Steelheart (Reckoners #1)

Steelheart (Reckoners #1)

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Steelheart (Reckoners #1)
Age Range
12+
Release Date
September 24, 2013
ISBN
0385743564
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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.

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What of Supervillains Ruled the world?

What I Liked:
As ever, where Brandon Sanderson shines is in the world building. Sanderson has a real knack for creating unique worlds that run on different principles, following that logic through. This world, while not as disparate as his epic fantasies, compels the imagination. Superhero stories have always held a fascination for me, and, with the Epics, Sanderson has done something wholly new, to my experience anyway, with that concept. The Epics are villains, every last one of them, proving the old adage that absolute power corrupts absolutely.

That premise may suggest to you, and rightly so, that Steelheart gets rather dark. This is not a world of brave, unparalleled heroism, of good triumphing over evil. Even the good guys have dark secrets and motivations. Take, for example, the main character, David. He’s a fairly average teen, except for that whole thing where he’s dedicated his life to avenging his father, with the single-minded devotion of Inigo Montoya.

Steelheart, the titular villain, rules over a Newcago, a Chicago made of steel where the sun literally doesn’t shine. Steelheart and his cronies, including Nightwielder who blocks the sun from the city, keep systems going and food available to the people, in exchange for utter domination. Epics, these super-powered individuals, can do anything to any person without recrimination; the government of the US limps along in some areas of the Fractured States, but the Epics truly have free reign. It’s a horrific picture, rather like humanity has begun involving and Magneto’s crew have subjugated everyone, and there are no X-Men.

Sanderson also proves himself a skilled plotter once again. In every novel, Sanderson always manages to surprise me with something, if not with an actual twist then with exactly how something worked, even if I had it generally figured out. That always makes his books that extra bit of exciting to read.

What Left Me Wanting More:
However, the character-building in Steelheart really left me wanting so much more. In his other novels, I’ve found his characters almost immediately compelling, not just the main characters, but the supporting ones as well. With Steelheart, I didn’t much care for a single character. Many of the problems lie in the narrator, David. He alternates between an encyclopedic knowledge of weaponry and Epics and mindless devotion to his cause of killing Steelheart and drooling over Megan. He instaloves all over the place on this girl because she’s super hot and can fight. Wow, what a solid foundation for a relationship. As far as I can tell, Sanderson’s pushing this ship, but he’s got a lot of work to do to make that happen, because they have no chemistry: David’s a kid with pathetic puppy love and Megan’s…I don’t really know.

Anyway, David. Not only do I not found David to be a particularly interesting character, his narration is frequently annoying. Idiosyncracies help build realistic characters, but, in this case, I feel like David was given one idiosyncrasy and sent on his way like the work was done. That idiosyncrasy: making really ridiculous metaphors constantly, like: “He had a smile like a parrotfish, which I’ve always assumed look like parrots, though I’ve never actually seen either.” What incredibly useful narration there, David! You have just managed to tell the reader nothing on several levels. Congratulations!

Then there’s the Southern Scot, who embodies every stereotype of American Southerners and the Scottish, down to a monologue on the bagpipes that is TOTALLY plot-relevant (SARCASM). This guy, Cody, threw me out of the book every time he referred to individuals as “y’all” and groups as “all y’all.” I’ve been informed that some southerners do use “y’all” this way, but it makes my eye twitch because “y’all” is an abbreviation of “YOU ALL.” IT IS PLURAL. Also, why is this necessary? As with David’s quirk, I feel like the weaknesses of the characterization are largely shortcuts taken to add humor to the novel and make them seem more real and quirky. Sadly, this backfired big time.

The Final Verdict:
Though is thus far my least favorite of Sanderson’s works, he can still world build like few other authors. The Reckoners series will be a good choice for fans of supervillains and world building. More character-focused readers, like myself, may struggle with this one.

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Steelhearts Finds a Place in My Heart!

This was just a random read for me. I was using the app Overdrive, and I had downloaded this book as a test for using the app. I didn't actually plan on reading it anytime soon (I had three weeks to get it read, and hey, 300 pages is easy). But then one day I was at school, and I didn't want to read the book that I brought with me (Eat, Brains, Love), and so I pulled my phone out. And it took a lot of restraint to not open the Nook app and read Shiver or The Darkest Minds, because those were some titles that I'd been wanting to read for a while. But no, instead of opening those, I opened Overdrive, and I had a moment of weakness where I opened up this book and read it.

Hell, that was one of my best weakest moments ever. This book was great, and I definitely didn't expect to like it as much as I did. Yes, there are cliffhangers. Yes, there are twists. And yes, there are bamf'ing girls and guys in this book. There was only one thing that I could've guessed by the end of the book, and that was a certain somebody's actual identity. Other than that one thing, I couldn't have guessed any of the other stuff at all.

Brandon Sanderson definitely knows how to write a great superhero-esque novel that knocked my socks off (figuratively). I saw on Goodreads that he has another fantasy series. I'm definitely going to be getting that book so I can buy it and enjoy it.

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No heroes, just villains!

In Newcago, Steelheart, a ultra-powered tyrant, rules over the city using fear, oppression and darkness to keep the citizens of his dictatorship in line. It doesn't help that he's a nearly invincible, almost immortal with enough superpowers to make Superman go "whoa." One rather awkward and stubborn young man, David, might have the key to his weakness. If only he could figure out what it was... When he joins up with a group of people who are taking out super villains, he convinces them to go after Steelheart. It's uncertain if they will succeed or not, but sometimes you've just got to take the big chances. Even when they might get you killed.

I love how this book is basically chock full of super villains without any real superhero stepping into the mix to fight them. At first, I wasn't really into that idea, being rather supportive of superheroes overall (LOVE YOU, MARVEL&DC), but while I was reading Steelheart, its plot grew on me. While it still leaves the reader with a lot of questions, overall, its a solid beginning to a trilogy or series that will most likely leave the reader wanting to go hunt down the next book.

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EPICNESS!

The short review: IT WAS EPICCCC!!! PURE EPICNESS!

The longer one: So I went to the Austin Teen Book Festival 2013 an saw that Brandon Sanderson had this huge (like three or four times bigger then the longer ones) line and at the time did not understand why he had so many more fans then the other authors who's books I had read and thought were amazing. But now I get it! The world imagined in Steelheart is so amazing and realistic. I know it's fiction and there were a lot of gadgets and powers that are not real (at least right now) but it still seemed very plausible. Like the cell phones they were more advanced but not so much that I could not see them getting like that in ten years. The whole setting from the social hierarchy to the futurist guns and superhuman powers is just phenomenal! I liked David enough as a MC but would have connected much better I think if there was a chapter or two before he meets the Reckoners. Megan I absolutely adored though and I hope to see more of her, especially her back story and maybe some chapters with her POV in Firefight! I would love that so much!!!

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The heroes will come... we might just have to help them along

As an all-time-favorite-i-would-read-a-fishing-manual-if-he-wrote-it Brandon Sanderson fan, reading his books for me is always a karmic experience. I expected no less from Steelheart. So let’s see what did I hope this book will have?

1) Original idea and world building. Although superheroes are not something new and are currently even a little bit overused in media, Sanderson still manages to make this topic fresh and it’s not just by renaming superheroes to Epics. They are not orphans from other planets or multi-billionaires or bitten by genetically modified spiders – Epics are ordinary people like you and me. Which leads us to…

2) Moral dilemma or social experiment. Sanderson’s settings are always there to make us wonder about some interesting questions. What would you do if you got superpowers? Use them for greater good or for your benefit? I stopped dreaming about having superpowers long time ago, but those dreams usually involved invisibility so I can sneak in and eat as much candy as I want or flying. Not very humanitarian.
"I know, better than anyone else, that there are no heroes coming to save us. There are no good Epics. None of them protect us. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

3) Strong main character. David saw an Epic kill his father when he was little and is bent on revenge ever since. As always, Sanderson’s hero is not perfect – he has flaws, makes mistakes but in the end him (and us) learn a valuable lesson and make a right choice. Sadly, David never really won my heart. He always seemed too shallow either with his blind focus on revenge or with insta-love attraction to only hot girl he had prolonged contact with since… ever.

4) Complex secondary characters. There is nothing typical or lacking in support roles, when Sanderson writes them and Steelheart is no exception. Each character is unique, has hidden depths and we learn more about them and get to love them (or hate them) as the plot unravels.

5) Humor. Dark times need some kind of comic relief and Sanderson usually delivers it without a hitch. Steelheart has them in form of David’s bad metaphors and gang-member Cody who exaggerates his Scottish roots. For a reader to whom Steelheart is first book written by Sanderson, this might be good enough, but I have seen what he can do and this is a poor attempt of humor by his standards.

6) Big twist. Every book by Sanderson I have read so far always had some big revelation near the end that changes your whole perspective of the world and characters. Some are instant, some are slow but they are always there. That is, until Steelheart. There are some surprise but not as earth-shattering as I am used to. Yes, I am spoiled.

IN THE END…
Steelheart might not have turned out to be all I have hoped for, but for a young adult science fiction or dystopian fan it will be a great intro to the awesomeness of Sanderson’s writing. I can bet that original world building and addictive, intense plot is going to blow them away and turn them into adoring worshipers of Brandon Sanderson. If you are wondering what to read next – go with Mistborn Trilogy - you won’t regret it!
As for fans of adult fantasy novels by Brandon Sanderson, they might find Steelheart lacking in some areas, but who are we are kidding, they are going to read Steelheart no matter what. Just like I am going to read the sequel Firefight, if nothing else I am intrigued to learn more about the origin of Epics.

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