“Steelheart” by Brandon Sanderson

Before I start I guess I should apologise for disappearing completely for a month. I’ve been struggling a lot with mental health things lately, as well as physical issues, and have either not been reading, or not been enjoying anything, or only rereading / reading sequels to books I haven’t reviewed here. So all that’s got in the way of reviewing.

However, I’m back, and while I can’t promise any level of consistency, I’m going to try and review a fair few things over the next few weeks.

First up is Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson, which I fear was a bit of a casualty of my depression and ensuing reading slump. While objectively it has a great many factors that should have made me love it, I wasn’t in a position to appreciate them as much as I would otherwise have done — although I don’t think it was perfect outside of my own feelings, either.


So I started reading this book about a month ago but got around two hundred pages in and then put it down, got distracted, and just didn’t pick it up again. It’s not a long book, so it wasn’t that I was overwhelmed by the length — I just wasn’t feeling it, and I didn’t really care what happened next. Why is that?

Well, partly, I was depressed. After all, objectively it’s a book that should have caught my attention. It’s got various things I like: supervillains and not-quite-heroes trying to oppose them, lots of interesting worldbuilding, a varied and engaging group of characters, and some amusing banter. So I should have been feeling it. But… I wasn’t.

Half of that’s me, I think, and it definitely would have been better received at my end if I hadn’t been feeling so crappy generally. Part of it lies with the book, though. For example, the characters are all very different and they all have their own quirks, but I didn’t entirely feel like they worked. It felt like Sanderson had jumbled together some characteristics of ‘interesting supporting characters’, but that they hadn’t fully come together.

Maybe that’s because I read half the book a month ago and the rest of it yesterday, without rereading the stuff I’d already got through, and so didn’t fully connect with any of them, but I did find I didn’t really care about any of the characters except one and — avoiding spoilers — I wasn’t able to stick with them for the whole book, so I lost interest again once they were no longer in the picture.

In terms of plot, there’s nothing wrong with it: pacing’s fine, even better than some of Sanderson’s longer books where the worldbuilding bogs it down for a while before you actually get to the story. Everyone’s got their own reasons for doing what they’re doing, and most of them are good ones. There are plot twists which surprised me but which I felt I should have seen coming, which is always nice — I’m usually way too good at guessing that kind of thing, but these definitely caught me out.

I feel if I’d read this book on a good day it would have been a four star read — maybe even a five star, depending on how generous I was feeling. But it wasn’t good enough to pull me out of my slump and engage me despite these external factors, and so it’s only getting three stars. Which seems a shame. It’s definitely a good book that suffered because I read it at precisely the wrong time.

But then again, excellent books can usually crack through those emotional issues, and I read others over the past month which were able to engage me despite my low mood, so maybe it’s fair to give this three for not being able to do that. I don’t know.

This is very much a review where I can only tell you how I responded — your mileage will almost certainly vary. I think I’d probably recommend the book, because it was well-written and original even while I think Sanderson has an obsession with metal, and I’m also probably going to read the next one in the series to see if I get on with it better, but I couldn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted to.

Rating: ***


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