Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson – review

Steelheart cover

Brandon Sanderson is fast becoming one of my favourite “popcorn” authors. I first came across his work (like many others) when he was selected to finish the Wheel of Time series, but he has fast become a strong name in the genre in his own right. I find his books to be real page turners, if running somewhat long at times. It’s nice to have a more modern and sophisticated version of the big, fat fantasy’s I used to enjoy through my teenage years.

Given all this, I was interested to see what Sanderson would do in turning his attention to the young adult market. Steelheart is set in a world where a small percentage of the population has gained super powers, and the result has not been pretty. The super-powered (Epics) tend towards using their powers for evil instead of good, selfishly building little empires in the ruins of America.

The protagonist watched his father killed by one of the most powerful Epics of all, the Steelheart of the title. Fast forward several years, and the now 18 year old David is out for revenge and is attempting to join up with the Reckoners, a shadowy group leading a rebellion of sorts against the Epics.

The plotting and pace of the book is very good, and as is normally the case in Sanderson’s work the world-building is detailed, consistent and filled with cool ideas. In a lot of ways the Epics remind me of the Aces in the Wild Card series of books from the 80s/90s, with unique and interesting powers but much more structured/classified in Steelheart.

I had the same problem I have with a lot of YA novels – as I get older I find it harder and harder to sympathise/empathise with the teenage protagonists. Unsophisticated, black and white views of the world. Moral certainty. Boundless energy. All these things are reasonable representations of a teenage mindset, but they grate on me.

Along the same lines, the protagonist was just a little too perfect for my taste. Problems get resolved a little too easily. Insight into other character’s motivations come a little too effortlessly.  New skills are picked up a little too quickly.

But having said that, there are some really cool ideas in this book, excellent action scenes and fantastic use of foreshadowing so that the end, when it comes, leaves you with that good sense of “oh yes, I should have seen that coming”. There were enough clues (and red herrings) to make it an enjoyable read.

I won’t be lining up in front of any bookstores to get the sequel, but I will probably read it. Recommended to YA fans who love evil super heroes.

I also reviewed this book on Goodreads. View all my reviews.


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This work by Mark Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Australia License.

Author: mark

A writer of speculative fiction and all round good egg. Well, mostly good. OK, sometimes good.

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