Brandon Sanderson's young adult novel 'Steelheart' delivers epic action

Published: Saturday, Sept. 21 2013 1:15 p.m. MDT

Brandon Sanderson was driving along one day when someone cut him off in traffic.

“I had this immediate guttural reaction of, ‘You’re lucky I don’t have superpowers, because I would totally blow your car off the road!’ ” Sanderson said of the incident. “And I was horrified, right? Because I was like, ‘Where did that come from, that side of me? It’s a good thing I don’t have superpowers!’ ”

That idea joined another he’d already had in his mind: “What if the good guys didn’t always have the power?”

Sanderson, the author of the internationally best-selling Mistborn trilogy, had written many books about people who gain and use awesome powers, and he wanted to try writing one that took a different route.

“And it turned into a story about a world where people started gaining amazing powers but only evil people got them," he said. "And then the story of a young man who wanted to bring one of these people down but didn’t have any powers himself really stuck with me and started to develop into this story.”

That story became the 386-page “Steelheart” (Delacorte Books for Young Readers, $18.99, ages 14 and up), which is Sanderson’s first novel written for young adults and is scheduled to be released on Sept. 24.

David Charleston was 8 years old when he went to a Chicago bank with his father and saw him brutally murdered by the Epic known as Steelheart.

Steelheart is one of the most powerful of the Epics, ordinary humans who gained extraordinary powers a year after the red star called Calamity appeared in the sky. Some Epics can predict the future. Some can create illusions. Others can control the elements. The stronger Epics usually have more than one power.

Many people thought the Epics would use their powers to help mankind.

They were wrong.

Steelheart has the strength of 10 men. He’s virtually indestructible, he can fly and when he’s enraged he can turn inanimate objects into steel. He exercised that particular power to transform most of Chicago and part of Lake Michigan before becoming the emperor of “Newcago.”

David became an orphan when his father died. Ten years have passed, and his one goal in life is to bring Steelheart down. He decides to recruit the help of the Reckoners, a group of humans who study Epics to the end of learning their weaknesses and killing them.

Tracking down the Reckoners is challenging, and harder still is becoming one of them. Fortunately for David, he has something irresistible to offer. All Epics have a weakness that neutralizes their powers, and David’s memory of what happened at the bank, the only time Steelheart has ever been injured, could be the only key to Steelheart’s weakness and ultimate undoing.

David is now 18, and his focus has always been to defeat Steelheart. But when he meets Megan, a beautiful Reckoner, he finds his attention diverted at times to something other than revenge. Unfortunately for him, his wooing ability is woefully underdeveloped.

But little time exists for romance. New challenges arise as the Reckoners begin forming and executing their plans. After all, Steelheart may be the most powerful Epic in Newcago, but he’s certainly not the only one. David and the others have plenty to do and overcome before they can even hope to attempt the impossible.

“Steelheart” was written for a young adult audience, and there’s little to none as far as profanity and sexual content. However, the book has many battle scenes with several instances of violence. For example, in the prologue an infant is turned to ashes and bones in the arms of its mother. The event, the mother’s reaction and the related descriptions can be disturbing.

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