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Steelheart (The Reckoners) Hardcover – September 24, 2013

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Editorial Reviews Review

Q&A with Brandon Sanderson (Interviewed by James Dashner)

Mary C. Neal

Q. Brandon, you’re perhaps best known for your adult books—Mistborn, The Way of Kings, and particularly for finishing Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series. However, recently you’ve undertaken several projects for younger readers. Why is that? How does it feel to be entering into the world of YA fiction? How does it differ from writing for an adult audience? How do you possibly think you can compete with your friend, James Dashner?

A. I've known this guy James Dashner for so long, and he was such an inspiration to me, and I thought, if this joker can do it, then I can too! The sci-fi/fantasy genre is what made a reader out of me, and it has a long history of crossing the line between YA and adult fiction. For example, you mentioned The Wheel of Time. In the early books, the main protagonists are all teenagers. Are these books YA? The publishers don't classify them that way. They’re shelved with the adult fantasy books. Books like that have influenced me in that some of the stories I tell fit into the mold that society says will package well as YA books. Other stories I tell—that are a thousand pages long—don’t seem to fit that mold. But I don’t sit down and say, “I’m writing for a teen audience now. I need to change my entire style.” Instead, I say, “This project and the way I’m writing it feels like it would work well for a teen audience.”

Q. In previous interviews, you’ve mentioned that you come up with characters, worlds, and magic systems independently and then fit them together to create a book. How is that different when writing a YA book like Steelheart? Are certain worlds or magic systems more suitable for YA readers? And how in the world did you get so smart?

A. Ha! I do a lot of talking about the process of writing. That makes it sound like I’m doing it more consciously than I am, but at this point I do most of it by instinct. I do take things like characters, settings, and magic systems—all these little fragments and pieces—and put them together into stories. Whether I’m writing YA or adult, this process doesn’t vary. Some of these elements feel better suited for a teen audience, so when everything starts coming together as it does when a book is forming for me, some stories naturally gravitate toward YA. To me Steelheart is distinctive because it was one of those stories where all the elements came together at the same time. Once I got the idea—people gaining super powers but only evil people getting them—the story basically started to write itself in my head. It happened during a four-hour drive along the East Coast, where by the end of it, I basically had this entire story. I knew where it was going, and I was really excited to write it. That's rare for me, but sometimes it does happen where everything clicks right at the beginning.

Q. Can you give us a sense of the world in which Steelheart takes place? Why do you think this world worked well for these particular characters?

A. Technically, Steelheart is set in a post-apocalyptic world where super villains gained powers and took over. I wanted it to feel alien and familiar at the same time and to be very visual. So I wrote it to be kind of like an action movie in book form. One of my catchphrases that I use when talking about writing is ”Err on the side of awesomeness.” So I wanted the setting and feel of the book to be visually distinctive and awesome.

When I designed Steelheart, the emperor of Chicago, I wanted him to have the power of transmutation—he turns things into steel. The idea that, in a burst of power, he turned the entire city—and even part of the lake—into steel was fascinating to me. This renders a lot of things useless. When your streetlights and all their wiring have been turned into steel, everything short circuits and doesn’t work anymore. You can’t get into buildings because their doors and windows have been melded together. The whole city has become a shell—like the husk of a dead beetle—and people have built on top of it. It’s always perpetual twilight there, so we’ve got this cool feel of everything being steel at night.

From School Library Journal

Gr 8 Up-This fun, fast-paced, futuristic science-fiction superhero story is the first in a projected series. When David was six, an unexplained explosion in the sky caused perpetual darkness and ordinary people to gain supernatural powers. These people became known as Epics. Two years later, in a bank in what was once Chicago, now called Newcago, David witnessed Steelheart, one of the most powerful Epics of all, murder his father. In the 10 years since his father's death, David has made it his mission to learn all he can about Epics. Everyone thinks they are invincible, but he knows otherwise. He knows that each one has a weakness, and he's seen Steelheart's. Steelheart can bleed. David intends to get his revenge. A cowed populace accepts the fact that Epics control their lives and the strongest among them are in a constant battle for dominance. Only one shadowy group of ordinary humans called the Reckoners dare fight to eliminate them. David persuades the Reckoners to let him join their ranks after proving he has unique knowledge about Epics. This enjoyable read focuses more on action than character development and is perfect for genre fans who love exciting adventure stories with surprising plot twists. Readers will be rooting for David, a super geek with a love of weapons, who can hold his own against Epics with names like Nightwielder, Conflux, or Firefight.-Sharon Rawlins, New Jersey State Library,Trentonα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 680L (What's this?)
  • Series: The Reckoners
  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Press; First Edition edition (September 24, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385743564
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385743563
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,572 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #32,044 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

I'm Brandon Sanderson, and I write stories of the fantastic: fantasy, science fiction, and thrillers.

January 2015 marks the release of Firefight, the sequel to Steelheart. When only evil people gain super powers and become tyrants, it's up to normal people to hunt them down. There is a free 5-chapter preview ebook of Steelheart here on Amazon that you should check out, with a corresponding sampler audiobook on Audible. My Firefight book tour in the US lasts throughout January.

Recent short releases are Legion: Skin Deep (sequel to Legion), the further investigations of an average man whose many hallucinations are all experts in their own fields, and also my novella Sixth of the Dusk, set in the same universe as Mistborn and Stormlight, revolving around an attack on an island trapper's way of life.

My biggest recent epic fantasy is Words of Radiance, written as a love letter of sorts to the epic fantasy genre. It continues the story of the Stormlight Archive that began in The Way of Kings, and it's the type of book I always dreamed epic fantasy could be. October 2015 and January 2016 will also see the release of two new Mistborn books, Shadows of Self and Bands of Mourning.

Mistborn and the Stormlight Archive are among my most popular works, as are my concluding volumes to Robert Jordan's epic series The Wheel of Time. My novella The Emperor's Soul won a Hugo Award in 2013. That year also marked the release of my first young adult fantasy, The Rithmatist.

Sample chapters from all of my books are available at -- and check out the rest of my site for chapter-by-chapter annotations, deleted scenes, and more.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

115 of 125 people found the following review helpful By Storm TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 23, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine 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.
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113 of 136 people found the following review helpful By Roman VINE VOICE on August 20, 2013
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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.
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48 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Benjamin Thomas VINE VOICE on August 27, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine 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.
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