Steelheart: The Reckoners, Book 1

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
Steelheart: The Reckoners, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Popular with kidsParents recommend
Teens stand up to supervillains in action-packed sci-fi.

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 6 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 11 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Steelheart upends the conventional superheroic setup, asking what would happen if people who gained phenomenal powers used them only for evil. Although focused on fantasy action, the novel also promotes discussion of what it means to be a hero.

Positive Messages

Steelheart focuses on what it means to act as a team and sacrifice your own agenda for a greater purpose. The novel also explores the difference between vengeance and justice.

Positive Role Models & Representations

David, the 18-year-old protagonist of Steelheart, is a remarkable young man: brave, resourceful, creative, and focused on destroying the being who killed his father. He discovers, however, that there are loftier goals than vengeance and that he might be better off channeling his energies in other, more constructive directions.


Filled with almost nonstop superheroics, Steelheart features a high body count that doesn't spare the innocent. As an 8-year-old, David witnesses his father's death firsthand, then grows up to be an expert hunter of the villainous Epics who rule Newcago. He and his fellow Reckoners engage their enemies with a wide range of weapons, from handguns to explosives.


David is immediately attracted to buxom and beautiful Megan, who barely puts up with his awkward flirtation. Although it never becomes physical, their relationship deepens over the course of the novel.


Although there are a half-dozen instances each of "hell" and "damn," the characters more often use made-up swear words, such as "Sparks," "Calamity," and "slontze."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Steelheart is a fast-moving, action-packed, clever take on superheroics, set at a time after supervillains have taken over the world. The body count runs fairly high as David and the "Reckoners" use everything from handguns to explosives against their enemies. "Damn" and "hell" appear a few times each, but the characters mostly employ made-up curses: "Calamity" or "Sparks," for example. David is attracted to and flirts awkwardly with buxom and beautiful Megan, but their relationship doesn't become physical.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byPetalknits December 22, 2015

Violent, but interesting story

I'm not finished yet, but I had to note a few things that I wouldn't want my 12 year old listening to.
Violence is prevalent, including: a man's... Continue reading
Parent Written byRJMcArthur March 13, 2019

Great under theme

Couldn't put it down! Superhero meet dystopia. David is super awkward and is completely obsessed with taking out as many Epics as possible. He learns thr... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old May 12, 2015

Amazing book

A fantastic twist on superhero stories, putting the super-powered humans in as villains.
Teen, 13 years old Written byBooklover123m January 4, 2015

I loved this book!!!!!!!

This book is far from a normal superhero or distopian book, it has great characters, themes and a awesome well described setting, overall I loved it and will re... Continue reading

What's the story?

When 8-year-old David Charleston witnesses his father's death at the hands of the supreme supervillain known as Steelheart, the boy vows to get his revenge. A decade later, he sees his chance to join the \"Reckoners,\" fellow humans working to depose Steelheart and the other superpowered \"Epics\" who rule over Newcago. At first, the Reckoners aren't inclined to take him seriously, but David soon wins them over with his eye for strategy and his encyclopedic knowledge of the Epics' habits and vulnerabilities. But will that be enough to bring about the downfall of Steelheart and his minions?

Is it any good?

STEELHEART upends the usual superpowers setup, presenting a world in which the bad guys have already won and there seem to be no heroes willing to stand up to them. David and his fellow Reckoners devise elaborate plans to depose Steelheart and his minions; the action scenes are vivid and full of tantalizing twists. Author Brandon Sanderson's fantasy scenario has great potential: Although this book reaches a satisfying resolution, it's clear readers will have plenty more wrinkles to explore in forthcoming volumes. Fans of X-Men and Batman will rejoice.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why superheroes have been popular for so long. What is it about them that captures the imagination of readers, moviegoers, and gamers?

  • How do you define heroism? What are the characteristics of a hero?

  • What are the differences between justice and revenge? Does Steelheart make you think differently about this?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love superheroes and science fiction

Themes & Topics

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