Stars: 5 out of 5.
Brandon Sanderson is one of my all time favorite authors, because the amount of work he puts into creating distinctive new worlds with wonderful internal logic is amazing. When I pick up one of his books, I know I will discover a complex magical system that works in the parameters of his world. I know that there won’t be any deus ex machina, and that all the actions and consequences will make sense. So his books are a pleasure to read.
The premise of Steelheart reminded me a little of the TV series The Boys, only taken to the extreme. Imagine that all of a sudden certain people had super powers. Only with those super powers comes an absolute sense of self-entitlement and complete disregard for human life. The results is… apocalyptical, so say the least. The world as we know it is no more. Powerful Epics rule their domains (be it a city, a town, or another piece of land) with savagery and not a care for the normal humans who happen to live on their soil. Sometimes they engage in bloody battles with each other to try an conquer what they consider a better piece of real estate. The victims are again normal humans caught in the crossfire.
And there really is nothing normal humans can do about it, because most high Epics have unbelievable powers and are virtually unkillable, unless you know their particular weakness and can simulate all the circumstances that trigger it. That weakness is unique for each Epic and often doesn’t even make sense.
This is a bleak and violent world, aptly impersonated by the city of Newcago, where the buildings and even the soil they stand on have been turned to steel, and the sky is shrouded in perpetual night. Where people live in underground tunnels and scuttle away from Epics like rats. Enter David and the Reckoners – normal humans who have one goal in life – killing Epics.
I lot of reviews I read found David an annoying character, but I must disagree. Yes, his bad puns and inexistent social skills are sometimes painful to read, but this makes sense for his character. All his life, he’s been driven by a singular purpose – to kill Steelheart and avenge the murder of his father. So everything he did was to advance that goal. He is extremely smart and driven, but he is also somewhere on the autistic spectrum, in my opinion. So interacting with people seems awkward, even painful to him. And deciphering their emotions is harder than gathering intelligence on Epics. Let’s also not forget that he is only 18 in this book, so basically a kid that grew up in less than ideal circumstances. Yes, his infatuation with Megan was a bit cringy at times, but that’s what you would expect from a socially inept teenager towards his first crush. I loved David.
I liked the other members of the Reckoners. They are each one weird in their own way, but they make this teamwork work. Their banter and interactions were fun to read about. It was also fascinating to watch them study an Epic, figure out their weakness, then implement a carefully crafted plan to eliminate them… Then the plan would inevitably go wrong and lots of improvisation would issue.
I loved that there is a hint of an explanation of why all the Epics are such awful human beings. I hope that this idea will be explored further in the future books, and knowing Sanderson, it absolutely will. And I will be along for the ride.