Series: The Reckoners #1
Ten years ago Calamity appeared in the sky and gave men superpowers. Called Epics, they quickly used their powers to claim dominion over the Earth. Dave watched an Epic named Steelheart kill his father. And now he will do anything to end Steelheart’s rule. His plan: to join the Reckoners, a group of ordinary men and women who dare to fight back. Because he thinks he can give them the one thing they need. A clue to Steelheart’s weakness.
One of Brandon Sanderson’s great strengths is building a unique and intricate world, one where the rules of magic both seem to be surprising and to be perfectly natural. In Steelheart, he begins a trilogy that seems to flip the superhero genre on its head. What if, it asks, super powers did not lead to superheroes, but to supervillains? What if ultimate power seemingly leads only to ultimate corruption? Around these questions he creates a world where anything seems possible and yet where Epics still fall into scientific categories. Each has a set of strengths, but each also has a weakness. Comparing the Epics’ powers might just be the answer to stopping them.
Steelheart differs from some of Sanderson’s other fantasies in that it reads very much like the script for an action film. Indeed, it begins with a high speech car chase, a beautiful yet deadly woman, and a whole lot of bullets. It is difficult not to picture Sanderson cackling madly to himself as he writes in all the tropes–and makes it good. I don’t even like action films and I was on the edge of my seat.
This momentum carries through the book as the Reckoners try increasingly dangerous and desperate means to stop the Epic who dominates the city of Newcago. Along the way, however, they also ponder the philosophical and ethical consequences of what they are doing. Why stop Steelheart if his city, if terrible, is at least better than most? Are they responsible for chaos that will ensue after his fall? Can they still believe that one day an Epic will come who will use their powers for good rather than for evil? These questions help to ground the story, making it more than an empty book full of explosions.
Fans of Sanderson will likely enjoy the skill and action he brings to the this book. But it will also appeal to those who like action, those who like superheroes, and those who like fantasy. And it just might make a lifelong Sanderson fan out of its new readers.