Today is publication day for one of my most anticipated books of the year, Skyward by Brandon Sanderson, and I am so so so thrilled to be kicking off the blog tour for you!
Book: Skyward by Brandon Sanderson
Read before: No
Ownership: Finished copy sent by Gollancz for fair review. All opinions my own.
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 fight the enemy in the skies. Pilots have become the heroes of what’s left of the human race.
Spensa has always dreamed of being one of them; of soaring above Earth and proving her bravery. But her fate is intertwined with her father’s – a pilot who was killed years ago when he abruptly deserted his team, placing Spensa’s chances of attending flight school somewhere between slim and none.
No one will let Spensa forget what her father did, but she is still determined to fly. And the Krell just made that a possibility. They’ve doubled their fleet, making Spensa’s world twice as dangerous . . . but their desperation to survive might just take her skyward . . .
I just don’t know how Brandon Sanderson does it. I think he might be a wizard. I’ve been enthralled by his work since I picked up the first Mistborn book in 2010 (in a 3 for 2 with The Name of the Wind and The Lies of Locke Lamora – best deal ever), and his books are just consistently astonishing. Skyward is the first fully sci-fi book I’ve read from him (see my review of the sci-fi adjacent Snapshot here), and as I’m a huge fan of his fantasy worlds, I was expecting very good things from this… Luckily, he delivered even beyond my expectations!
Skyward is a fairly chunky book, at just over 500 pages, but it never for one second feels like a long book. In fact, around 450 pages in, I was gutted that I had so little left to read, as I could have stayed with Spensa for ever! It’s a story that somehow manages to feel incredibly comfortable and familiar, while also keeping you guessing at every turn. We follow Spensa as she tries to prove everyone wrong about her father by becoming the best pilot she can be – this means one of my favourite things, a training academy! If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know that I adore school settings, and this is no exception. The situation is made unique by the mystery behind the lessons – what really did happen to Spensa’s father? – and the fact that the authorities hate Spensa so much that she is denied access to all school facilities outside of the classroom. This gives a really interesting edge to the usual training-montage-plot.
Spensa is an excellent heroine and viewpoint character. I loved how human she was – she’s angry and defensive but also incredibly caring and compassionate. I just wanted to see her succeed – and believe me, it’s not a given at any point! Her flight instructor, Cobb, was probably my favourite character. He kind of reminded me of Haymitch from The Hunger Games, in as much as he’s a mentor figure who is deeply scarred from his own experiences, and now has to send these children into the same situation. I thought he was very deftly drawn, with so many layers, and looked forward to Spensa’s classes to see more of him. Without giving too much away, I also loved M-Bot, an AI that we meet slightly later on in the book, and who has a wonderful personality!
I mentioned that the story feels somehow familiar, and I think there’s a good reason for that. Spensa was brought up hearing the epic stories of Earth – Beowulf, the Odyssey, and so on. Her own story follows the archetype of myth, from a humble beginning to a triumphant (if complicated) conclusion. We’ve seen this story before, from Sinbad to Star Wars, but please don’t think that’s a criticism. Instead, I feel like it gives Skyward a classic feel which for me,makes this book feel like it’s been an old favourite for years. It’s clever. And of course, this is layered with Sanderson’s trademark world-building – he is the world-building king. While the action is heavily focused on the Academy (and you know, space), you get these glimpses of the world outside Spensa’s experience that hint that there is a fully developed community on this planet. The history and mysteries that unfold over the course of the story are rich – though seeing everything through Spensa’s eyes limits our view of the world, it is certainly there.
Oh, I just loved this. I could go on and on about the storycraft and the beauty of Sanderson’s writing, but what you really need to know about this book is that it’s gripping, compelling, exciting, thoughtful, and most of all, a brilliant story about a girl overcoming the odds – with spaceships. It’s a must read for any Sanderson fan or sci-fi aficionado, or anyone who just loves a good story. I already can’t wait to read it again. Five out of five cats for sure!