Review: Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

Rating: 4 stars
Pub Date: September 24, 2013
Publisher: Delacorte (an imprint of Random House)
Genre: young adult sci fi, fantasy
Format/Source: ARC, directly from publisher at TLA 2013 conference
Status: First book in the Reckoners series

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.

Let me preface this review by saying I accidentaly spoiled Steelheart for myself. I flipped to the back to read the acknowledgements and somehow ended up on the page that reveals ALL THE BIG SECRETS. To add insult to injury, the acknowledgements didn't even make it into the arc. *facepalm* So my brother-in-law spent months convincing me this book was the best he's read all year. When compared with those expectations, my experience fell slightly shorter. Even being spoiled, I did really enjoy reading Steelheart.

I've never read a Sanderson novel before, although he's been recommended to me by all my brothers, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Steelheart very much reminded me of a comic book. I really like the twist on the superpowers. Sure, there are always supervillains in comics, but there are always heroes to beat them back and Save the Day. In Steelheart, there aren't any superheroes, only bad guys. Like, REALLY bad guys. Let's just say the prologue will shock you in a really depressing way. The Reckoners, a band of insurgents targeting Epics across the world, are the only people with the courage and ability to stand up to the Epics, and those abilities are limited to superior equipment, detailed planning, and team members with serious balls.

Our narrator, David, is an epic nerd who spends all of his time studying Epics. David is crazy smart, despite his assertions otherwise. He knows exactly what's required to remain mediocre, anonymous. However, the poor boy is absolutely terrible with metaphors. This quirky habit was a good source of humor in the novel, which at times felt really heavy (I'm serious, that prologue was literally killer), but at times it felt forced and distracting from the story. David's quick-thinking is impressive as he gets himself and the team out of many scrapes, and the boy has so much heart. He's somewhat unsure of himself socially--as most boys of eighteen would be, not even counting a completely unstable and unsafe environment--but I love his confidence in his research. It's difficult for him to shoulder his way into the Reckoners in the first place, but then the way he manages to convince him of his plans and ideas, it's so admirable!

As for the rest of the team, I particularly adored Cody, not that that should be a surprise to anyone who reads my reviews regularly. I always love the comic, but add in the fact that Cody's a former Nashville cop (Tennessee, represent!) who has a penchant for referring to the motherland and occasionally adding in Aussie speak, and Mary's in love! Cody may be a bit of a rascal, but he's wise and loyal. Abraham also caught my interest. If Cody is the class clown, Abraham is the believer. He is thoughtful, wise, and never distressed. Abraham has a really calm demeanor. He tempers the rest of the team, as well as other characters in the novel. He doesn't let them bother him or shake him from his beliefs. Megan is, to be blunt, a pain in the butt. She's hot, she's cold. Honestly, I can't even handle her. I found myself wanting to fast-forward all the scenes with Megan and wishing David would stfu about her already. I didn't find her intriguing or captivating like David, which is possibly because I'm a girl and I don't have time for other girls' drama like that. Doc is a totalmystery as he spends much of his time in solo contemplation. Doc is a good leader as he considers everyone's opinions and contributions, but it seems like it takes a lot to draw him out. Tia, meanshile, is the eyes and ears of the operation. She, like Abraham, is an even and consistent presence in the novel. Tia was possibly the most minor of all the Reckoners, but I enjoyed her as a character. She made me smile.

Steelheart is exciting as it's part mystery, part heist, part action. There were some really wonderful scenes that helped to rachet up tension as well as slower-paced scenes to help establish the characters and the world. The mystery was written very well. I admit, I found myself agreeing early on with David's observations. I will give Brandon so much credit for having so many surprises! the action was thrilling, but I did have a hard time following some of it and visualizing as well. When I read, I want the ability to see the scene in my mind. Sometimes, few details were given about a situation and others it felt like information overload. I did feel like I was experiencing the action first-hand with David, but sometimes I wish scenes would slow down so I, the reader, could process a bit better.

Overall, Steelheart is a great new read. It's a great twist on classic superpowers in more than one way. The world is super unique, with cold steel architecture and futuristic technology mixed to an almost retro society (the whole scene when David first meets the Reckoners felt a bit 40's to me, but in a good way). Sanderson knows how to surprise readers to great effect and maximum emotional impact. The pacing is more or less on target. I'm really excited to see what's in store in Firefight. I'm hoping Calamity will be addressed a bit more, and we'll get to witness more crazy Reckoner schemes.

Book Links:

About the Author:
Brandon Sanderson was born in 1975 in Lincoln, Nebraska. As a child Brandon enjoyed reading, but he lost interest in the types of titles often suggested to him, and by junior high he never cracked a book if he could help it. This changed when an eighth grade teacher gave him Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambly.

Brandon was working on his thirteenth novel when Moshe Feder at Tor Books bought the sixth he had written. Tor has published Elantris , the Mistborn trilogy and its followup The Alloy of Law , Warbreaker , and The Way of Kings , the first in the planned ten-volume series The Stormlight Archive. He was chosen to complete Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series; 2009’s The Gathering Storm and 2010’s Towers of Midnight were followed by the final book in the series, A Memory of Light , in January 2013. Four books in his middle-grade Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians series were released by Scholastic, and his novella Infinity Blade Awakening was an ebook bestseller for Epic Games accompanying their acclaimed Infinity Blade iOS video game series. Two more novellas, Legion and The Emperor s Soul , were released by Subterranean Press and Tachyon Publications in 2012, and 2013 brings two young adult novels, The Rithmatist from Tor and Steelheart from Delacorte.

The only author to make the short list for the David Gemmell Legend Award six times in four years, Brandon won that award in 2011 for The Way of Kings. The Emperor’s Soul is a nominee for the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Novella. He has hit the New York Times Hardcover Fiction Best-Seller List seven times, with all three Wheel of Time books hitting the #1 spot.

Currently living in Utah with his wife and children, Brandon teaches creative writing at Brigham Young University. With Howard Tayler, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Dan Wells, he also hosts the thrice Hugo-nominated writing advice podcast Writing Excuses, which has thrice won a Parsec Award.

Author Links:


  1. Great Review! Maybe I'll take a look at the book and see how it is...

    1. It's pretty exciting. I don't think it's for everyone, but you should at least give it a shot!

  2. Going to have to let Tim read this review and see if it makes the books to get him for Christmas list. (:

    1. Welllllll....I'm gonna stop there. No comment.

  3. Almost everything that you give good reviews to, I like. So I'm trusting you on this one!

    1. Kristi, that is so sweet of you to say! I hope you enjoy it!

    2. No problem, I'm sure I will!

  4. I've heard great things about this book! I'm glad you enjoyed it too!

    1. There were some kinda high expectations so I'm really glad I did too!

  5. I have heard really good things about this author and his books! Great review!

  6. I'm not usually big on superhero type books but this one looks really good!

    1. It is! Very creative and a lot of fun to erad.