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Milo, aka “Bane of Kings”, reviews Brandon Sanderson’s latest novel, the first in the new Reckoners series, published by Gollancz in the UK.
“An awesome book that provides great entertainment and a lot of fun, with Steelheart, Brandon Sanderson proves that he can write in a variety of genres extremely well, and create captivating and enthralling stories each time around, as he provides a treat for fans of not only fantasy and science fiction, but also fans of comics. And for fans of both - Steelheart surely is a winning combination.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
There are no heroes.
Every single person who manifested powers—we call them Epics—turned out to be evil.
Here, in the city once known as Chicago, an extraordinarily powerful Epic declared himself Emperor. Steelheart has the strength of ten men and can control the elements. It is said no bullet can harm him, no sword can split his skin, no explosion can burn him. He is invincible.
It has been ten years. We live our lives as best we can. Nobody fights back . . . nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans who spend their lives studying powerful Epics, finding their weaknesses, then assassinating them.
My name is David Charleston. I’m not one of the Reckoners, but I intend to join them. I have something they need. Something precious, something incredible. Not an object, but an experience. I know his secret.
I’ve seen Steelheart bleed.
As long term followers of The Founding Fields will know, Brandon Sanderson is probably one of my favourite authors. I’ve loved his Mistborn Trilogy and really enjoyed both The Rithmatist and The Alloy of Law. Whilst Elantris wasn’t as powerful as the previously mentioned books it was still a fairly strong read, and I really need to get around to reading Warbreaker and The Way of Kings judging from what I’ve seen from these respective novels. Sanderson manages to bring something fresh and original to the table each time he brings out a new book, and I’m quite happy to say that my most anticipated book for the second half of the year really did not disappoint, as Steelheart delivered on its high expectations, which was a relief – as I’ve been disappointed by various books in the past before by good authors because the books did not live up to the value of anticipation that had been built up around them (I’m looking at you, Dan Abnett’s Pariah). Of course, given Sanderson’s track record, I shouldn’t really have had any worry that this book was going to be any less than superb, and after finishing reading it – I can safely say that it stands as strong contention for among the best five novels that we’ve had this year so far.
Like The Rithamtist, Steelheart is another Young Adult book by Sanderson and it’s just as engrossing and as awesome as his previous attempt. It’s essentially a post-apocalyptic book set on Earth in the near future populated with superheroes. However, unlike Superman, Batman etc - Steelheart has a darker twist on the superhero genre, and is in some ways, more realistic than the portrayal of them in comcis, after all – the temptation to abuse your power is always there and with Sanderson’s so-called “Epics”, he continues to expand on these characters and makes a point that with powers, not everybody would use them for the right means.
If you’re a fan of Sanderson like myself then you’ll know what to expect from this book. As usual, the world-building is pulled off with creativity and imagination, establishing how the Epics work and what makes them tick. Without a magic system, a rare change from Sanderson’s other works, we’re instead presented with a variety of gadgets and technology that mostly lean towards one goal – taking down the Epics. As there are no superheroes fighting for the force of good in this nightmare (and don’t expect the main character to gain powers either), the weapons and high-tech gadgets are ways of defeating the enemy that Sanderson manages to execute pretty well, to the extent that nothing feels like a get-out-of-jail free card, and they all feel like they fit the tone of this reality very well indeed.
One problem that I have with Steelheart is that the characters aren’t as fleshed out or as well developed as I would like them to be, with the only major memorable character apart from Steelheart himself is David, the main character who narrates the story through his perspective and his perspective alone. First person perspective is common in Young Adult books and this is the first time I believe I’ve seen Sanderson handle this method of narrative, which he manages to pull of pretty well for the most part. Sanderson fleshes out David well, making him a more than just a one-dimensional character. He’s also a great lead character as well, and never feels like the male equivalent of a Mary-Sue. For the most part the Epics are interesting and varied as well, with their names being pretty cool as well – and whilst some feel awkward, that’s only because they were designed to be.
Whilst the plot may seem similar to The Final Empire, Sanderson’s first Mistborn book, only in a different setting, you’ll be pleased to know that he handles it pretty well, making it seem fresh and not just a re-hash. It’s also a pretty unpredictable read, unlike a vast portion of young adult books that I’ve read before. You don’t know what’s going to happen next and this is a world where nobody is safe. Each chapter had me on the edge of my seat and I really couldn’t put this book down as I was reading it, with Sanderson handling the pacing of the book very well, without any moments that feel out of place or odd.
Sanderson’s Steelheart then, is a success. I can safely label it as one my favourite books of the year, and it’s one that everyone, even people who have never read a Sanderson book before, will have a fun time reading. It’s page-turning, awesome and captivating – and I really can’t wait to see what Sanderson brings to the table for the next volume in the series. You can certainly count me in for that.