Review: SKYWARD by Brandon Sanderson

Here we go. If you didn’t know, I’m a big fan of Brandon Sanderson. He’s influenced my own writing greatly. I once even wrote a short story that, looking back on, sounds pretty similar to a certain Sanderson series. I had no clue who he even was or what he’d written at the time. It was during the first creative writing class I took at the University of Iowa. The assignment was to pick two character types from a list, put them in a short story, and see how they impacted each other. Me being me and wanting to pick two extremely different characters, I chose the priest and the prostitute.

I opened the story with the prostitute on a beach, escaping from her brothel for a bit of time to herself. Then the mist rolls in (starting to sound familiar?). She knew the mist was dangerous, but she’d lost track of time! Before she could make it back to her village, the mist consumes everything around her, but the priest rescues her and escorts her to his makeshift hut.

She decides to attempt to repay the priest the only way she knew how, but he petitions to have her join him as an apprentice instead. He wished to show her the truth about the mist and the world around her.

While it’s not completely like Mistborn, I still thought it was similar enough in a few ways. The prostitute is no Vin, and Kelsier is by no means a priest, but the relationship was fairly similar. Again, I had no clue who Brandon Sanderson was or what he’d written. I wasn’t even that big on reading fantasy or sci-fi at the time. It’s still fun thinking about the similarities, and it was that story and the feedback I received from it that launched my writing addiction.

Can we get this cover art over in the states? Beautiful!

Okay, I got a little off topic there, but here we are at Skyward! I knew I’d enjoy this book, I mean come on, I haven’t read a Sanderson book I didn’t like. But still. It was a little different for him. It’s not his usual fantasy stuff, even though he showed his versatility with The Reckoners series (Steelheart, Firefight, and Calamity). Skyward is a young adult science fiction novel, told from young aspiring pilot’s point of view, Spensa.

We follow Spensa, callsign: Spin, as she enters flight school to become a pilot and protect her home from the evil Krell, a mysterious alien, or not so alien, race. Along the way, she has to follow in her disgraced father’s footsteps, a labeled coward that was claimed to have bailed on the fleet when needed most. It’s because of her father’s reputation that Spin is treated like shit for most of the novel, but you know what? She perseveres! Sure, there are times when she wants to say, “Screw it,” and stick it to the admiral. Every character has to go through their own rocky road, and this is part of Spin’s. I did get a little aggravated about all those darn people, labeling Spin and her family cowards when most everyone else are the true cowards. She’s the only one that is crazy and brave enough to do the things she’s done, and other families pull their kids out of flight school because it’s too dangerous. Ooh, if I was Spensa I’d be ripping on everyone I overcame all the time! Get it, girl.

So because the admiral hates her, Spin has to pass this rigorous flight class while also being homeless. Yeah. She can attend school, but she can’t live in the dorms or eat any food. So she goes and finds a cave and eats cooked up rats that she’s hunted. Remember that bit about perseverance? That’s our Spin! Well, on one of her excursions outside of school she finds something special. A ship. But not just any ship. This is an ancient marvel of engineering. So advanced that its technology could turn the tide of the war. Too bad it’s broken down. Oh wait, Spin’s best friends with a cadet dropout that also happens to be an engineering almost-genius? Ahh yeah, they’re gonna fix this thing up! Welcome, M-Bot, a super intelligent, ancient, and sarcastic AI powered ship that has a thing for shoes and mushrooms. I love M-Bot!

I really love how M-Bot was written. He was unique and not like all these other robot/AI characters that you see in sci-fi. I guess the closest comparison would be K2-SO from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. You can even see his growth throughout the novel, just like all the other characters! That’s not something you see with a character like him.

Reading this I had to wonder, did Brandon go through a flight school of his own to write this book? The technical aspect of flying and everything involved down to engineering and design was on point. It made me relive a childhood dream of being a pilot myself, back when my buds and I would fly little hot wheels sized jets around our rooms, shooting each other down in imaginary explosions. Scudding awesome.

What I really loved about this book was that I was constantly guessing at what his twists would be. Brandon Sanderson always has twists in his books, and they’re always great. His writing was what inspired my big twists in Naevia-18, and one of my readers even mentioned that it was “Sandersonesque” in that way. Is M-Bot a Krell? Is Cobb somehow M-Bot’s long dead pilot that was granted immortality? Is Spensa a distant descendant of a Krell/Human relationship? I asked myself questions constantly up until everything was revealed, and I wasn’t disappointed with the result.

The setting I felt was very cool and unique. It would be easy to come up with a world that is very earth-like, but Sanderson’s world is unlike any I’ve read of before. It’s a planet surrounded by a debris field that was put there, not by accident. The debris field is what protects the humans but is also a very dangerous thing, as debris constantly falls and allows the Krell through to attack. Well done.

This was a very solid book, and in my opinion one of Sanderson’s best. I picked it up and hated when I had to put it down (I mean, who needs sleep anyway, right?). It’s sequel, Starsight, should be out later this year. You can bet I’ll be picking that up.

If you, for some reason, don’t know much about Brandon Sanderson, first off… where have you been!? This guy churns out novels like butter, and his stories go down just as delicious. I mentioned the Mistborn books and The Reckoners trilogy, but he’s got all sorts of standalone work along with the massive tomes found in The Stormligbt Archive. Heck, he’s created an entire multiverse with his stories called the “Cosmere.” If that’s not enough, he finished off Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. Want to find out more? Start here:

BrandonSanderson.com

Thank you for another amazing book, Mr. Sanderson.

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