Review: Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

Jan
13
2 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: 4 stars, Dystopian, Fantasy
Review: Steelheart by Brandon SandersonBook: Steelheart
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Series: Reckoners #1
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release date: September 24, 2013
Genres: Dystopian, Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 386
Format: eBook
Source: Bought
AmazonGoodreads
Summary from Goodreads:

There are no heroes.

Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics.

But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his wills. 

Nobody fights the Epics... nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them.

And David wants in. He wants Steelheart—the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David's father. For years, like the Reckoners, David's been studying, and planning—and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience. 

He's seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge.

Let’s talk about that boy…

All praise Brandon Sanderson for giving us one of the best male narrators in YA fiction. David is a breath of fresh air in a sea of Katniss and Tris wannabes. Maybe it’s just that I’ve become tired of the dystopian girl who has to meet a cute boy to help her cope with her depressing world, but it was nice to have a main character who took it upon himself to try and make his world better.

In the prologue, we meet David as a young boy, who goes through a harrowing experience while at the bank with his father. Two of the Epics – humans with superpowers that developed after an event called Calamity – get into a brawl with disastrous consequences. David spends the next ten years studying Epics in search of a way to defeat them, taking notes and forming theories. 

So about those Reckoners…

David is not the only one who wants to take down the Epics. Imagine if people started developing limitless powers, and couldn’t handle the God complex that followed from that? This is David’s world, where Epics rule with iron fists while the rest of the country falls into chaos and poverty.

The Reckoners are a guerrilla group that work to secretly eliminate Epics. They have no real presence – they don’t publicize their efforts, and they haven’t been able to take down any of the really powerful Epics that would draw much attention. David wants to join up with them to share his research and bring down the Epic that took everything from him. 

The mystery of Steelheart…

The problem is that although David knows that Steelheart can be hurt, he doesn’t know how. In the bank, as a boy, he witnessed one bullet that managed to make Steelheart bleed. When David joins the Reckoners they set out to try and figure out what was special about that bullet, that gun, or that moment that made him vulnerable.

And one of my favorite aspects of the book was that I could never quite figure it out. Most of the main characters have a different theory about Steelheart’s weakness, and they all feel convincing. The deeper they get in their plot to try and overthrow him, the higher the stakes become for getting the answer right. If they can’t find the answer before the showdown they are setting up, they’ll all be killed. This is a win or die scenario, and it was completely gripping to read.

If you want action…

…then this is the book for you. If they don’t make this into a movie, then the world is majorly missing out. The action scenes are crazy intense – chase sequences, guns, and explosions galore. The Reckoners have to meet with seedy black market weapons traders and sneak into heavily guarded buildings. Their headquarters are in a forgotten layer of underground tunnels, and the final showdown happens in one of the most iconic buildings in Chicago (or Newcago, as it’s known in David’s world).

It was the breakneck pace of the action that kept me turning the pages as fast as possible. I tore through this book and found it unbelievably hard to put down. Unfortunately, the pacing didn’t leave much room for explanation of the world. I felt there were a lot of pieces of information that we didn’t get which would have been helpful to understand how Newcago operates or how the world got to this point. No one seems to understand Calamity or how it led to the Epics, and even though it has only been ten years, I expected just a bit more information.

I’m hoping that information comes in with the next book in this exciting and promising new series. I adored David and can’t wait to see what’s in store for him and the rest of the Reckoners. 

Rating: 4/5 stars

4 Stars

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Review: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Apr
04
13 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: 3 stars, Fantasy

Book: Graceling
Author: Kristin Cashore
Publisher: Harcourt Books
Release date: October 1, 2008
Source: Bought
Series: Graceling Realm #1
  
Summary from Goodreads: In a world where people born with an extreme skill called a Grace are feared and exploited, Katsa carries the burden of the skill even she despises: the Grace of killing. She lives under the command of her uncle Randa, King of the Middluns, and is expected to execute his dirty work, punishing and torturing anyone who displeases him.

When she first meets Prince Po, who is Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change.

She never expects to become Po’s friend.

She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away…a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.

Lady killers!

I have this thing with assassin stories. I love them. One of the things that drew me to this book was the promise of a girl with a special power to kill. Sign me up any day for a female main character who can kick some major ass.

The opening scene pulled me in immediately. Katsa is sneaking around in the dark, roundhouse-kicking guards to the ground, and rescuing a prisoner. Soon after, we meet Po, a mysterious boy with a fighting Grace who lets Katsa beat up on him for fun. I instantly loved both of these characters and the world they inhabited.

In Katsa’s country, her Grace is looked down upon. She is frequently shunned or feared, and her uncle, the king, manipulates and uses her to his advantage by sending her off to settle his quarrels. She’s his muscle – a thug he dispatches to get his way.

Po is a Lienid prince from across the sea, whose country doesn’t see Graces as bad things. He challenges and encourages Katsa to get over her shame and embrace her Grace. As they grow closer, Katsa learns the truth about Po’s Grace, and they both have to learn to trust each other in order to successfully reach their goals. I loved the growth of their relationship over the course of the book.

Mawwiage.

I know there have been complaints about Katsa as uber-feminist. I didn’t mind her commitment to stay unmarried, because it felt truthful to her character and experiences. I did feel that this point was beaten over our heads a few too many times, however. I also felt sorry for Katsa, because she had this concept of marriage as a loss of identity that was never reinforced by the world. I wasn’t sure if this was Katsa’s perspective that evolved from her own fears, or whether it was truly the way marriage worked in her society. Did child-free couples exist? Were there women who still had freedom and independence within their marriages, if not in Middlun then in Lienid? It was hard to know whether to root for Katsa and Po to end up together.

Questing!

The plot of the book revolves around the prisoner Katsa rescues in the opening scene – he is Po’s grandfather, and they are trying to figure out why he has been kidnapped. Katsa and Po set off to travel through the country and glean what information they can, and eventually they turn to the southeastern country of Monsea and the strange behavior happening there.

Oh. Questing.

Unfortunately, it was at this point the book lost some of its luster for me. Questing is usually one of my favorite story elements, but here it turned more Harry Potter than Lord of the Rings. First, Katsa and Po tromp through the woods finding information. Then they tromp through woods and mountains getting to Monsea. Then they tromp through more mountains trying to get out of Monsea. Then Katsa crosses the mountains, and a sea, trying to escape and plan her next move. But she doesn’t get to plan her next move, because the plot just comes to her. It felt like a lot of unnecessary walking/riding/sailing that didn’t accomplish much.

This was an enjoyable read, and I definitely recommend it to fantasy readers. I’m anxious to spend more time in the Seven Realms and explore other characters and Graces, so I’ll continue with the trilogy. 

Rating: 3/5 stars

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Review: Reached by Ally Condie

Jan
30
2 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: 3 stars, Dystopian

Book: Reached
Author: Ally Condie
Publisher: Dutton Books
Release date: November 13, 2012
Source: Purchased ebook from Amazon
Series: Matched #3
 
Summary from Goodreads: All will be sorted

Cassia’s journey began with an error, a momentary glitch in the otherwise perfect facade of the Society. After crossing canyons to break free, she waits, silk and paper smuggled against her skin, ready for the final chapter.

The wait is over.

One young woman has raged against those who threaten to keep away what matters most – family, love, choice. Her quite revolution is about to explode into full-scale rebellion.

With exquisite prose, the emotionally gripping conclusion to the international bestselling Match trilogy returns Cassia, Ky, and Xander to the Society to save the one thing they have been denied for so long, the power to choose.

I absolutely adored the first book in this trilogy, Matched, and though I didn’t love the second book, Crossed, I figured it was all leading up to an exquisite showdown. When my preorder arrived on my Kindle, I was stoked. Over the Christmas break, I dove in.

What a disappointment.

I’ve resigned myself to the fact that this series just wasn’t what I wanted it to be. The plot of the first book that I loved so much – the government-controlled marriages/matches and what happens when that system breaks down – didn’t really carry through the trilogy. Instead of being a part of her existing community and fighting it from within, Cassia is exiled to the outer reaches of their territory. Though there is a return to the larger cities in this book, for the most part it is functioning entirely differently. She is no longer fighting the government, but a rebellion that may not be what it seems.

Though this sounds intriguing, I found it tough to get through. This just wasn’t the story I wanted to hear for these characters, and as a result I was disengaged from the political struggles going on. I’m still not sure I even understand who The Rising or the Pilot were or what they really wanted. The book focused too heavily on Xander’s work on the virus/vaccine, and Cassia and Ky seemed mostly like afterthoughts. 

The action was fairly exciting in this one, and a lot more happens than in book two. There is a mystery at play and a race against the clock to find a cure for the plague unleashed upon the citizens. If I had been able to better draw the line between the events of the first book and these last two, I probably would have enjoyed them. Sadly, I failed to see how all three of these books went together – they felt like they were telling two different stories to me.

I fell in love with Cassia and Ky and their love in the first book, but the last two books in this trilogy really took that away from me. I’ll happily re-read Matched, but these last two just didn’t work for me.

Rating: 3/5 stars

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