No-Spoiler Review: Steelheart (Brandon Sanderson)

Ever since Brandon Sanderson took the helm of the Wheel of Time, I have not been able to get enough of that guy’s work. Recently I picked up a signed copy of Steelheart from the local bookstore as part of an “I’m sorry for our bad customer service” apology. It was on my eventual to-do list, but with Sanderson’s other works waiting to join my library, a book marketed to teen readers was lower on my priority list.

I am so glad that the bookstore screwed up and I got a copy of Steelheart; it was well worth it!

The short and sweet of my review: Great book, genre is a post-apocalyptic heist as rebels try to take down the oppressive dictator in command of an army of super heroes. Worth the read for any age despite marketing as Young Adult Fiction.

The book is set in strange type of post-apocalyptic setting–some time in our future, civilization as we know it ended when people randomly started to develop “epic” superheroes, hence the namesake of an entire group of people called “epics.” The worst one of them all is called Steelheart, who rules Chicago with an iron steel fist. The main character, an older teenager is the only person to have any clue to the sinister epic’s weakness.

While reading the book, it reminded me in many ways of a mix between The Matrix and Revolution. The bad guys rule a post-apocalyptic world, while the good guys heroically fight as rebels. The “team” of rebels is made up of stereotypical roles: the geek, the comic, the muscle, the hard-to-read attractive-yet-deadly girl, and the mysterious and awe-inspiring leader… only with a teenager throwing a wrench into the team chemistry.

One of Sanderson’s skills is in writing a good heist story. He did it in the first Mistborn book, and again in the subsequent novella Alloy of Law. All of his stories have a fun twist at the end, so it is understandable that the heist genre was invented for Sanderson to use, not vice versa. Steelheart is no exception; it is everything I would want from a heist story, especially set in a fantasy/sci-fi setting.

There was only one glaring problem with Steelheart: it was way too short. Like all Sanderson books, it comes with the promise of a larger series, but after being spoiled with Words of Radience a few months earlier, it was odd being able to finish a Sanderson book solely during recess and lunch during a few weeks of jury duty. It also says something that it took all my self control to save the book for those breaks, rather than finish it in one sitting at home.

I give the book an 8/10. It missed one point for being too short, and one point because the shortness prevented some further character development, although Sanderson still did a masterful job.

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