Book Review: Skyward By Brandon Sanderson
Star Rating: 5 Stars
Those who know me may not realise this, but I do not read sci-fi that often. Fantasy has always been my bread and butter: give me magic, mayhem and monsters anyday! It had been a while since I had picked up a space related escapade and with Skyward, I am so glad that I did.
Brandon Sanderson, from what I’ve heard, is a staple in the sci-fi and fantasy genre. It wasn’t until my Book Seller girlfriend made me check out just how extensive his back catalogue is, that I knew I could be in for something special, and Skyward does not dissapoint.
Spensa is a feisty and determined girl desperate to follow in her father’s footsteps and become a pilot in the Defiant Defence Force (DDF) on her home planet of Detritus, where they are constantly attacked by an alien race know as the Krell. The problem is, her father has been labelled a coward for deserting his post during the defining Battle of Alta, getting himself killed in the process.
Growing up, the wrongdoing of her father has followed Spensa everywhere she goes, but this only fuels her tenacity and determination to prove everybody wrong and become the greatest pilot the DDF has ever seen. After finding the wreckage of an ancient ship, her dreams might just be achievable if she can fix it up, navigate the highs and lows of flight school and clear her father’s name. Oh, and did I forget to mention that the ship strangely enough, appears to have a soul!?
So I found this book on my Audible suggestions of all places – obviously due to Covid-19 I’ve been “hermiting” (a quick Google search has let me know I did not make this word up which upsets me greatly). The cover was what drew my eye: What’s not to love? The pop of yellow against the greyscale backdrop. The utter devastation of a lone character looking up into space as the world shatters around her. The simple words that motivate not only the protagonist throughout the story, but tugged at my own heartstrings to follow my dreams.
“Claim the stars, Spensa…”– Zeen Nightshade, (callsign: Chaser), Skyward
Well this book most certainly did from my perspective. All 5 of them. Ha! See what I did there?
I loved this book from start to finish. Spensa was such a relatable character with a penchant for over-dramatics, or as I like to call it, flair. Hot-headed, and eager to prove, I found myself rooting for her and wanting to pummel every single character that was standing in her way – I’m talking to you Admiral Ironsides and random guard number 3. There’s a childlike determination that never seems to die within her and it called to my own energy and conviction that I had growing up (I was damn sure I was going to be an astronaut, or as a back up, a dinosaur).
Because of the protagonists characterisation, the world building, which I was worried would be the most daunting element to a sci-fi story, came easily. We see it all through Spensa’s eyes, the grottiness of her hometown in the underground caverns of Detritus, the boring jobs that her teachers try to steer her towards, the excitement and technical skill needed to be a fighter pilot.
When M-bot is introduced, I wasn’t sure how convincing I would find a talking spaceship with an obsession for mushrooms. It turns out I took it very well. M-bot is an AI, more advanced than any ship Spensa has studied with the ability to be one of the best ships in the DDF. Problem is, M-bot refuses to fight. This plucky spaceship gives incredible comic value as it attempts to compute the world around itself and bonds with the protagonist.
So from the synopsis above, you may have picked up on some”I don’t believe for a second that Spensa’s father was a coward” vibes and to that I say: Read the book, I’m not gonna spoil it for you.
In terms of supporting characters, I found myself warming to them very quickly. That’s why it was such a shock when they get killed off. Although I’ve not experienced much of Brandon Sanderson’s writing, I can’t say for sure that this is his style, but I was definitely getting some George R. R Martin Ruthlessness coming through.
There are two other characters that stand out to me most and those were Captain Cobb (callsign: Mongrel) and Gran-gran. Cobb is a high ranking member of the DDF who sticks his neck out for Spensa. He’s brash, no-nonsense and even though the book description didn’t give him one, I gave him an eye-patch, (trust me, he’s an eye-patch kind of guy). Gran-gran is a lover of Old Earth stories and is your classic wise old woman. Even though this is a classic fantasy trope, for me, it still worked in this displaced sci-fi setting.
It is most certainly a story that keeps on giving and to my delight, it’s still giving. This isn’t just a standalone or a trilogy, It’s a quadrilogy! (Yes, I had to Google to check that too). After finishing Skyward, I dived straight into Starsight, the sequel. That is a review for another post, however it’s rare that I find a book that immediately catapults me into the next one.
I definitely think that Skyward is a great introduction, or reintroduction to the sci-fi genre. If you’re looking to delve into somthing new, but find the idea of sci-fi daunting, I cannot recommend this enough. It’s easy to read, the protagonist is endearing and the plot itself is engrossing. It was certainly a refreshing story to cleanse my fantasy palette. As a wise Gran-gran said:
“People need stories, child. They bring us hope, and that hope is real. If that’s the case, what does it matter whether people in them actually lived?”Gran-gran, Skyward