Starsight Book Review

Hello All! I’ve been looking forward to writing this review for a while. Starsight by Brandon Sanderson, the sequel to Skyward, was my most anticipated book of 2019, so I’m excited to finally review it. Due to its nature as a sequel, this review is going to be chock full of spoilers for this book and the previous one.

My Non-Spoiler Conclusion: If you liked Skyward, definitely pick up Starsight. It’s not quite as good but answers so many questions and develops Spensa’s universe in interesting ways. From here on out, there will be spoilers. You have been warned.

Let’s start with the big picture and look at the world building. Right away, Sanderson started giving answers to some of the last book’s biggest questions about the Krell. Starsight brought this universe into full blossom, introducing us to what’s outside of Detritus. One of my critiques of Skyward was the lack of world building, so I was very pleased this was rectified in a huge way. All of the aliens seemed extremely… well, alien. Sometimes books and movies present aliens as fairly human in both appearance and culture, tweaking habits, attire, and technology, but still leaving them pretty normal. The aliens we’re introduced shake up some of the fundamental aspects of humanity. A few people were bothered by using “they” as a singular pronoun when referring to some of the species, but that enhanced the feeling of being foreign and other in my opinion. Having them be so different also worked in beautifully at the end. The kitsens were my favorite– they had all the cuteness of Star Wars’ Ewoks and Porgs but were warlike, politically-minded poets. What’s not to love?

On a similar note, the Superiority was highly interesting. Their control of transportation is a fascinating, plausible method of power. On top of that, their non-violent attitudes clashed nicely with not only Spensa’s character but also the military focus Skyward had. The whole situation reminded me of Mistborn with Vin attending the balls as a spy and having to resist the facade of peace and beauty. However, that’s as far as the similarity goes, as Sanderson did a good job of keeping the plot line unique from his other works.

While this plot was distinct, some of my major criticisms lie with aspects of it. Namely, Alanik’s arrival was too convenient. The DDF was discussing an espionage endeavor and then the perfect opportunity literally falls from the sky? Not only was Alanik’s purpose for going to the Superiority suited for the mission, but she was relatively human in the crucial areas ( close appearance, breaths similar air, eats similar food, human-like behavior, etc.), and also had a ship M-Bot could easily disguise himself as. It just seemed too easy, and I kept expecting it to be addressed. It never was, so perhaps it will be covered in the next book, but overall everything lined up too well. Since Sanderson’s plots are usually impeccable, this was a stark flaw in my opinion.

My second critique is that all the characters built up in the last book were almost entirely absent. This is more of a preference than a true, technical issue, but it’s worth mentioning. While I grew to like Hesho and Vapor, they couldn’t replace Jorgen, Kimmalyn, Cobbs, and the others. Spensa’s relationships with her flightmates was one of the best parts of Skyward, and the banter lightened some of the grave situations. Without them or any other meaningful relationships aside from M-Bot, it felt like Starsight lacked something crucial. Having most of the interludes from Jorgen’s perspective was wonderful, but I still missed seeing the old characters.

Because of this, the type of struggles Spensa had to overcome were much different. Skyward pelted her with trials and heartbreaks, while Starsight put forth a marathon of challenges, all of which were faced in near isolation. Though the difficulties were unlike those in the last book, I still sympathized with Spensa’s predicament, which is part of what sets her apart from Sanderson’s other YA protagonists. She definitely has the extremes and quirks of Joel or David, but she also goes through some very raw, human scenes which balances her out more. So, I appreciate how the solitariness helped Spensa grow, but that doesn’t stop me from missing other beloved characters.

The idea of perception and appearances was a big theme in this book. The hologram bracelet, the disguises, the espionage, and the widely different looks of the aliens all fed into this. I’ll admit, I was convinced right along with Spensa that Cuna was scheming simply because of his smile. That reveal made me step back and consider my own judgments. To what extent should appearances factor in to my views of people? Certainly observations can add to the understanding of a person, but taking one aspect as the foundation for the entire view is dangerous. All of this ties into the theme of the climax– understanding. The delvers were so truly alien as to have things beyond human comprehension, and Spensa making them see human life as valuable was a beautiful ending.

The final parts I want to discuss are the major reveals and the loose threads at the end. Personally, I loved that Doomslug turned out to be the cytonic hyperdrive. I’d seen a theory about it, but Sanderson wove it in even better by using it as M-Bot’s mission and an explanation for some of his quirks. No longer are the mushrooms just an endearing oddity, they’re relevant. Plus, with the colony of the slugs found on Detritus, and Jorgen’s potential cytonic abilities, I hope we’ll see humanity spread from their one planet. With this, however, is the extremely unfair cliffhanger at the end. M-Bot being removed from the ship shocked me, and I’m very curious to see where it goes next.

All in all, though there were some issue with the story, I really enjoyed Starsight. I hope the next book comes out quickly, since this has become one of my favorite series by Brandon Sanderson. It’s action packed, contains neat ideas, has wonderful characters, and also surprises the reader with deep, emotional moments. Spensa’s growth remains a central part of this story, and I’m eager to see her arc continue. 4.5/ 4.75 out of 5 stars.


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