Skyward is a bit of a strange one. I admit that I read it almost wholely because of the hype and the stunning cover, but I spent most of my reading time completely unsure how to feel about it. It has many positives and many flaws, but there’s no getting around that kick-ass ending.
Plot summary for Skyward:
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.
Star rating for Skyward: * * * * (four stars)
That rating took an awful lot of soul searching, I can tell you.
Skyward is Brandon Sanderson’s second forway into Young Adult literature. The first was The Rithmatist, a great book which I absolutely loved (review here) and yet one that he never actually bothered continuing. This book heads down a completely different vein – space, not magic.
It’s a pretty slow burn. Now, I don’t actually mind slow books. I usually end up wishing that the Harry Potter narrative more time in his classes and that Mia Covere trained a bit more. I love context and background, so I don’t object to it being slow per se. I didn’t mind the large portion of Skyward that was spent in flight simulators; but it’s probably worth mentioning that you should dodge this book if you’re more a fan of action-packed romps.
There are some quirky bits to break up the slow-motion training montage, however – Doomslug and M-Bot. I don’t really understand the fuss about Doomslug, but I am absolutely 100% on board (ha) with M-Bot. Spensa’s unique, talking ship is amazing. It’s sarcastic, pragmatic and has an odd obsession with collection mushrooms… but without ever really feeling gimicky or shoved in for comedic value. Easily the best thing about the whole book.
“Er… not that I was originally a combat ship, mind you,” M-Bot said. “I don’t know about orbital bombardment from my own programming. I suppose somebody must have told it to me once.”
“I thought you didn’t lie.”
“I don’t! I genuinely believe that I’m an advanced, well-armed, stealth-capable ship because it will help me harvest fungi better. That is not at all irrational.”
Spensa, however, is pretty dreadful. Even her name ‘clunked’ in my head every time I read it. She’s just too over the top. She stamps around shouting at everybody, constantly bleating about how she will rip the bones from her enemies or whatever, and it’s just so cringe-worthy. She shouts at everybody for the tinest perceived criticism, and she’s brash, arrogant and stubborn. She massively wound me up.
I will say that there is some character development there, so ‘Spensa’ (ugh) didn’t spoil the book for me. She does learn throughout Skyward to manage herself a bit better, and I was impressed with the writing in that regard. Her development is subtle enough that I didn’t really notice it until she was pretty much there (and less throttle-able).
Some of the plot is fairly predictable, but that’s okay. Knowing where a story is heading doesn’t prevent me from enjoying the ride.
The final battle, and the ending itself, is incredible. Yes, I bolded that, just to make a point. I was originally going to rate Skyward three stars (three and a half, really, but Goodreads is a pain) but the last battle pushed it up a whole notch. It was epic, and amazing, and emotional, and… argh. It was basically the opposite of all Brandon Sanderson’s other books, where the book is good but the ending is lacklustre. Not so here. The ending is so so SO good.
Does it live up to the hype? I don’t know. Maybe? Not quite? Almost? It doesn’t not live up to the hype, if that makes any sense. I can feel this may not be one of my most helpful reviews… I am looking forward to reading the next book, Starsight, but I’m happy to wait for the paperback. Whilst I loved the ending, the majority of Skyward was good, but not amazing. And I really did want to stab bloody ‘Spensa.’