Skyward – Review

An exciting start to a planned starfighter trilogy

Publisher: Gollancz


Ebook: £5.99 Paperback: £6.47

Amazon UK

Synopsis

Defeated, crushed, and driven almost to extinction, the remnants of the human race are trapped on a planet that is constantly attacked by mysterious alien starfighters. Spensa, a teenage girl living among them, longs to be a pilot. When she discovers the wreckage of an ancient ship, she realizes this dream might be possible—assuming she can repair the ship, navigate flight school, and (perhaps most importantly) persuade the strange machine to help her. Because this ship, uniquely, appears to have a soul.

Review

Skyward was really fun and I read it in a couple of nights a few weeks ago, so the review is a little late. First off, this was my very first introduction to Brandon Sanderson and incidentally my first introduction to YA as an adult reader.

Although one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read, it didn’t blow me away like I was led to believe Sanderson’s books do. It isn’t a perfect book and there’s some aspects that weren’t for me, but the bits that it does well, it does so well that I can still highly recommend it as one of the best books of my year.

Skyward starts off pretty slowly, spending time building up the character of Spensa and the anxious world she lives in, a human population living mostly underground, under constant threat of a Krell attack (the alien antagonists in the novel). The DDF are the only defence against the pretty relentless onslaught from the skies. Spensa is desperate to join the academy.

Personally, I didn’t love the character of Spensa; that isn’t because she’s in any way badly written, though, and I won’t detract anything from the score based on this. I think being new to YA, it took a little adjusting. I’d gone from books with adult POVs to adapting to a story with a first person narrative – a rash, naïve teenager, albeit with an interesting backstory, admirable morals and an exciting and passionate fighting spirit. I just didn’t particularly love the character. Through a lot of the story, too, it is Spensa whose character is developed often at the expense of others who could have been interesting to learn more about or see more of.

The worldbuilding isn’t quite as expansive as I was perhaps expecting, 90% of it taking place in the skies, in the training academy or within Spensa’s cave. Because we only see the world from her point of view, we only see where she goes – and she’s not able to go to a great many places, limiting the scope of the worldbuilding. There is however a great deal of possibilities for the next 2 books in the trilogy and the exploration of more of the planet and in particular what lies beyond.

With the negatives out of the way, I can now convey why I could give a 5 star rating to a book in which the characters and world building don’t ‘wow’ me.

Basically, when the story gets going, it’s loads of fun. The training itself is exhilarating, and that’s even before any actual battles take place, which are all an absolute blast to read and really notch that excitement and adrenaline factor up to the max. And despite being YA, the fights can be pretty brutal. Sanderson does a fantastic job of making you feel how real the stakes are. Everything about the starfighters, the flying of, the design, the battle tactics, is brilliant and those parts especially (pretty much what the core of the story is) is especially thrilling.

M-Bot, the sentient spaceship is brilliantly sarcastic and mysterious and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the engineering of getting him back up and running, his remarks and influences on the story. Although as I mentioned I was not overly enthralled with the worldbuilding in terms of locations and information on the people and world and galaxy, everything surrounding the starfighters and the warfare is crafted expertly and that’s one of the main things that holds the story up and really maintained my interest.

The story is also driven by Spensa’s urge to find the truth about her father, him having committed an unforgivable act that has repurcusions for Spensa herself. Following the twists and turns of this underlying journey also keeps the narrative flowing along nicely, as does the small snippets of information and subtle knowledge we are given about the Krell and what they want.

Although the book starts slowly, and the character development could have been improved, the story is such an exciting, intriguing and fun filled action-heavy blast that the overall ride was at light speed, which was how quickly I finished the book. The follow-up, Starsight has just been released and I for one am massively excited to pick up where Skyward left off and continue what developed into an even more exciting and action-filled potential in the last couple of chapters.

5/5 stars.

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