Have you ever wished the world had superheroes? Yeah, me too. A world where people can fly and help the downtrodden sounds great. But what if the world did suddenly have people with superpowers, but all of those people lost their empathy and cared only for themselves? This is the world of the Reckoners series.
Steelheart is a dystopian fantasy about a world with super-tyrants instead of heroes. The book is a clean read, besides a bit of violence and death. There is even a romantic subplot that persists throughout the entire Reckoners series.
The Level of Violence in The Reckoners Series
Yes, the group in the story, called The Reckoners, take on super-tyrants that they call epics. The group’s entire purpose is to find the epic’s weakness, which negates their powers, and kill them. Multiple epics are killed “on screen” throughout the book. There is a lot of blood and danger, but nothing gets gorey. There isn’t even any true swearing, since this version of the world has evolved new cuss words.
There is a scene where a character needs emergency surgery and their clothes are removed, but the narrator character treats the situation with the gravity it deserves. The storyline stays well above board for a story about evil superheroes.
I regularly recommend this series to my high school students and basically anyone who likes a good fantasy or superhero story.
Though Steelheart is a clean read, in my opinion, it is meant for people ages 13 and above. The themes of death and violence are probably too much for most younger readers.
Why Read Steelheart?
The main character is in his late teens, as is his love interest, but that shouldn’t deter adult readers. Most of the other characters in the series are much older with quirks and wisdom that will keep fans of any age engrossed in the story.
As a high school English teacher, I especially appreciate the groups leader, Prof. He is determined, smart, and scrappy. The entire team respects Prof to no end and does whatever he says. Later in the story, it is revealed that Prof was a simple middle school science teacher before the epics changed the world. I love having a teacher portrayed as smart and capable because a lot of the time we are seen as being less capable because we chose to teach.
One of my favorite aspects of Steelheart is that it is a dystopian fantasy about superheroes that turn into tyrants. Most of these super powered people aren’t really even evil, just lacking empathy and very selfish.
Dystopian novels usually focus on corrupt governments and usually sit in the sci-fi realm, but reading a fantasy dystopia about epics that displaced the governments of the world is refreshing and unexpected. At least, when I first read the series, I had never heard of other books or even TV shows with a similar premise. Now we have seen the rise of series on many of the streaming services that put corrupt superheroes at the forefront (I am thinking of Invincible and The Boys).
Brandon Sanderson takes his forte in hard magic systems and creates an alternate world of superpowers that fulfills both our imaginations and our fears. The Reckoners series is a must read for any fantasy or superhero fan. I will leave descriptions of each of the books below for you.
Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary people extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics.
Epics are no friends of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man, you must crush his will.
Now, in what was once Chicago, an astonishingly powerful Epic named Steelheart has installed himself as emperor. Steelheart possesses the strength of ten men and can control the elements. It is said that no bullet can harm him, no sword can split his skin, and no fire can burn him. He is invincible. 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 assassinating them. And David wants in.
When Steelheart came to Chicago, he killed David’s father. For years, like the Reckoners, David has been studying, and planning, and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience.
He has seen Steelheart bleed.
And he wants revenge.
Newcago is free.
They told David it was impossible, that even the Reckoners had never killed a High Epic. Yet Steelheart--invincible, immortal, unconquerable--is dead. And he died by David's hand.
Eliminating Steelheart was supposed to make life simpler. Instead, it only made David realize he has questions. Big ones. And no one in Newcago can give him answers.
Babylon Restored, the city formerly known as the borough of Manhattan, has possibilities, though. Ruled by the mysterious High Epic Regalia, Babylon Restored is flooded and miserable, but David is sure it's the path that will lead him to what he needs to find. Entering a city oppressed by a High Epic despot is risky, but David's willing to take the gamble. Because killing Steelheart left a hole in David's heart. A hole where his thirst for vengeance once lived. Somehow, he filled that hole with another Epic--Firefight. And now he will go on a quest darker and even more dangerous than the fight against Steelheart to find her, and to get his answers.
When Calamity lit up the sky, the Epics were born. David’s fate has been tied to their villainy ever since that historic night. Steelheart killed his father. Firefight stole his heart. And now Regalia has turned Prof, his closest ally, into a dangerous enemy.
David knew Prof’s secret, and kept it even when Prof struggled to control the effects of his Epic powers. But facing Obliteration in Babilar was too much. Once the Reckoners’ leader, Prof has now embraced his Epic destiny. He’s disappeared into those murky shadows of menace Epics are infamous for the world over, and everyone knows there’s no turning back. . . .
But everyone is wrong. Redemption is possible for Epics—Megan proved it. They’re not lost. Not completely. And David is just about crazy enough to face down the most powerful High Epic of all to get his friend back. Or die trying.
Thanks for reading!
Author at Living Words Press
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I see how words surround us every day. Life is a construct and words the vehicles of understanding.