Spensa will perhaps go down as Sanderson’s most inspiring heroine as she fights insurmountable odds in a high-stakes space opera.
Brandon Sanderson is my most favorite author right now and I was lucky enough to get a signed copy of Skyward. I gobble up all his books, regardless of whether they are fantasy, YA, or sci-fi. His books generally have intricate worldbuilding, enthralling magic systems, protagonists you want to root for, captivating storylines, and an explosive final arc. Replace the magic system with pilot training, and Skyward is no different.
In typical fashion, Sanderson’s world-building is one of the most interesting aspects of the story. Skyward tells the story of Spensa, a young woman who yearns to become a pilot and protect the last remnants of the human race from a mysterious alien species. Their planet is overseen by the authoritarian Defiant Defense Force, an elite air force which Spensa aspires to join.
While I thoroughly enjoyed Sanderson’s lessons on magical systems in Mistborn and Stormlight Archive, I found the flight training segments a bit underwhelming. The Battle School in Ender’s Game was a lot more interesting than the aerial dogfighting lessons in Skyward. Touted as How to Train Your Dragon meets Top Gun and Ender’s Game, I found a lot of parallels with the Divergent trilogy as well, with the Defiants not that dissimilar from the Dauntless.
Spensa’s friends at flight school are as diverse as they are relatable. Their camaraderie is brilliant and completely organic, with amazing banter and sincere conversations. For a YA novel, the death toll is surprisingly high. Sanderson has a penchant for introducing some brilliant sidekicks in his books (Syl in Stormlight, OreSeur in Mistborn). Spensa’s talking spaceship M-Bot, whose life goal is to analyze mushrooms, might be the cutest of the lot. With his data banks corrupted, M-Bot comes across as an inquisitive child with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and collecting mushroom samples.
The battle sequences are as good as befitting a Sanderson novel. But more than the action, it’s the steadfast determination of the protagonist and the hope prevalent throughout the book that make Skyward such a memorable read. Spensa grew up listening to inspirational stories from her grandmother. Despite her outward bravado, she still has to fight the demons inside her head. She also faces insurmountable odds to realize her dreams. But the way she soldiers on, like the mythical heroes from her stories, is truly awe-inspiring.
People need stories, child. They bring us hope, and that hope is real.