was pleasantly surprised. Highly recommended.

Anonymous said...

I didn't hate Steelheart but I felt it weaker than Sanderson's usual flare. Most of the characters felt bland and one dimensional to me, and the whole story played out like a reimagining of Mistborn to me - plucky band of renegades taking on the evil victorious conquerer king, etc etc. The reveals were fascinating albeit sometimes predictable, and even for what I would consider a weaker addition to Sanderson's catalogue the story is definitely a page turner.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely loved the steelheart book and am dying for firefight to be published!!! I CANNOT wait :)

Sasayaku said...

I personally loved Steelheart, and I found it very entertaining. I've heard quite a few people complain about being beaten over the head by A) the bad metaphor humor and B) Cody's stories. Personally, I found it rather amusing. And I'm hoping I'm not the only one that had difficulty with Cody's accent...I kept hearing him with a Scottish accent instead of a Southern one...

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