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Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

 A review by Nalini Haynes


Set in a near-future alternate world where select individuals have received superpowers, Steelheart’s world-order has been disrupted, shattered beyond recognition.

Steelheart himself is a comic-book-style demi-god, an Epic, who seems invulnerable except for one weakness. The difficulty is in diagnosing that weakness without being killed.

One boy, David, saw Steelheart injured. He escaped Steelheart’s attempt to enforce his secret. Now David is a young adult, released from the factory in which he spent his childhood. Now he wants to join the resistance.

David’s very minor superpower is his analytical research arising from his obsession with Epics. This research helps him find the resistance, a motely crew in town for a hit and run against a relatively minor Epic. Meeting the resistance is a bit like meeting the Mob in that there is so much that can go wrong.

Throughout the novel I thought I knew the ‘obvious’ answer to Steelheart’s weakness. The characters missed this ‘obvious’ choice, leading me to believe I was right.

I was wrong.

I enjoyed the twist at the end.

Threads have been left loose with obvious plans to continue this story.

In many ways Steelheart is like Star Wars (the original trilogy) in that it’s following the Hero’s Journey including boy-meets-girl (although without the incestuous romance, ugh).

Humour is woven throughout; Sanderson’s metaphors were like fools’ gold in a clown’s hands, spoofing current writing fashions. Later on in the novel, the humour leant more towards smart-ass characters dissing one another after becoming a team; always a good flavour.

On a more thinky level, the nature and consequences of power are important in Steelheart. Terrorism versus freedom fighting are an important dichotomy, especially when David challenges his team not to hit-and-run but to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions. Steelheart is as shallow as a bubbling creek or as deep as a river, allowing you to engage with issues in discussion groups.

Steelheart is well-paced with a motley crew uniting as the rebel alliance. Each character has a back-story, unveiled during the course of the novel. Steelheart isn’t earth-shattering – even though earth was shattered – but it’s an enjoyable fantasy novel written in Brandon Sanderson’s inimical style with his trademark detailed world-building. Highly recommended to fantasy fans and those who enjoy comic-book-style stories.

Nalini is an award-winning writer and artist as well as managing editor of Dark Matter Zine.


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