My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Skyward is an action-packed start to a new series from Brandon Sanderson, who proves he can write fun and engaging science fiction with the characteristic plot twists that have made his novels hugely popular.
Skyward is Brandon Sanderson’s newest novel, though that might only be true for a month or two, as Sanderson is nothing if not prolific. Skyward is a new Spin (pun intended) on the classic fantasy trope of a boy and his dragon, except this time it’s a girl and her spaceship.
Life on Detritus is hard. Humanity clings to life, living in caves and scrounging for food where it can be found. The dead planet Detritus offers little in the way of comfort, but this isn’t the only challenge humanity faces. The Krell are an alien race bent on humanity’s destruction. The mysterious race attacks outposts constantly, determined to drop a Lifebuster bomb to wipe out all human life. Fortunately for the humans, they aren’t without defenses. The Defiant Defense Force is the last line of defense between the outposts and the Krell attacks. Brave pilots fly starships and risk their lives to keep the Krell at bay, often paying the ultimate cost.
Spensa Nightshade is the daughter of a coward. Her father, Zeen, was the best pilot in the DDF until the Battle of Alta, when he abandoned his squadron in the middle of the largest battle the DDF had ever fought. Determined to show the world that she is NOT a coward, Spensa enrolls in DDF pilot school, ready to take the fight to the Krell and “bathe in the blood of her enemies” (Spensa is a bit bloodthirsty). In pilot school, Spensa is discriminated against from the very start, labeled the daughter of a coward. Admiral Ironsides won’t even let her sleep in the barracks with the other cadets, so she lives in caves and hunts for rats for dinner.
The caves beneath Alta contain secrets. There, she stumbles upon and old ship whose only functioning program is its AI known as M-Bot. M-Bot has been in the cave for over a hundred years, and while its memory banks are incomplete it does remember its pilot’s last instructions: “Lie low, M-Bot. Take stock, don’t get into any fights, and wait for me here.” Spensa’s friend Rodge says that even though the ship is very old, its tech is far past anything the DDF has ever seen before.
Spensa’s newfound knowledge could change the fight against the Krell, if she can get M-Bot operational. And if she doesn’t get shot down first.
Skyward is a fun take on sci-fi. I feel like there’s enough science and calculation for hardcore sci-fi fans to dig into, while definitely keeping the tone light enough for casual readers. Spensa reminds me of Moana, though admittedly a bit more obsessed with death and destruction. This story feels like Top Gun, at least the pilot school parts, with the desperation and stakes of Attack on Titan. People die in this book, and it’s tough.
I think Skyward, along with Mistborn, is another great introductory book to a friend or family member who isn’t really into fantasy or sci-fi. It’ll get them hooked.
I want to know more. The ending was very suspenseful and hard to predict, and the twist was interesting. I’m definitely going to read the rest of the Skyward books as they come out – as of right now it’s supposed to be a trilogy.
Review by Griffin