Skyward - Sanderson's YA series.

  • Posted on: 22 March 2019
  • By: Sevhina

Skyward Book CoverAccording to Brandon Sanderson himself Skyward is a combination of How to Train Your Dragon, Top Gun, and Ender's Game and I can see the influence of each. Spensa's people were forced to land on a deserted world that once belonged to an advanced civilization who left behind an extensive orbital defense system that protected them at the same time it prevented all communication with the rest of humanity. They are under near constant attack by aliens whose nature and motives remain a mystery centuries later. Once they managed to manufacture fighters they started to fight back but in the first critical battle Spensa's father he was labeled a coward and shot down by his own people. She has always dreamed of being a pilot like her father and proving everyone wrong.

While exploring the far reaches of the caverns her people live in, Spensa discovers an ancient fighter ship. It needs extensive repairs but the very quirky AI still functions, mostly. M-bot, as she calls it, has lost most of its memory data, but its obviously quite advanced compared to their own ships. With the help of an engineering friend she starts trying to repair it. At the same time she is grudgingly allowed to attend flight school. The typical YA academy, competitive, and survival tropes are all included. Spensa also attempts to discover the truth of what happened to her father which is even worse than the official story but only leads to more questions. Questions about not only her father but about the circumstances that led the original space fleet to mutiny and land on this isolated world.

On the surface Skyward is another YA series in a semi-dystopian world. M-bot fills the role of Toothless in How to Train Your Dragon. The enigmatic aliens bent on exterminating humanity is reminiscent of the buggers of Ender's Game and like Ender, Spensa begins to question what we know of how and why the aliens attack. As in Top Gun the pressures of fighter pilot training are stronger and more tragic than Spensa imagined. Everyone sees the pilots as heroes but few of them live to enjoy the perks.

Being Sanderson the writing is excellent and the story only deepens as it goes along. That's good because it feels a bit thin at the beginning. The setting is interesting and I hope we learn more about how this planet ended up as it did in future installments. There is also an intriguing concept for distant space travel that proves integral to the plot and I hope is explored further. I consider the portrayal of adults in this book a refreshing change from many in the genre. Typically the adults are either evil or ineffective non-entities and its up to the teens to save everyone. There are the stereotypical aristocratic types but the adults in both her family and the defense force are all doing what they can despite what Spensa initially thinks. That is what I most liked about the story, that the adults are not lying to her for selfish reasons, they are doing the best they can, and are supportive when she makes sense. Mostly. They are still human, afterall. 

This is intended to be a four book series. For those familiar with Sanderson's other series this isn't part of the Cosmere and there is a novella called Defending Elysium that takes place centuries prior to Skyward in the same universe but is unrelated to this series as far as I know.

It is narrated by Suzy Jackson, (she also did Undercity by Catherine Asaro), and has 5 stars on Audible.