It’s the near future. The United States is fractured into mini city-states run by competing Epics–people who 10 years ago mysteriously gained super-human powers (in the vein of the X-Men comics). Nobody knows how or why this happened. The Epics have taken control over modern civilization and dominate the rest of the population. Steelheart is one of the most powerful Epics in the world, and he rules Newcago (Chicago) with an iron fist. He is seemingly invincible to all attacks, but every Epic has a weakness. Naturally they guard their secrets very closely.
Unknown to Steelheart, 18-year-old David is the only living witness to events that took place 10 years earlier–events that caused Steelheart to bleed. Now David has joined up with the Reckoners, a group of vigilante rebels whose sole purpose is to kill Epics, to try and discover Steelheart’s weakness and take him out.
Sanderson’s writing style usually gives the reader visibility to all the back-and-forth inner dialoguing of his main characters, and Steelheart is no exception. They tend to be analytical and reasoning, eventually putting the puzzle pieces together at the last minute in a twist that totally shifts the paradigm but ultimately makes sense in the context of Sanderson’s foreshadowing. He’s a master at this, but in this case David’s character just wasn’t very believable. Now, this is in comparison to Sanderson’s other (high quality) work, so overall the writing is still good in general, just less than I’d expect of Sanderson.
Also, there was no exploration of what caused the rise of the Epics (the event known as The Calamity), which was very unusual for Sanderson’s plots. Although this book felt like it could have been a standalone, it looks like there are upcoming sequels in the works. I’m positive that Sanderson will explore the origins of The Calamity in those books, but the almost total lack of it in Steelheart seemed out of place.
I pretty much figured out Steelheart’s weakness far in advance, although not the specific way the story would end. The book is a B among the rest of Sanderson’s A-level works, but it was a quick and entertaining read.