For a long time I studied different methods of writing, storytelling and character development before I published my first book. A lot of what I learned came from lectures and advice Brandon Sanderson has posted on YouTube. I highly recommend that anyone learning to write look up these videos as they are eye opening for any new author. When I picked up Steelheart, the book blurb had already caught my interest but the fact that it was written by Brandon Sanderson clinched it for me.
David Charleston is probably the most adorkable character I have ever read about. I couldn’t help but smile every time he makes a ridiculous metaphor or breaks the tension with a silly question. That’s not to say that he doesn’t have moments of seriousness that is more atypical of an action hero. David’s sole motivation at the start of the novel is revenge and you see how it’s reflected in his life. He’s grown up with one sole purpose in life and his focus is so narrow until he meets the Reckoners. It’s fun to see his different dynamic with each of the different members of the team. Each member of the Reckoners is written with a lot of thought behind who they are as people and how they contribute to the team. Abraham grew to be my favorite of the crew as he has this spiritual but practical nature about him that meshes so well.
Newcago is where the story takes place and serves as a living testament to the brutal regime in charge. From David’s perspective the reader is given an idea and explanation of how difficult life is under the thumb of Steelheart. But what’s also interesting to read is just how much worse it is outside of the city. From the casual conversations among the Reckoners you get a sense of a bigger world and other Epics that are rulers of their own domain and just as menacing. I wish there was a bit more focus on this as I would love to know more about the Fractured States and how life across the country had changed after such a titanic power shift.
Oh boy I was surprised how much I loved this book by the end of it. Admittedly as I started reading the story felt very simple and to an extent it is. It’s a revenge story from the get go and it’s not overly complicated. But what makes it fantastic is how character driven the plot is. Despite vengeance being the main focus of David’s life, you never see him become this grim angst ridden teenager who can never crack a joke. He almost comes off as an overall positive protagonist. Most importantly however is that he and the Reckoners are actually thoughtful about their decisions. It’s fantastic reading how they come to their conclusions and their plans. The reader gets to see them discuss and talk about all the possible actions they can take. The story benefits from it so well that everything fits into place by the end of it. By the time I finished reading I was thoroughly satisfied and excited to read the sequel.
When I picked up the book and saw that it was written by a prolific fantasy writer I expected a deep book that might be a challenge. But I was surprised by how easy it was to pick up and read. What was more pleasant was the fact that I could let myself get lost in the book. I would argue that it is one of the better examples of first person narrative stories. Honestly I struggle so much with this style of storytelling as it feels so hard to pull off without sounding strange. “I” has such a different connotation to it than “he” or “she” does. It almost lends itself to a self-insert for the reader, and for me personally I always found it a bit jarring. But David feels like such a well developed character that I never felt out of place reading his story with his thoughts and emotions.
What Writer’s can learn from this book
The biggest take away from Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson is just how effective and strong a character driven story really is. It’s evident in the decisions that the Reckoners make whenever they plan their next more or are forced into an uncomfortable situation. Reading how they talk it out amongst themselves, the benefits and consequences of their actions as well as how they feel about the outcome give far more weight to the decision. At no point did it ever feel like it had to happen so that the plot could proceed. Because of this, it’s so much more satisfying to see how the story plays out and how the Reckoners move forward.
P.S: Sorry for the late book review! I got caught up in a lot of projects and failed at my time management. I’m hoping to get back into a regular routine once again!