Ok, so this is confession time: until this book, I had never read a Brandon Sanderson book. From what I can gather off of the internet, this is tantamount to treason for a self-confessed fantasy fan. Anyway, having read this book, I will certainly be seeking out more of his work! This is slightly ironic, I suppose, given that Skyward is a science fiction book and Sanderson is more known for fantasy and I read more fantasy than sci-fi!
Skyward follows the story of Spensa, a young girl who’s dream in life is to become a star-fighter pilot and fight in the defence of her home, a planet where the last remnants of humanity hide in small underground communities from the relentless attacks of a mysterious alien race, the Krell. Unfortunately for Spensa, her fate seems to be forever intertwined with that of her father – a pilot who died in her youth when he inexplicably deserted his squadron in the middle of a battle – leaving her ostracised by society as the daughter of a coward and little chance of fulfilling her dream.
One of the things I found most enjoyable things about this book was effort that Sanderson clearly put into building the world and background around this story. The world and society of Skyward is intriguing and well thought out, leaving us with what feels like a hundred questions, but not in a bad way: in a way that makes you want to read on a find out more. By the end of the book, we get answers to some of these questions, but we also end up with a few more questions. I’m hoping this turn into a series of books and that we get further answers and more even more depth to this world/universe.
Spensa, as a character, was a brilliant protagonist and spending time with her was certainly enjoyable. Her character arc, and the way she changes throughout the story, is quite large and yet it is handled so masterfully and subtly that it feels natural throughout. The more mature Spensa we get towards the end is more realistic, relatable and certainly a more rounded person, though early-story Spensa has some absolutely wonderful lines that no one but her could say. Her opinions on her teacher’s – Mrs. Vmeer – daughter are fantastic and laugh out loud funny. This injections of humour can be found throughout the story and are certainly welcome!
However, one good character does not make for a great book; we need a whole range to really bring a story to life and we get that here. Everyone we meet is layered and nuanced, even if these nuances aren’t revealed until later in the story. The relationships Spensa and all our other characters build throughout feel so real, strong and believable and I loved them. For my favourite character, special mention must go to M-Bot. Quite simply, an amazing character. He is laugh out loud funny throughout and I just hope to read more of him in the future. Plus, he is obsessed with mushrooms, which is so random!
One final thing that Sanderson must be lauded for is his action sequences. They are just so well done! They really capture the pace, intensity and chaos that I can imagine a fight between star fighters would entail. Much of this quality must come down to the meticulous research that Sanderson engaged in when preparing to write this story. In his acknowledgements at the end of the book, Sanderson cites a couple of people who helped him out with their fighter pilot expertise, as well as someone who helped him with the science and maths involved in what he wanted the starfighters in this book to do. This dedication to his craft really shines through in this book and it made the action feel believable and grounded, despite the futuristic tech present.
Overall, I would recommend this book to just about anyone with a passing interest in science fiction. I loved it and will certainly be picking up more Brandon Sanderson this year. I’ve heard the Mistborn series is the one to pick up first.