I discovered Brandon Sanderson a long time ago, I even bought his Mistborn trilogy over a year ago but never got to it. His books are notoriously big and always fantasy filled that I’ve been pretty intimidated to pick his books. When Skyward came out, I was pretty apprehensive cause it was another Brandon Sanderson book – but this one was YA and everybody started talking about it. I had friends in real life tell me how good this book was and this year, when I got an Amazon gift card; I decided, let’s try this out. Let’s buy Skyward and see how Brandon Sanderson’s writing is. Let’s just say that I was pleasantly surprised; and it’s review time!
Defeated, crushed, and driven almost to extinction, the remnants of the human race are trapped on a planet that is constantly attacked by mysterious alien starfighters. Spensa, a teenage girl living among them, longs to be a pilot. When she discovers the wreckage of an ancient ship, she realizes this dream might be possible—assuming she can repair the ship, navigate flight school, and (perhaps most importantly) persuade the strange machine to help her. Because this ship, uniquely, appears to have a soul.
Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)
Okay, so it’s not a surprise anymore but I LOVED this book. Like, really loved it. It was absolutely spectacular in my eyes, and one of my new absolute favourite fantasy books of all time. I don’t know why I thought this book would be hard to read and would take up so much brain and energy because I flew through this in like 2 days? It was incredible. I guess those preconceived and intimidating notions that big books are scary and harder to read slightly clouded my judgement.
This review might be a slight mess because I just can’t express myself well and eloquently enough because this was just amazing! Highly recommend – go read it! The end.
Nah, just kidding. So, in this book, we meet Spensa aka Spin who lives on a planet called Detritus. There, for as long as she and everybody knows, they have been fighting off aliens called the Krell with spaceships and specially trained pilots. One of those pilots used to be Spensa’s father, until one day, during one of the fiercest battles in Detritus’ history against a swarm of krill; her father is branded a coward when he leaves his crew behind during the battle and is shot down by his own wingman. In a world where the main motto is ‘Defiance,’ Spensa is haunted by her father’s actions, having to live a harsh childhood as she’s constantly sneered at and mocked for being a coward’s daughter. Empowered by old Earth stories from her grandmother like Beowulf, she’s determined to become a pilot and proved to everyone that her father wasn’t a coward and to be able to fly. The story continues from there as she begins her journey to becoming a pilot and the friends she makes along the way.
When I first started this book, the life that Spensa had was plainly uncomfortable to read. Living on algae and hunting rats for a living because her family isn’t esteemed is tough. The constant harassment from others because of her father was just plain unfair and it made me so sad. Sanderson’s writing flowed so well in that respect that each transition, from when Spensa is still in school to her becoming a cadet is smooth. The politics of this planet is slowly weaved throughout and as you go through the story, you start to learn more and more about how society is structured on Detritus, what’s good and bad about it, and Spensa’s time at flight school. Although this book is a tome at just over 500 pages, it was paced extremely well and never felt boring or slow. The story unraveled itself in an elegant manner, you could say, and it was utterly satisfying especially as the stakes get higher and you feel empowered to finish the book faster.
Spensa was a joy to read from. I really got to know her and the people around her. She’s such a strong character with determination and perseverance to try and achieve her dreams even though others constantly try to bring her down. I don’t think I can say much because I really don’t want to spoil anything – it is so much better if you go into this book blind as I did – but her journey as she becomes a cadet and gets her own crew is so special. These fellow cadets initially feel like strangers until you slowly get to know them as Spensa does and their individual personalities are so distinct. The team is led by Spensa’s father’s wingman who ends up becoming one of my favorite characters in the book. His character showed another perspective of the world Spensa lives in and how dangerous this line of work is.
“Pilots are never ‘peachy,’ girl. We’re spirited.” “Or,” I added, “briskly energized by the prospect of dealing death to the coming enemies.” “Or that,” Cobb said. “If you’re psychotic.”Brandon Sanderson, Skyward
One of the main aspects of this book is obviously the spaceship flying. The characters fly on planes called starfighters, which you actually get to see awesome drawings of throughout the book, and flying one of these and learning about their components was quite confusing to understand at first. After a while, even if I wasn’t super sure on what parts did what in the engineering of these starfighters, it didn’t matter. You got the general gist of these new words and I kinda just went with it. The highlight of this book other than the great platonic relationships and fantastic character development Spensa undergoes is the action scenes. I have NEVER, ever, felt so sucked into a story during a flight battle and listening to people talking over comms. I got actual chills while reading intense scenes where everything was at stake and I was all but praying that no character I had started to like died during this mission. I was sometimes literally on the edge of my couch and could not stop reading. I never thought I would enjoy a story based around flight school so much but it was so engaging and also gave me hints of nostalgia as it reminded me of a beloved primary school read called Hovercar Racer.
I cared so much about these characters while reading, particularly as they begin to understand and see Spensa as a person rather than a coward’s daughter. There was so much raw energy and emotion in the writing, and the mystery of who the Krill are, what they want, and the truth behind why her father was shot down is constant and imminent in every part of the book. The concepts of this story are so freaking interesting and while the story didn’t end on a cliffhanger or anything, I still have SO many questions. Other than politics, there are a lot of other important themes within this book that are relevant to our own history and just add another layer to this world’s depth and expanse. Did I also mention that Spensa happens to find a ship? That’s smarter than normal ships? And that is yet ANOTHER mystery because the ship has a talking AI???
I feel like so many perfect elements presented itself in this first instalment. There was action (incredibly fun to read), humour through friendly banter, a dream that the character must achieve, high stakes events, school schedules (yes consistency), politics, bigger themes glimpsed that allude to something more, powerful quotes, wise authority figures, complex character developments, complex emotional experiences (i.e. grief) and an amazing SMART heroine. Something I noticed when I finished this book was also the lack of love interest and romance – and I loved that too. It didn’t feel like the lack of romance created a whole or gap within the story, and that’s purely because there were more important things at hand here; like humanity’s survival on this planet for one.
This book was spectacular, I’ve probably left out so much and this review is probably a mess – I have tried to leave out as much as possible in a way so that you can judge this book for yourself. Essentially, this book is amazing – I don’t usually even write reviews about books I’m so hyped for but I just had to scream random nonsense about it on this blog so that IT CAN BE KNOWN, that I loved Skyward with all my heart. Sanderson’s writing and this world are just beautiful and I am highly anticipating the sequel (I have happily pre-ordered the matching mass paperback for my enjoyment in 2 months). I am most definitely looking forward to reading his other books (3 of which I have hoarded on my shelves for too long) and seeing how I go with those.
Let me know in the comments if you’ve read this too and what you thought!
Until next time,