Review: Skyward

“When this is done, Jerkface, I will hold your tarnished and melted pin up as my trophy as your smoldering ship marks your pyre and the final resting place of your crushed and broken corpse!” ~ Brandon Sanderson, Skyward

Skyward by Brandon Sanderson
510 pages
Delacorte Press, 2018
Genre: Science fiction, young adult
Re-readability: I might revisit this someday, as long as I enjoy the sequels!
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed by Pete
Spoiler-free review

Brandon Sanderson described Skyward as How to Train My Dragon meets Top Gun, and it’s a pretty accurate description.

Spensa is the young daughter of a pilot on a planet that holds the last vestiges of human civilization. Most people live in cities deep underground, safe from the Krell ships that constantly attack the surface. Humans have been at war with the Krell since they landed on the planet decades ago, and pilots are viewed as the heroes who stand between the Krell and certain doom.

Spensa’s father was shot down when he fled combat when Spensa was young. Even though he is viewed as a traitor, Spensa still remembers him as a loving father and as a hero. She wants nothing more than to become a pilot and go to Flight School. When she finally gets in, it’s harder than she could have imagined, and she has to constantly prove her bravery and loyalty to everyone around her.

This book was a blast to read. Sanderson gets right to the action, and there’s rarely fifty pages without a dogfight. He clearly did his research on dogfighting and the effects of g-forces, and as always, his action scenes are excellent.

Spensa was easy to like from the beginning. She hides behind her over-the-top brutality and aggression, which makes for some hilarious moments. The supporting characters are quite strong as well, especially a certain AI ship named M-Bot.

Sanderson did a great job of breaking a few tropes in this novel, but one that stood out was the Flight School test. Students can take it when they’re eighteen, but it isn’t some grand (and stupidly dangerous) trial. It’s a test—on paper, with multiple choice questions. But he still made the scene fun to read.

Another major surprise was that the teenage characters are actually killed in combat from time to time. It was a good reminder that this is a book about war—action scenes can be dazzling and exciting, but war is awful and leaves behind painful memories and scars that last a lifetime.

By far the best trope inversion was the bully/rival character, Jorgen. I don’t want to get too far into it, but he may be the best character in the book.

My main gripe with Skyward was the middle of the book. The plot enters a pattern of training/invasion that feels monotonous. The plot is always moving forward, but it seems to rely on the same types of scenes.

Sanderson pulls the whole thing off with an intriguing ending that left me with some questions about the world of Detritus.

The well-written characters and dialogue kept me engaged and were enough to save a plot that felt repetitive at times. I will definitely be reading the sequel when it comes out next year.

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