Books to Read: ‘Steelheart’ by Brandon Sanderson

*EDITOR’S NOTE: This post has been imported from my Tumblr page, where it originally appeared.*

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About two months ago, Brandon Sanderson’s epic fantasy novel Words of Radiance debuted at the top of the New York Times bestseller list, and it was the first time I had heard of this author. For the uninitiated like me, Sanderson is a sci-fi/fantasy writer who was chosen to complete the bestselling epic fantasy series The Wheel of Time after original author Robert Jordan died before completing the final novel. At the time, Sanderson was an up-and-coming writer in his own right, having authored the Mistborn trilogy. I’m sure that his success with the final Wheel of Time books–all of which debuted at number one–only helped to bring new readers to his original works. Lately, it seems like all of my friends are reading different Sanderson books, and if the success of Radiance, the second of a planned ten-book series called The Stormlight Archive, is any indication, Sanderson’s stock will only continue to rise over the years.

But Sanderson surely isn’t limiting himself to the Stormlight series alone. Last year, he began to dip into the Young Adult market with two separate releases. I was referred to check out one of those books, entitled Steelheart.

In the world of this novel, an red light of unknown origin burst in the sky. This light–referred to only as “Calamity”–gave random people across the country varying superpowers. But don’t think that this is Heroes all over again. None of these superpowered people, who came to be known as Epics, used their abilities for the greater good. Instead, Epics fueled their own greed and selfishness and used their powers to take over cities across the nation, collapsing traditional government and breaking the will of humankind.

One of the worst of these Epics is known as Steelheart, an all-powerful being who the possesses the power of flight, super strength, and the ability to shoot pure energy from his hands. On top of that, he’s seemingly invincible–bullets bounce off of him, and blades and fire have no effects. He takes over Chicago, turning the entire city into steel and installing himself as emperor. Because of Epics like Steelheart, humans do not dare stand up to them.

The exception is an organization known as the Reckoners, a group of humans who have dedicated their lives to studying Epics, determining their weaknesses–all Epics have at least one–and assassinating them. And David, the main character of the novel, wants to join them. When David was eight years old, Steelheart murdered his father, and he spent the next ten years studying Epics just like the Reckoners, planning to avenge his father. And he believes the Reckoners could use his experience. David is the only living person to have seen Steelheart bleed, and he has vowed to see him bleed again.

Sanderson describes this book, the first in a trilogy, as post-apocalyptic, and given the recent explosion in similar teen fare due to the popularity of The Hunger Games, one might be wary to pick up yet another teen series. But let me assure you, Steelheart is nothing like them. Sanderson is a masterful writer. He gives the story extreme depth, questioning the nature of what happens when people are given supreme power. He also creates a very colorful, fully-formed cast of characters in the Reckoners, and you learn to care about all of them. When all was said and done, I knew that the series wasn’t about David himself, but the group as a whole. I found that feat very impressive since the book is narrated in first-person. But where Sanderson is best are the thrills. The action is intense and wonderfully detailed, and the twists and turns in the story are incredible. I hate to tease, but the climax of the book is one of the best and most exciting I have ever read.

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Do me a favor: Pick up this book and join me in feverishly counting down the months until the next installment is released. You know, I guess I understand how all of the fans of The Stormlight Archive felt waiting for the delayed release of Words of Radiance. If Sanderson’s writing is this good with all of his works, I just might have to pick up that series as well.

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