Steelheart – Brandon Sanderson

steelheartMr. Sanderson is in top form in his most recent YA novel, Steelheart. This 400 pager is the first book in the Reckoners trilogy, with Firefight, the second book in the series, is currently nearing completion and will most likely release some time in 2014.

For a change, this series’ setting is a little closer to home, in that it takes place on Earth, albeit a slightly different one than we inhabit. A massive, bright red spectral body by the name of Calamity appeared in the skies, granting a selection of the population magical powers–this seems to be a clear connection to the Cosmere–which completely changes the world, and not for the better.

Practically overnight, humans who’ve been given powers by Calamity–known as Epics–have destroyed society, rendering the USA into the Fractured States, where nearly all of the population is living at the mercy of one or another super-powered feudal lord. Steelheart takes place ten years after Calamity in the domain of an Epic after whom the book is named. He had destroyed Chicago at the beginning of the collapse, and in a magnificent display of power, transformed much of the city to steel, renaming it Newcago and ruling it thereafter with an iron fist. (No pun intended.)

This is an action-packed book, and it is a pleasure to read in contrast with Sanderson’s denser “adult” fantasy titles. That isn’t to say his other books are less pleasurable; merely that they take almost too long to get to the point. Being a YA novel gives this book advantages in terms of pacing, quickly transitioning from frantic gunfights to plots and meetings and back to bullet mayhem in a rather short time. It makes for a very addicting read.

What I’ve come to learn about Sanderson’s writing is that he really likes to play with the notion of a world in which Evil has already risen, and has all but won. It isn’t every one of his novels, but there’s a definite trend of books in which a team of underdogs who are practically powerless compared to their tyrannical overlords are able to successfully defeat a “god” with clever tactics and a whole lotta heart. It’s almost sacrilegious of me to say it at this point, but the device is starting to get a little tired. I’m still thoroughly enjoying his writing, and his talent for incredibly detailed worlds and fantastic, unexpected plot twists is as good as ever, but after binging for the last year on everything he has written (I’m almost caught up now,) I’m ready for more voices! Fortunately, I’m reading several other books right now, only one of which is by Brandon Sanderson (the last one until the release of Words of Radiance.)

Though it sounds like I’m rather down on this book, I really, really enjoyed it. It’s fun, exciting, and a very quick read. I heartily recommend it to anyone looking for something they can give a day or two to. It’s the perfect book for someone looking for a cinematic reading experience. 4/5

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