Spensa’s world has been under attack for hundreds of years. An alien race called the Krell leads onslaught after onslaught from the sky in a never-ending campaign to destroy humankind. Humanity’s only defense is to take to their ships and fight the enemy in the skies. Pilots have become the heroes of what’s left of the human race.
Spensa has always dreamed of being one of them; of soaring above Earth and proving her bravery. But her fate is intertwined with her father’s – a pilot who was killed years ago when he abruptly deserted his team, placing Spensa’s chances of attending flight school somewhere between slim and none.
No one will let Spensa forget what her father did, but she is still determined to fly. And the Krell just made that a possibility. They’ve doubled their fleet, making Spensa’s world twice as dangerous . . . but their desperation to survive might just take her skyward . . .
Skyward is a novel that appeals to the kid in you. It looks past all the stress of everyday life, and reminds you of a time when you thought spaceships were awesome, when the world was just another adventure, and when you weren’t afraid to hope for something better.
Fans of Brandon Sanderson might be skeptical of a Sanderson novel that doesn’t feature any magic, but Skyward manages to make up for that with a fascinating new world and dogfighting scenes which come with a tangible sense of excitement. The mechanics of these airborne battles may be simpler than the complicated magic systems of his other books, but that doesn’t make them any less fun to read.
But this isn’t exactly a light-hearted read. At least, not always.
Spensa is our main character. She’s a young woman who wishes to follow in her father’s footsteps and become what is essentially a fighter pilot, tasked with doing battle with an alien race (known as the Krell) that seems hell-bent on destroying humanity.
Thing is, Spensa’s father is infamous for deserting his team during a battle many years previous. Spensa is adamant that her father would never do such a thing, but nonetheless the powers that be aren’t exactly receptive to the idea of putting her in a position to do the same.
And so, Spensa faces a fight to even get into flight school, never mind becoming an actual pilot.
But therein lies the heart of this book. Skyward doesn’t sugarcoat the fact that the world is an unfair and unjust place. People die when they don’t have to, and not enough people care. People aren’t always remembered for the right reasons. Some people are privileged enough to be afforded advantages that few others could even dream of. But despite all that, there’s still hope. Even when everything looks hopeless, there’s still a way to fight for what’s right.
It’s a common theme in Sanderson’s books, but not one I’ll ever get tired off.
Character-wise, Skyward is pretty par for the course for a Sanderson novel. There’s enough emotion and personality there to serve the story, but those hoping for a really in-depth character exploration probably won’t find it here. Having said that, Spensa’s dialogue with her friends and her talking spaceship can make for some pretty fun reading — a few annoying mushroom jokes notwithstanding. The dialogue brought enough life to these relationships for me to become really invested in the characters.
There were a few things I wasn’t too fond of, but these were more on the “mildly irritating” side of things. The humor is sometimes a little juvenile, the main character can be frustrating and can make some pretty stupid decisions at times… but despite these things I really enjoyed the book as a whole.
The world itself really managed to capture my imagination. The planet, Detritus, is orbited by the rubble of a giant spaceship. This rubble is constantly falling to the planet’s surface, meaning that any pilots have to be skilled enough to avoid the falling debris as well as, y’know, the attacking aliens. This ties in with the aforementioned dogfighting scenes, as Sanderson’s incredibly visual writing style puts you right in the cockpit as Spensa tries to shoot, spin, and fly her way to victory.
All things considered, I think the most important thing I can say about Skyward is that it reminded me what it felt like to be a kid again. And I love it for that.
This is a story about fighting for what you believe in. Now more than ever, this kind of story is needed.
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