A beleaguered planet, flight school, and one young woman’s quest to prove herself and clear her family honor combine in this excellent YA.
Skyward by Brandon Sanderson. Delacorte Press, 2018, 528 pages.
Ever since her late father was branded a coward, Spensa has dreamed of becoming a pilot and reclaiming her family’s honor. The motto of her cave-dwelling people is Defiant and it suits Spensa to a T. Someday she will fly, just like her father, and defeat the alien Krell who threaten her planet.
As Spensa nears the age of determining her career, she realizes the odds against her are overwhelming. When an unexpected ally helps her join flight school as a cadet, Spensa’s position is tenuous. Part of a flight taught by an unconventional leader, she grudgingly begins to learn that being a pilot means being part of something bigger —a team.
Throughout the story, Spensa grows in understanding for her classmates and realizes privilege doesn’t always make life easy. As Spensa and readers will find, the truth can be hard to accept, and vainglory with needless sacrifice is not worth the cost of a human life. Despite her gritty exterior and ridiculous blustering, readers learn to appreciate Spensa as well as her long-suffering flight mates and friends.
Human life is valued in Skyward. While there is no faith, a clear line is drawn between the value of machines and the pilots who fly them. In chapters interspersed through the story, Sanderson turns from Spensa’s perspective to some of the leaders around her, giving a glimpse into military strategy and decision making.
Though a series starter, Skyward could be treated as an excellent stand-alone novel in the YA sci-fi genre. Details about flight school, military politics, and intense air combat scenes make the story feel more like a military novel than standard sci-fi. If you ever wondered about wing fighter culture in Star Wars, here’s a whole story for you.
With no language or sex, Skyward is an anomaly in the world of YA. We can only hope that Brandon Sanderson continues the series in the same vein as his opening novel.
Overall rating: 4.5 (out of 5)
- Worldview/moral value: 4.5
- Artistic Value: 4.5
Also by Brandon Sanderson: The Rithmatist series.