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Steelheart (The Reckoners)
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115 of 125 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Steelheart will be my second Sanderson book based in his younger teen fiction category, The Rithmatist being my first. Whereas I felt that The Rithmatist was a bit too corny and "cutesy," I think Steelheart will be a great "gateway" book for younger fans to discover Sanderson's other, more mature, fiction series.

Steelheart is set in a world shaped by "The Calamity," a meteor in the sky which has granted comic-book superhero-style powers to random humans, now called Epics. One of the defining themes in the book being that absolute power corrupts absolutely, there are no superheroes. No X-Men, Spidermans, or Supermans. Normal humans in this world are regarded as little more than slaves. The book follows the main character David, in his quest for revenge against the ruthless, cold-hearted, ruler of Newcago (formerly Chicago) - Steelheart.

While the plot and character development are pretty basic, and while David does suffer a little bit from "The Chosen One" Syndrome, the story is well-paced and makes for a very engaging read. This will probably be one of those books that you end up reading until it's way past bedtime. Fans of Sanderson will immediately recognize some of his quirks - protagonists tending to use their brains rather than brawn, numerous plot-twists, and of course, gratuitous magic system explanations. Steelheart is no exception to this formula.

For the teens - Steelheart is basically a comic book in written form. There's fights, superpowers, puppy-love crushes, and explosions. In fact I could almost hear a Hans Zimmer soundtrack in my head during several of the battles. Sanderson paints a vivid picture through his storytelling, and it won't take much imagination to see the entire book unfurling before you like a movie.

For the parents - Steelheart is a bit on the violent side but is clean on both language and romance. There's quite a few relatively graphic descriptions of firefights and injuries and incidental body count is pretty high. There's a big leap nowadays between Rated PG-13 and R, and I think Steelheart is probably right in between those two. It's not as bad as something you'll see on HBO/Showtime, but it's not nickelodeon-clean either. Something like primetime cable network violence.

For the adult Sanderson fans - the corny language will probably be the first thing that sticks out to you; the second thing will be the bluntness. It's always amusing to read something like Steelheart after re-reading The Way of Kings - same author but completely different voices. If you're already a fan of Sanderson, Steelheart will be very familiar ground and you won't feel out of place at all. With the exception of the depth of character and plot. There's not a whole lot of subtext comparatively to his adult works, but honestly I found that a bit refreshing. It's like having to play politics at the office versus hanging out with friends.

Steelheart was a great read and is a stand out in the crowded teen fiction market. For the adult Sanderson fans, I still consider this book a "buy". Honestly it reminded me quite a bit of his Mistborn Trilogy (and everything that entails). I inhaled this book in two days, and if it wasn't for that pesky need for sleep, I probably would have done it in a single sitting. It's honestly just a fun, action-packed, page-turner of a book.
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113 of 136 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon August 20, 2013
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Brandon Sanderson is an very fast writer that consistently produces good book after good book. I've been a fan of him since Elantris and I always rush out to buy whatever new book he has. His work, although formulaic, is enjoyable to read and always feels high in quality.

Steelheart is set in a futuristic, post-apocalyptic Chicago. The denizens of the book call this new Chicago 'Newcago' (yeah I wondered about that as well). The story follows David, a young man entranced with the world's new Epics. Epics are superhumans that used to be mortals until a meteor named Calamity appeared in the sky. David is obsessed with bringing vengeance on one particular epic, Steelheart.

Now that we have the basic plot down we can go into a bit of review. I won't try to spoil anything but be warned that most reviews will have a bit of spoilers in them. Steelheart is a book with excellent pacing in the drama and action departments, but I can't help but feel it was a bit too formulaic. Its almost as if Brandon was writing this as a school project rather than trying to publish it. The main character is again a bit of a know-it-all who falls for a cute girl. There is an older, mysterious character that always saves the day. There is a mysterious magic source that no one really understands. This is all textbook Sanderson, and if you've read his previous books you will feel right at home here.

Besides the obvious use of a worn formula I found this book enjoyable. The action scenes were consistent and well-paced. His New Chicago felt like an actual city and most of his characters exhibited varying personalities. The main characters were (mostly) given detailed back stories that were entertaining to read about and sometimes crucial to the plot.

Overall if you're a fan of Sanderson you will most likely read this book in an afternoon. However, if you never heard of the guy's works I would recommend picking up one of his other excellent series, such as Mistborn or Way of Kings, before jumping into this one.
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48 of 57 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon August 27, 2013
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Wowzer! Awesome! etc. etc.

OK, anybody that has read any of my previous reviews of Sanderson's work knows just how much I admire his writing. I've really run out of superlatives to describe his work, both the quality of it and the sheer amount of output he generates. I don't know of any other human on the planet that can write/publish so many books and sustain such high quality. He is simply amazing.

This novel is, of course, no exception. From the very first page, I was lost in this new world Sanderson has created. Yes, it's a young adult novel, but the only reason to classify it as such is that the main character, David, is 18 years old. But in every other way, this is a main-stream novel, filled with violence, action, and thought-provoking characters. In essence, this could be called a "super-hero" novel (mostly evil super-heroes) so I suppose that's another reason to classify it as YA. And we are treated to some inner thoughts from David that testify to his late-teenage attitudes towards others and self doubt. But I found them to be very true to the nature of the character, and essential to the plot.

The story takes place here on approximately present-day Earth, about ten years after an unexplained burst in the sky (subsequently referred to as 'Calamity') caused the appearance of 'Epics'. Epics are humans that have abilities, amazing superhero-like powers, and tend to use them for personal gain and power. They are so powerful that nobody fights them. Nobody except the 'Reckoners'. Epics are essentially bullies (bullies with incredible destructive power) but each one has a weakness, and thus can be fought by ordinary folks like us.

OK, that sounds like a plot for a YA novel for boys age 10-14. But I say 'Nay, friend.' This is a novel for all of us. The plot is only the superficial top layering of this 17-layer cake and, believe me friends, this cake has a lot of delicious calories. Sanderson is known for his unique, complex magic systems that he constructs for his novels. So, of course, the system that he has built for superheroes is equally complex and interdependent. He doesn't just come up with weird cool powers and sprinkle superheroes around. Epics' powers work the way they work for a reason and discovering just how they relate to each other is pure fun. And all through this novel (as well as in future novels in this series, I'm sure), we learn more and more about just how well thought out this system is.

All of that stuff makes for fun reading and good movie entertainment but it's the characters that allow a story to rise to the top and be memorable for months and years afterwards. The core group of characters in this book are multidimensional and each one is intriguing. They are a delight to read about. I cared about each and every one, their roles, their fates. And, due to the high stakes action in this book, their fates are far from certain. Surprises await the reader at every turn; it definitely keeps the pages turning.

So, once again, my hat is off to Mr. Sanderson. This is the first book of what is sure to be a great series. And although the main plot does conclude in this one book, it serves as a gateway to many more awesome books to come.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on December 18, 2013
I'm going to seperate this into the good and the bad to make it easier to gather my thoughts on the book. It really had some major ups and downs. Some minor spoilers may be ahead.

Let's start with the bad:

1. This book really beat you over the head with some of the characters, the humor, and the love story. For instance, the character of Cody and his relentless made up storytelling that no one bought, and everyone got tired of. Every chance he got, there was another story he was telling that was exaggerated or just complete nonsense.

2. The humor. How many times do I have to hear about how bad the David (the main character) is at coming up with metaphors. It's really like every 5 minutes he goes into another one, only to explain, yet again, how bad he is at them. Maybe it would have been funny if you weren't beat over the head with it over and over. Same goes for Cody and his outlandish stories, we get it.

3. The love story. It really felt as if it was told through the perspective of a 12 year old. And was another thing that was beat over your head over and over. David finds Megan extremely beautiful, we got it, I don't need to be reminded every time they were involved in the same scene.

4. A lot of the book revolved around the mystery of what Steelheart's weakness was. Now obviously not everyone is going to have this problem, but I felt like I knew pretty early on, and it was a bit frustrating knowing I'd have to get to the end to find out, and I was right, which added to the frustration.

The good:

1. All of that said, the plot, the epics, the city and the structure of the society were all very cool and well done. The name Newcago wasn't very creative to me, but just a minor detail.

2. The idea of the Reckoners, the tools they use, and then the twists and turns as the story goes along, especially at the end, really redeemed the story for me. Prof and Abraham were very cool characters in my opinion. I loved the surprises, and the ending solution, as said on the cover, really was pretty awesome and did not see that coming.

3. It was full of action and suspense, there wasn't really a lot of dull down time or any parts where it really felt like it was moving slow for me.

Overall, if you can get past the very cheesy, beating-a-dead-horse to make absolutely sure you're getting the humor YA aspects of the book, it's well worth a read. Despite the negatives, I will be waiting for the next book in the series and have already read the interlude short story Mitosis which was pretty good as well.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on December 30, 2013
Sanderson is an amazing author, and has written many of my favorite books. I'm sad to say this one is not among them. He often creates systems where extraordinary things are still governed by logical rules. This one throws out all logic, and relies on luck. Otherwise, he writes complex social interactions with compelling characters. This is also not the case. It reads like some publisher asked him to write a hunger games meets x-men and he didn't really feel like doing it. It's not a bad book, just not up to his standards.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on November 10, 2013
I don't normally write reviews for something unless I've finished them, but I felt the need to explain why I had to stop reading this book after the first couple of chapters.

Before I begin, I liked the Mistborn series and I like Sanderson in general. And for this book, I liked the general idea behind it; that some strange event has caused some people to have super powers, I had no problem with that. My problem arose from the fact that these powers still didn't seem to be rooted in reality to make the book believable. Let me explain what I mean...

There was an Epic (bad guy with powers) in the book whose "power" was that he could shoot guns non-stop without ever running out of ammunition. How is this a "power" exactly? Does his power actually create bullets out of thin air that then load themselves into the gun's magazine or chamber to be fired? Who knows, Sanderson never explained it, at least before I stopped reading.

Steelheart, the main baddie of the book, has a wealth of powers but one of them is to turn literally anything into steel, which he then does to all of Lake Michigan. Now maybe I'm just being too anal here but all I can think about is the impact that something like that would have on alot of different things, plumbing, sewage, fishing, etc. for all of the cities and life forms around the lake, but it's never really talked about in the book, it's just brushed aside and the world keeps on going like always except that this enormous lake is now made of steel.

If stuff like that doesn't bother you, the book is probably fine, and I understand the target audience is young adults but even young adults and teens can see through some of these major plot holes that are simply brushed off by the author. I expected a lot better from Sanderson.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on October 27, 2013
I REALLY liked the concept and the first few sample chapters were great; so much so that I bought the book on the day it came out. Unfortunately it kinda just fell apart after the intro. The main character is terrible and his relationship with the female heroine felt forced, flat and artificial. Over all, Steelheart started off strong but just went down hill from there. It felt like someone else wrote the middle section of this book. I say this with a heavy heart, as Brandon Sanderson is one of my absolute favorite authors, but Steelheart is probably Sanderson's worst work. The end was OK I guess but definitely did not make up for the awful dialog and personality traits of David, the main character. If you are a Sanderson fan I'd recommenced you skip this one and go read the Rithmatist instead. In fact this is the ONLY work Sanderson has written I would not recommend to a friend. Two stars as I just didn't have the heart to give a Sanderson book one and the intro was pretty strong :(
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on September 19, 2013
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is the best book about super-heros I have ever read. Granted, that might not be saying too much considering how few I've read (Soon I Will Be Invincible was my former favorite). That said, am a retired DC Universe Fanatic and somewhat well-versed in the Marvel Continuum. That is to say I once spent around $300.00 per month on comics and now only occasionally have a relapse where I buy a trade paperback... But more than that, you should know where I stand on Sanderson...

I've met Sanderson in person. I've got plenty of people into his books. I tell everyone who will listen to read The Stormlight Archive. I again started reading (and bought every book of) The Wheel of Time SPECIFICALLY because Sanderson was finishing the series. While everyone else was reading for Jordan, I started reading from the second book on because of SANDERSON (and subsequently got hooked on Jordan along the way). I own:The Way of Kings, Mistborn Trilogy, Alloy of Law, Warbreaker, The Emperor's Soul, and EVERY Wheel of Time book. I downloaded Firstborn. I read Legion. I am OBSESSED with Sanderson. I tell you all this as fair warning so you can move on to another review if you think my promoting of Sanderson is annoying.

The other night I had a conversation with my wife about Sanderson. My wife said he's going to be better than J.R.R. Tolkien. I said "He has the POTENTIAL to be better than Tolkien." I've heard people call him a hack. I've heard people say his writing has no style. I've read reviews where people say all his books are the same, that his stories are formulaic. These people...are wrong.

If you've read Sanderson's other books then you are doubtless familiar with his style. He writes plot and world-building like nobody's business. When he tells you something magical just happened, he didn't draw pull a rabbit out of a hat or say the magic words. There was a darn good SCIENTIFIC reason why what just happened worked...within the world that he created. People CANNOT defy the laws of physics in a Sanderson story, they just obey the laws of the universe he has created. The stories Sanderson creates have common themes. A hero overcoming impossible odds to free the world. A young person growing into an adult in a world gone mad. Wise old friends instructing them and training them to become a hero. Does this make all his books the same??? No! No!! NO!!!

Sanderson is growing as a writer, improving with every book he writes. He is exploring different styles one by one. He did young adult with the Alcatraz series, and now he is writing to an older teen audience. His protagonist talks self-depreciatingly (a bit like Alcatraz), his world is a nightmare universe (a bit like Mistborn), there is a strong female pseudo-love-interest rear-kicking female (yeah, Megan is LOT like Bastille, again from the Alcatraz series). Is Abraham a bit like Sazed from Mistborn? Yes. Is the Prof a bit like Kelsier from the same series? Yes. BUT!!!! This does NOT make them the same book!!!

This Book is Awesome

There are a few places where this books drags a tad. The plot is simple. The characters are archetypes. And none of that is a bad thing. If the action didn't let you breath now and then the book would be too intense. If the plot were too complex it would distract from the characters. And the archetypes... People seem to have a REALLY hard time these days telling the difference between an archetype and a stereotype. Do yourself a favor and go to the TV Tropes Website and look up "Tropes Are Tools". I'll wait. Done? Good. Sanderson writes his stories the way a painter paints his paintings. Do you criticize Van Gogh for piling on the paint in every painting? No? Why? It's because HE KNOWS WHAT HE'S DOING. I've often said that I don't mind hearing the same story forever, as long as each time, the story is told WELL.

This book depicts superheroes in a brand new way (I've never seen anything quite like it). It gives even the villains a deeper reason for what they do than simply "Because they are EVIL. MWAHAHAAA!!!" It gives the REAL heroes internal struggles, and character flaws. The action sequences are breath-taking (like all of Sanderson's action). The technology is fun and exciting. You CARE about the characters. And the REAL plot, which lies beneath the surface (Why are there no good Epics? Why is Megan so mean to David? Why doesn't the Prof use his own technology?) culminates in a classic Sanderson ending where all comes to light in plot twists that you never saw coming.

Is this the best book Sanderson has ever written? No, that would be The Way Of Kings. Does it has the greatest action sequences and Crowning Moments of Awesome (No that would be the Mistborn series). But it IS darn good!!! As an origin story (for the protagonist) it does a darn good job of weaving an incredibly entertaining yarn. It's unsettling (the intro where innocent people are massacred by Epics is bone-chilling), inspiring (The GOOD Epics WILL come!!!), and above-all ENTERTAINING.

Plus, it has a lot of great comic book references if you are looking for them (What are the initials of the protagonist and the initials of the insurance company mentioned?).

I jumped out of my skin when I was able to get a pre-release copy of this book and can't wait to get Sanderson to sign it. I will pre-order the sequel as soon as it becomes available. Sanderson is already the greatest living Fantasy writer on Earth, and he's only getting better with each book he writes. I look forward to seeing where he takes all of his series from here. I know my faith will be rewarded, and this is only the beginning.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on October 3, 2013
Sanderson's latest book is an interesting take on the classic super-hero tale. The main conceit is that some humans have developed super powers. The problem is that these people, termed "Epics", do not use their powers for good but instead they universally use them for their own personal gain. A small resistance has formed to fight back against these super-jerks and the book chronicles their attempt to take down the eponymous super villain.

The book is quick read, clocking in at right around 330 easy pages. There are only a handful of characters and the plot is extremely straight-forward, as one might expect from a book targeted at a younger audience. The themes are a bit dark and the opening scene, in particular, might be disturbing to young readers.

Unfortunately, while the concept is intriguing, the book suffers from multiple characters being intensely ignorant. Several characters should be able to piece together the plot and its twists well before they occur, but remain clueless simply because the plot demands them to do so. What follows is many laborious chapters that the reader must slog through while waiting for the character's knowledge to catch up with their own.

Overall I am rating this as three stars because I was generally entertained and am hoping that further efforts in this universe will have more consistent characters.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 3, 2013
This is the first of Brandon Sanderson's YA offerings that I have read and I must say that I greatly enjoyed it.

I should also preface this review by saying the Sanderson is one of my favorite authors, so I am guaranteed to enjoy pretty much anything he puts out.

The concept of STEELHEART is simple. What if super-powers were real, only there were no superheroes. That powers turned you evil and you became a supervillian and tyrant, who thinks nothing of throwing away "normal" human lives?

That is the world that, David, our young protagonist grows up in. As a young boy, he witnesses Steelheart, an Epic whose power can turn anything to steel--plus flying, invincibility, shooting energy out of hands, and super strength, kill his father for saving his life.

Steelheart becomes the oppressive ruler of Chicago, stylized 'Newcago' in the book, and he rules with a steel fist.

This turns David into a young man who is obsessed with Epics. Learning their weaknesses so that he can kill them one day. And he wants to do nothing more than to kill Steelheart.

This leads to David meeting up with the Reckoner's, an elite group of soldiers that hunts and kills Epics. Which is what the rest of the novel entails, leading up to the big showdown with Steelheart.

The plot is pretty typical for Sanderson and YA. There is a love interest, an older man who had a mysterious past yet also manages to kick serious butt, and the likable rest of the gang. The big bad guy is mainly faceless and he seems completely all powerful and all knowing, except for one weakness, which only the group can find out.

There are some twists and turns that keep it fresh and one of the most charming parts of the book is David's absolute failing at making metaphors. They just keep getting worse and worse and I commend Mr. Sanderson on this because he has made it almost an art-form by the end of the novel.

Unlike most of Sanderson's other novels, STEELHEART is in first person and never leaves David's point of view. Which makes sense considering this is a YA novel and teenagers typically don't want to follow the myriad viewpoints that Sanderson typically sprinkles throughout his novels.

Also, the plot is less convoluted and for an older, or more experienced reader, it may seem simplistic and predictable.

Still, this was a fun and quick read (took me about a day) and had more depth than I was expecting. I teach 8th grade students and would love to use this book in my class.
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