Most helpful positive review
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 6 June 2014
This book was my introduction to Brandon Sanderson, and I would strongly recommend it. The book is well-paced, well-planned with sufficient twists to the narrative to keep you uncertain as to precisely what's been happening until the final few pages. The writing style is crisp and evocative: I found it easy to imagine the steel-city of Newcago, stratified into tiers and presided over by Steelheart, an invulnerable epic with whom our protagonist, David, has his grievance.
The premise to the book was surprisingly engrossing, so much so that I read it entirely in two sittings. Epics, humans with supernatural abilities, surface within civilisation after the event known as Calamity, about which there is much speculation but as of yet no explanation. The Epics choose to subjugate society, although there is great disparity concerning their powers, so that only the most eminent emerge as dictators. Steelheart, one of such, features early in the novel: causing the death of the David's father in his power play that sees him become the despot of Newcago. David devotes the rest of his life to having his revenge.
It would be easy for a different writer to become stranded and inconsistent with the vast array of possibilities that come with a new flock of supernatural abilities, but Sanderson is quick to tabulate the lore, including colourful terminology that really makes the reader believe in the setting. There's a whole new economy set around the Epics, with plenty of hints for potential plot lines in future instalments. In addition, the narrative is deeper and more gratifying than a standard revenge set-up, with plenty of debate from the main characters, the Reckoners: a guerrilla group dedicated to the assassination of Epics, about the merits of Steelheart's rule, and how harmful the consequences would be to Newcago should he be removed.
Sadly, the manuscript has its caveats. The main character is confined to the peripherals of being believable. He repeatedly states that his entire life is devoted to death of Steelheart, yet these iterations are interspersed with banter about his poor command of metaphors, back-and-forth with the comedian of the team, and frequent endeavours, along with much worrying, to impress the girl. He is also socially apt, despite abjuring friendship in the orphanage in which he grew up, and not at all shy about opening up. This is all evident before his character is given chance to develop. Were it not for his saying so, there is little indication that this character is damaged; therefore, his vendetta feels like a contrivance to place him where he needs to be in order to advance the plot.
There is some discussion about the idea that 'power corrupts,' although it seems restricted to superficial forays. Nevertheless, it forms a firm foundation on which the entertainment value is delivered, and my only complaint is that the philosophical revelation David experiences at the novel's climax feels incongruous, as though it's trying to be more than the novel set out to be. Ultimately, however, despite the imperfections, Steelheart is sufficiently engrossing and well-thought-out, so as to leave you anxiously awaiting the sequel.