Hello All! Today I’m reviewing Skyward by Brandon Sanderson, one of my favorite books that I read last year. Skyward is the first book in a a YA sci-fi series, with its sequel, Starsight, slated for release later this year.
So, what’s it about? In this world, humanity is struggling for survival on the planet Detritus with constant attacks from an alien race known as the Krell threatening to wipe them out. Pilots are their sole line of defense, causing them to be revered and honored by the society. Spensa, our main character, dreams of following in her father’s footsteps and becoming a pilot. However, during a crucial battle, her father does the unthinkable- he abandons his fleet and is shot down in the process. He is branded a coward, staining his family’s reputation forever and preventing Spensa from being accepted into flight school. While exploring an old cavern, she makes a discovery that could give her the opportunity to achieve her goal of becoming a pilot.
I’m going to be completely honest here, I didn’t have super high expectations for this book. I thought it would be good since Brandon Sanderson is one of my favorite authors, but I figured it would be more along the lines of his Reckoners series. That trilogy was definitely enjoyable, but not quite of the same caliber as his other works in my opinion. Skyward, on the other hand, blew me away, perhaps because I wasn’t expecting it to be so amazing.
To begin with, Spensa is a wonderful main character who really drives the whole book forward. I was slightly apprehensive about her in the beginning because she was so truculent and feisty, but her character arc through the book is fantastic. Every event has some sort of impact on her, which means her change is very realistic in how gradual it is. Along with this, Spensa is quick to learn from her mistakes. She recognizes when she messes up and tries to apply what she learns in the future, which is a nice trait to counter balance her aggressiveness. Spensa is driven to accomplish her goals and is well defined as a character, but is a different person when the book ends than when it starts.
The pacing is another thing that really stands out to me in this book. I’ve read the majority of Brandon Sanderson’s novels and have gotten fairly familiar with the way his stories are structured. Typically, the beginning is slow with the middle building until it explodes into an avalanche of an ending. Skyward is very evenly paced, with action coming from page one that just keeps increasing. There are lulls in the action, but it is always purposeful in progressing the plot. The ending is a bit more even too, ramping up nicely instead of waiting for everything to happen in the last section. I happen to really like the way Brandon Sanderson’s books explode into a finale, but it’s still nice to see that he’s working on improving as a writer. Everything in this book felt really tight, with very little “filler” while giving enough so it isn’t rushed. The tension is phenomenal. The flight sequences are gripping and the story just keeps turning up the intensity.
This is a sci-fi book and I tend to prefer fantasy, but Skyward has everything I look for in a good sci-fi. Interesting, semi-believable technology and an engaging plot (some sci-fi books can forget that crucial fiction part at the end). With this being said, I am disappointed there isn’t more world building. Perhaps this stems from the fact I am a high-fantasy fan who loves the sprawling worlds Brandon Sanderson is usually known for, but we didn’t really learn much about the world of Detritus. I’m hoping the world is really explored in the next book, as it is something I wish we’d gotten to see more of.
My final bit of criticism lies with some minor writing tweaks. First off, there are a lot of italicized words, which fits with Spensa’s character, but a few of them could have been removed without losing the effect. Second, I noticed a couple places where the same word is used twice in quick succession, sometimes within the same sentence. Both of these aren’t huge problems, but are something worth mentioning.
All in all, Skyward is fantastic. While not as in depth as something like The Stormlight Archive, it has a unique plot, memorable characters, and lots of action. The themes of what courage really is, growth from mistakes, and the impact of your heritage were all beautifully handled. It definitely gives me Ender’s Game vibes in the best way. I think it’s a perfect place to jump into Sanderson’s writing because it is has the hallmarks of his works, but isn’t quite as intimidating as that 1,000 page The Way of Kings.
5 out of 5 stars. I highly recommend it!