by Mike Bryan
|Setting||Newcago, Alternate Earth|
|Released||September 24, 2013|
Steelheart is a young adult novel by Brandon Sanderson. It is the first novel in The Reckoners series, which is not part of the Cosmere. It was released on September 24, 2013. It has been optioned by a film studio.
The story is told via the perspective of David Charleston, an orphan teenager living in Newcago (formerly known as Chicago). Newcago is ruled by the extremely powerful Epic named Steelheart, who has created a society run by powerful Epics, with normal people living in normal jobs. Steelheart is invulnerable, is able to fly, can hurl blasts of energy, and can turn inanimate matter to steel; he has turned all of Chicago to steel for kilometers around and into the ground. Compared to other places in what was the United States, Newcago is well run, with normal people generally having access to food, water, electricity, jobs, etc.
David's father was killed by Steelheart around the time of the collapse. As a result, David dedicated his life to learning about the Epics' powers, so that he can get revenge on Steelheart. Near the start of the book, David makes contact with a group of Reckoners, a society of normal humans dedicated to killing Epics. The Reckoners are in possession of advanced technology which they say has scientifically been derived from Epic powers, most prominently the power to tunnel through inanimate matter using "tensors". David convinces the Reckoners to try to kill Steelheart.
The Reckoners create a plan to lure out Steelheart; the plan is to announce that there is a new powerful Epic named Limelight, who challenges Steelheart to a fight. To make Steelheart take the challenge seriously, they stage two attacks. First they blow up the power plant. Next they try to attack a powerful Epic named Conflux, who is known to be a gifter who can transfer his power to non-epics. The attack doesn't go according to plan, and Megan dies, but they do succeed in kidnapping Conflux. Its revealed that Conflux was a captive of Steelheart, kept prisoner and used to power the city and the weapons of Steelheart's forces. With the capture of Conflux, Steelheart accepts the Reckoner's challenge.
When they meet Steelheart, they try many ways of breaking Steelheart's invulnerability, without success. The professor uses the Tensor to fight Steelheart directly, to stall him. The powerful Epics Nightwielder and Firefight go after David. David is able to kill Nightwielder, but Firefight turns out to be Megan, who is an Epic illusionist with reincarnation ability who had infiltrated the Reckoners. Because of David's love for Firefight, and because Firefight had become less evil because she has not been using her powers regularly, Firefight lets David go. David joins the professor in the fight against Steelheart, but the professor is killed, and Steelheart takes David's gun to kill David. But David has guessed that Steelheart's vulnerability is that he can only be killed by someone who does not fear him, and has rigged the gun to trigger an explosive, which kills Steelheart (since Steelheart doesn't fear himself, he can kill himself).
David learns that the Professor is an Epic who had avoided turning evil by gifting his powers disguised as technology. One of these powers is the ability to heal rapidly, and using this on himself he revives in time to stop the explosive blast from killing David. Once Steelheart's human employees see the Professor recover they leave, since they believe normal humans can't fight an Epic.
Steelheart possesses the strength of ten men and can control the elements. It is said no bullet can harm him, no sword can split his skin, no explosion can burn him. Nobody fights back...nobody but the Reckoners.
A shadowy group of ordinary humans, the Reckoners spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then taking them out. For the death of his father, David wants in. For years, like the Reckoners, David’s been studying and planning, and has something they need. Not an object, but an experience. He’s seen Steelheart bleed.
The Epics have what is classically known as super-powers. Some technologies have been invented through the study of these super powered individuals, and so many devices have a seemingly mystical quality to them. Epic powers can differ greatly between individuals. Some have a single power, though most, especially the most powerful, have more than one. (It's worth noting that the book implies that the stronger a single power, the more likely that epic is to have additional powers). While many Epics display powers that are similar in nature (the powers to become invisible and make illusions for example) or different but complementary (prophetic foresight and super human reflexes for example), some Epics, namely the most powerful, seem to have powers that bear no relation to one another. A prime example of the latter situation is Steelheart with his super strength, invincibility, and abilities to fly and shoot energy blasts from his hands.
Every Epic has a weakness. Like the distribution of powers, this can often come in a form that relates to the powers (smoke disrupting invisibility, for example) or can be random (seeing a particular symbol, having proximity to a certain item, having a certain thought). These weaknesses either disrupt or weaken the power, or entirely disable it .
The use of an epic power seems to cause the Epic to be altered psychologically, seeming to strip the moral compass from people (the book notes how many Epics see a brutal death as a fitting retaliation for even the smallest of slights against them). It does not however make them into murderers. The only exception to this are the 'Gifters', a slang term for those who can give others a part of their power. While using the power themselves they are affected like any other Epic, the transferring and use of the power by another doesn't affect the Gifter. Gifters cannot give other Epics their powers. It is unknown whether technology developed to imitate or replicate Epic powers carries this same penalty.
The magic seems to be tied to Calamity. Though it's a speculation by many in the books, the fact that Epics began to appear after Calamity arrived is taken as strong proof. In addition, Nightwielder's power blocks all light from passing through its barrier, but Calamity can still be seen.
Steelheart · (Mitosis) · Firefight · Calamity
|Characters||David Charleston · Megan Tarash · Jonathan Phaedrus|
|Places||Newcago · Babilar · Ildithia|
|Reckoners||Abraham · Cody · Exel · Mizzy · Tia · Valentine · Sam|
|Epics||Calamity · Conflux · Faultline · Firefight · Fortuity · Nightwielder · Obliteration · Regalia · Steelheart · Loophole|
|Other||Faithful · Coven · Great Transfersion|