Gollancz, out now
The Epics rule Newcago – but is their reign about to end?
Brandon Sanderson’s new series kicks off with a father murdered in front of his son, David, who vows to get vengeance on Steelheart, the Epic responsible. The Epics are people who have somehow become empowered with great abilities – each has their own specific set of gifts, and attendant weakness – but there aren’t any superheroes around to deal with these supervillains. There is opposition, which comes from the Reckoners, but even to them, it feels as if they’re only achieving pinpricks against the might. Enter David, who’s been studying the Epics – and has a plan.
Sanderson taps into the current obsession with superheroes (there are a number of novels either out now, or coming in the next few months which try to put a new spin on the subject), and provides a treatise on Lord Acton’s dictum about the ability of power to corrupt, even those who are well aware of its negative sides. Using a teenage first-person narrator allows him to play into some of the tropes of the Young Adult genre and then twist them to the service of his story – some of the revelations towards the end of this first volume are telegraphed, others may blindside you, but are carefully set up throughout the book.
David’s inability to use metaphors properly is a running gag, which can become as irritating as Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor’s mangling of proverbs during his first season. Just as McCoy dropped those, hopefully the later books will see David either get a lot better, or just lose the idea completely.
Steelheart is a fast-paced ride which works well enough as a standalone story; there are enough unanswered questions, though, to warrant a sequel and I look forward to seeing how things play out given the altered landscape at the end of this book.
Verdict: An enjoyable adventure with some deeper underpinnings. 7/10