Skyward by Brandon Sanderson

Despite it being released in North America on November 6, 2018, I didn’t get my hands on a copy of Skyward by Brandon Sanderson until I unwrapped it on Christmas morning (you can check out my entire Christmas Book Haul here – I think it’s safe to say that my family knows I love books!). I am not normally a Brandon Sanderson fan, but with all the hype that Skyward has been getting, I simply couldn’t resist – and I am glad that I did end up reading it, because I simply loved it!

Spensa’s world has been under attack for decades. Now pilots are the heroes of what’s left of the human race, and becoming one has always been Spensa’s dream. Since she was a little girl, she has imagined soaring skyward and proving her bravery. But her fate is intertwined with her father’s–a pilot himself who was killed years ago when he abruptly deserted his team, leaving Spensa’s chances of attending flight school at slim to none. No one will let Spensa forget what her father did, yet fate works in mysterious ways. Flight school might be a long shot, but she is determined to fly. And an accidental discovery in a long-forgotten cavern might just provide her with a way to claim the stars.

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Skyward is the first book in an epic new series about a girl who dreams of becoming a pilot in a dangerous world at war for humanity’s future – but if that description isn’t enough to have you itching to pick up this book, perhaps the promise of a fearless heroine and a memorable cast, a pulse-pounding plot, and a cinematic setting will have you rushing to pick up this action-packed trilogy opener!

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Skyward is told from Spensa’s (callsign: Spin) perspective, and it is a powerful lens through which to witness this story. She is an angry young lady with a lot to prove – and hence she had quite an attitude problem and a propensity to act like an idiot sometimes. Her character development was simply quite superb to observe, because her journey was not an easy or pretty one. Her path to be a pilot and a grown-up was one of harsh realities and self-realisation – testing her conviction of what real bravery is, and pushing her to broaden her understanding of the world around her. What’s more is that the supporting characters are excellent and ones that readers will root for and develop an emotional investment in – including literally every single one of Spensa’s fellow cadets (including “Jerkface” and Cobb), Doomslug (yes), and M-Bot. M-Bot in particular will capture readers’ hearts, because it’s the cutest and sassiest starship readers have ever encountered (and that includes AIDAN of the Illuminae Files). Beyond that, M-Bot is such an interesting character, with fantastic dialogue, and an hilarious obsession with mushrooms. Overall, I think it is safe to say that Sanderson blew it out of the park with the characters in Skyward – from Spensa (callsign: Spin), to the cadets, Doomslug, and M-Bot.

“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?” – Brandon Sanderson, Skyward

Sanderson really outdid himself when it came to the action scenes – particularly in regards to the aerial dog-fighting. Since Spensa dreams of being a pilot, aerial action was quite central to the plot, and Sanderon didn’t disappoint. He created some unique dog-fighting techniques, while still keeping flight science as realistic as possible (I mean, one of the ships is quite literally an AI, but besides that, realistic) with the help and advice of real-life fighter pilots. Using that plethora of knowledge, Sanderson created a system of rules for a ship’s dogfighting technology – then immediately pushed the technology to its limits, by testing the boundaries of how far this tech can function. Furthermore, the flight school arc itself is engaging and well-written with loads of flight action scenes, which are just as vivid and thrilling as the actual dog-fighting!

“It has always seemed to me that a coward is a person who cares more about what people say than about what is right. Bravery isn’t about what people call you, Spensa. It’s about who you know yourself to be.” – Brandon Sanderson, Skyward

Finally, there’s the setting of this pulse-pounding tale – which is mysterious and dangerous, yet dashingly intriguing as well. The mystery of this far-flung world the humans of Spensa’s settlement inhabit is quite central to the plot and it’s development, as Spensa investigates the secrets surrounding her father. The list of questions is seemingly never-ending, including: Why are the humans even fighting the Krell? Why do the Krell never field more than 100 ships? What is the truth behind the death of Spensa’s father? How did the humans arrive at this planet? Where did M-bot come from? As Spensa investigates these questions, the world is built around her, each revelation a piece in the puzzle. As I haven’t read much Sanderson, I am not sure how this stacks up against his other world-building, but I quite enjoyed the method of world-building, which was thorough without reverting to info-dumping or overly dry exposition.

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Overall, I have no doubt that Skyward by Brandon Sanderson will end up being one of my favourite reads of 2019. With a powerful cast of characters, well-written dialogue and world-building, and a tale overflowing with space-opera action, there’s something in Skyward for everyone – even if YA Sci Fi isn’t typically your “thing” (5/5).

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