Steelheart is the first book of the Reckoners series.
There are no heroes.
Every single person who manifested powers — we call them Epics — turned out to be evil.
Here, in the city once known as Chicago, an extraordinarily powerful Epic declared himself Emperor. Steelheart has the strength of ten men and can control the elements. It is said no bullet can harm him, no sword can split his skin, no explosion can burn him. He is invincible.
It has been ten years. We live our lives as best we can. Nobody fights back . . . nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans who spend their lives studying powerful Epics, finding their weaknesses, then assassinating them.
My name is David Charleston. I’m not one of the Reckoners, but I intend to join them. I have something they need. Something precious, something incredible. Not an object, but an experience. I know his secret.
I’ve seen Steelheart bleed.
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.
Book Trailer Edit
The United States, and possibly other parts of the world, was changed when a burst in the sky known as Calamity gave normal people powers. These people came to be known as Epics. The story is told through the perspective of David, an orphaned teenager living in Newcago (formerly known as Chicago). Newcago is ruled by the extremely powerful Epic named Steelheart, who has created a society run by other powerful Epics, with normal people living with normal jobs. Steelheart is apparently invulnerable, is able to fly, can hurl blasts of energy, and can turn inanimate matter to steel; he has turned all of Chicago to steel for kilometers around and into the ground. Compared to other places in what was the United States, Newcago is well run, with normal people generally having access to food, water, electricity, jobs, etc.
David's father was killed by Steelheart around the time of the collapse. When David was eight, he and his father were at a bank which was attacked by an Epic named Deathpoint who had the power to turn people to ash by pointing to them. Half the bank was killed when Steelheart came in and started to argue with him. During this time, David's father grabbed one of the dead guard's guns and prepared himself to kill Deathpoint, believing that Steelheart was a hero. When his father shot Deathpoint, the bullet grazed Steelheart's cheek and caused him to bleed. Enraged, Steelheart killed David's father and then proceeded to destroy the bank. David crawled into one of the vaults, which ultimately saved him from falling debris and isolated him from Steelheart's energy blasts. Later, David was recovered by rescue workers, but ran away scared. This also saved him because Steelheart came back with another Epic named Faultline and sank the entire building into the ground. David later guessed that Steelheart had this happen because everyone in the bank had watched him bleed and had learned that his invincibility had a weakness. David dedicates his life to learning about the Epics' power, Steelheart's weakness, and about a group of normal humans dedicated to killing Epics called The Reckoners, so that he can get revenge from Steelheart.
Near the start of the book, David makes contact with The Reckoners when he interferes with one of their missions. Among this group are the leader and founder of The Reckoners, Jonathan Phaedrus (who is called Prof throughout the book), Tia, Abraham, Cody, and the newest recruit, Megan. They first take David along with them because they fear that he could be an Epic who was sent to spy on them. They planned to leave him behind after learning that he was a normal person who only studied them long enough to learn their habits. David convinces them to bring him along and work with him when he tells them that he has seen Steelheart bleed. After going on a mission to retrieve his notes, David convinces The Reckoners to try to kill Steelheart.
In addition to hunting Epics, The Reckoners are in possession of advanced technology which they say has scientifically been derived from Epic powers, most prominently the power to tunnel through inanimate matter, namely steel, using a glove-like item called "Tensors". They used these Tensors to tunnel escape routes during missions, create tunnels used as traps, and to create hiding places. They also have a machine called the Harmsway, which is used to quickly heal wounds.
The Reckoners create a plan to lure out Steelheart; the plan is to announce that there is a powerful new Epic named Limelight, who challenges Steelheart to a fight. To make Steelheart take the challenge seriously, they stage two attacks which they accredit to Limelight. First, they blow up the power plant. Secondly, they tried to attack one of the powerful Epics in Steelheart's employ known as Conflux; he is known as a "gifter" which gives him the ability to gift his powers to non-Epics and in his case, anything that runs on electricity. The attack doesn't go according to plan because they were somehow found out. During the escape, Megan is killed, but they do succeed in kidnapping Conflux. It is revealed that Conflux was actually a captive of Steelheart, kept prisoner and used like a battery to power the city and the weapons of Steelheart's forces. With the capture of Conflux, Steelheart accepts The Reckoner's, or as he thinks, Limelight's challenge.
They set the final battle to happen in an old football stadium. Before signaling Steelheart, they rig the stadium with multiple exits and various traps. They planned to test each of their theories about Steelheart's true weakness, including that some of the contents of the vault can weaken him, that he can only be hurt by someone who believes in the possibility of good Epics, that he can only be hurt by crossfire, and that he can only be hurt by the gun that David's father used. When they meet Steelheart, they try out all but one theory of breaking his invincibility, but none work. Prof stalls Steelheart by using the Tensors to fight him. The powerful Epics named Nightwielder and Firefight go after David, preventing him from using his father's gun on Steelheart. David is able to kill Nightwielder, but Firefight turns out to be Megan, who is an Epic illusionist with reincarnation abilities who had infiltrated The Reckoners. Because of David's love for Megan, and because Megan had become less evil from not using her powers regularly, she lets David go. David joins the Prof in the fight against Steelheart, but Prof is killed. David soon finds out that their last theory about David's father's gun does not work. Steelheart takes David's gun, and is intent on shooting him with it, but shortly before allowing Steelheart to take the gun, David figured out that Steelheart's weakness is that he can only be killed by someone who does not fear him, and has rigged the gun to trigger an explosive. When the explosives go off, Steelheart is killed, due to the fact that it was he who pulled the trigger and thus was the one who attacked himself.
When the dust settles, it is revealed that Prof is an Epic who had avoided turning evil by gifting his powers in the form of technology. One of these powers is the ability to heal rapidly, and he used this power on himself just in time to revive himself and prevent the explosive blast from killing David by using a shielding power. David then tells Prof about how Megan is actually Firefight, which shocks him. David then runs off to find her and talk to her. When he encounters her, he finds that the reincarnation process messed with her memory and that she does not remember everything she has been through with David, only that she is supposed to be one of the bad guys. David tries to convince her to come with him and the rest of The Reckoners, but she refuses and David is forced to leave her.
At the end of the novel, David reflects on what he has done. He and The Reckoners realize that they will have to continue to fight for the safety of Newcago because other Epics will come, looking to fill in Steelheart's place. He then thinks about how he did not kill Steelheart only because he wanted revenge for his father or redemption for running away when he was little, but because he was fighting for his father's dreams of good Epics.