Sunday, December 9, 2018

Review: SKYWARD by Brandon Sanderson

Rating: 5/5 stars

Skyward reminded me of a mix of Airborn and City of Ember and Ender’s Game. Airborn because they fly airships around the sky, City of Ember because they live underground and have similar technology, and Ender’s Game because of the dogfighting and battle techniques in space. I enjoyed all of those books, so to see their concepts come together with added science fiction elements and the writing style of Brandon Sanderson makes for an excellent story!

I was honestly nervous starting this book because I’ve had it in my mind that I don’t like science fiction novels, yet this is actually the first fully science fiction novel I’ve finished. But it is a Sanderson book, and Sanderson can do no wrong, so I knew I had to give it a chance. And I really had nothing to worry about because it was absolutely amazing! (Why have I been telling myself for years that I don’t like sci-fi? This genre is awesome!)

So I thought this story took place in a different universe. Spensa mentions famous historical figures from Earth’s history—Joan of Arc, Sun Zhu, and Genghis Khan, to name a few—which means that the characters are originally from Earth. We do learn in the prologue that the people on their planet of Detritus are basically colonists, but I find it weird that they came from the Earth that we know in the real world. Maybe that’s just because I’m not used to reading sci-fi and I’m used to Sanderson’s books being set totally in fantastical worlds, but it caught me off guard to read familiar names.

Skyward is about Spensa, whose biggest dream and goal is to become a pilot just like her father was and defend her planet against the alien race called Krell, but she faces obstacle after obstacle because of her father’s legacy that he left behind, a legacy not of triumph but of cowardice. Spensa is determined to surpass everyone’s low expectations of her and become a pilot anyway, even if it means flouting everyone who could be the key to her success. As she makes her way into flight school, she discovers secrets from the past and learns news about the Krell that could change everything she thought she knew about her father and maybe even her desire to become a pilot.

That’s a basic description of the story, but it’s not really what the book is about. There is so much more going on that’s hard to describe, in-depth details that create a whole new plot on top of this basic outline. I never gave a second thought to the synopsis, even though I admit it sounded average and a bit superficial, but about halfway through I realized all my assumptions were wrong. Everything I thought this book was about was not what it was about at all. The main issue Spensa was facing was something I never would have guessed, but it made the story so much more meaningful.

Sanderson never fails to blow my mind and leave me speechless, and I never should have doubted him. He’s so good at doing the unexpected. He never takes the common, predictable route but instead goes somewhere completely unfathomable, and that makes his books all the better for it.

The characters in Skyward are amazing, each with distinct personalities. Spensa is aggressive, but not in a mean way. She’s determined to prove herself, and I loved seeing her come face-to-face with foes, or at least talk about coming face-to-face with her foes, because she is this tiny girl who packs a mighty punch with her huge personality, and she’s never afraid to go up against all odds. I love her over-the-top proclamations of victory and vengeance.

Although I love Spensa, M-Bot is definitely my favorite character (AIs tend to be some of my favorite characters in general). He is so precious and just made me smile every scene he was in. I can’t wait to see what happens to him in the next book.

Something random that I loved about this book was its use of fake swear words, like “scud.” I enjoy seeing this in books because I feel like it helps to show how the novel’s world is developed and different from our own.

Overall, Skyward was a really delightful story from my favorite author, and I think it’s a good book for people who are new to or don’t usually read science fiction because it still felt relatable and not too technical. I, at least, loved it. Regardless if you like sci-fi stories, the plot is highly engaging, the characters are thoroughly developed, and the dialogue is actually quite funny! I literally laughed out loud at least ten different times throughout the book. I cannot wait until Starsight comes out next year so I can see what happens to Spensa and everyone else.

On a more critical note (I don’t want to say anything bad about a Sanderson book, but the editor in me can’t help it), I was surprised to see many instances where Cobb’s name was printed Cob (not Sanderson’s fault, but I still was taken aback when I saw it). Also, there were a few details about the world that I felt were under-explained or skimmed over that I would have enjoyed more information about. I’m sure some of this is going to come to light in books two and three, but I also think some of it actually did need more explanation in book one. And this has left me with some questions (these are not spoilers, but they may not make sense if you haven’t read the book):

I’m wondering where the debris came from that surrounds their planet. What did it use to be before it was broken, and how did it get into orbit around the planet?
What are the Krell? (I know information about the Krell was intentionally left out to build suspense for later books.) We still know so little about them, and I’d like to know where they came from.
What happened to the technology akin to that found in M-Bot? It seems that it had become forgotten over time, but the human race is still trying to improve their technology, so why can’t they replicate these designs from the past? What happened to make them technologically jump back in time?
Why is M-Bot so interested in mushrooms? There has to be more to his obsession than comedic relief. Little do we know, but the mushrooms could somehow be the key to defeating the Krell! (I’m kidding but I’m also wondering if there is something special about them.)
What are the “eyes”? This is the information I am most curious about because I feel like it will have the biggest impact on the ultimate outcome of the whole series.

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