Publisher: Delcorte Press
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 combat the Krell. Pilots are the heroes of what’s left of the human race.
Becoming a pilot has always been Spensa’s dream. Since she was a little girl, she has imagined soaring above the earth and proving her bravery. But her fate is intertwined with that of her father–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, but she is determined to fly. And the Krell just made that a possibility. They’ve doubled their fleet, which will make Spensa’s world twice as deadly . . . but just might take her skyward.
I recieved a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Like many, I was curious how Sanderson’s foray into science fiction would result in. As far as I know, he hasn’t written any full-length science-fiction novels and I wanted to know how he would translate his famous magic systems into something more tech-based. Well, after reading Skyward, I’m pleased to say that my expectations have been more than met.
Firstly, the dogfighting scenes are a delight to read. I read in an interview that Sanderson interviewed actual dogfighting pilots as research for this book, and that definitely shows in the fight scenes. They’re gripping, action-packed, and very dramatic. They’re illustrated from Spensa’s POV, which limits the scope to what she does and what she’s observing, and I think that decision works very well. To incorporate Sanderson’s hard magic-systems, each fighter plane is also given a light lance (high tech grappling hook), which means a whole new layer of grapple checks during fights. For readers like me who struggle with picturing maneuvers, there are helpful diagrams in between chapters that show step-by-step how they’re done.
As usual, the worldbuilding is very well done. When we first meet Spensa, we learn that several generations ago, a fleet of humans crash-landed on an abandoned planet, being chased by aliens. After decades being hunted down by these aliens, they’ve begun to fight back. However, you quickly find out there’s more behind the story most inhabitants are taught and you spend the rest of the book being drip-fed information. For me, those little hints and reveals were what kept me reading. I wanted to know more and more and the pacing was just right to keep me interested without making me impatient. For those curious, since this is technically a stand-alone, answers are given by the end.
My main dislike in this book was Spensa’s character for the first half. We first meet Spensa as a child, right before her father will fight in one of the most defining battles of Defiant history and forever be branded a traitor. The next chapter is a teenage Spensa, shunned by society because of her father, about to take a pilot’s test you just know she’ll fail. Spensa’s outlook on life tends to be ‘punch first, ask later’, which, while understandable given her treatment by literally everyone in this society, is also frustrating to read. There are many situations Spensa gets into that, when pairing her ‘imma fight it’ attitude with her general immaturity, results in frustrating outcomes for all parties involved. I want to like Spensa, but early on, she makes it difficult. As the book progresses, however, Spensa does mature considerable and I actually quite liked her by the end. She’s still aggressive and violent, but it’s in a much more controlled manner.
Other minor complaints are that I found the humor a little juvenile for my tastes. There’s an AI that’s annoyingly obsessed with mushrooms (no shame, I like eating them too) and a lot of the banter between characters feels very high-school to me. Which, given the ages of the character, is understandable if a little annoying to read. All the characters in this book use a single made a swear word, “scud”. I’m don’t usually mind made-up swears, but a) I wasn’t very fond of the word itself and b) why is there only one? Surely humanity can be more creative.
Overall, I rate this book a 4/5. While a wasn’t crazy about Spensa at first, she definitely grew on me as I kept reading. Sanderson works his magic once again with the fight scenes and delivers some truly riveting dogfights with fascinatingly well-explained aircraft maneuvers.
/r/Fantasy Bingo 2018 Squares:
- Novel Published in 2018
- Novel with One Word Title
- Stand Alone Fantasy Novel
- Fantasy Novel That Takes Place Entirely Within One City (an argument could be made for this square)