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.