Dang, it’s been a while since I wrote a straight up book review. Not that I have been in a reading slump, I have just been reading a lot more non-fiction and focusing on mental health. However, my oldest friends decided to give me a gift out of the blue last week, Brandon Sanderson’s latest book, Skyward. It was a thoughtful gift from a meaningful friend at a great time. Something I wanted and wasn’t ready to go get for myself. Thanks buddy, for the gift of flight.
Skyward came out of nowhere. Brandon Sanderson is one of the few writers that drops books on a consistent basis. Aside from that, he usually keeps us well up-to-date on what he is working on and what we can expect. On his website, you can find a full schedule of what’s coming years down the road. But, Skyward was kept under wraps, being described as a ‘secret project’ for the longest time. All we knew was that it would be a YA novel with no connection to any of his previous works.
Accepting that Skyward was meant to be a ‘secret’, I avoided all descriptions and breakdowns of the book. Right up to the moment when I cracked the cover I had zero ideas of what to expect. Well, other than Brandon Sanderson was about to take me on another epic adventure that I probably wouldn’t be able to put down. You can also come to expect some magnificent world building, which of course is involved in this book. And, more often you can expect a complex system of magic with original concepts that develop upon each other, and that’s where this book took a turn. Being accustomed to Sanderson’s amazing fantasy novels, I was not at all prepared to be taken on a Sci-fi adventure.
The story is about humanity on the brink of extinction. The last surviving group of humans live as refugees on a planet that is far from home. They have been kept from advancing back into the stars by an alien enemy, the Krell, who will bombard any community of humans that grow too large. Utilizing technology left from an old civilization, humans have finally developed a way to fight back in the way of their own starfighters. The story follows a young girl, Spin, during her rise through pilot training while combatting the notions that she will be a coward like her father is claimed to be.
I mentioned Sanderson’s amazing magic systems earlier mostly because they are one of the most enjoyable parts when reading his stories. Well, even though there was no magic inSkyward, we still get all of the fun. In place of fantastic abilities like walking on walls or shooting metal coins around, we get the starfighters. Sanderson creates a fleet of jets with their own abilities, while also describing some very real world obstacles when it comes to flying beyond the speed of sound. He utilizes modern jet fighter technology and takes it to the stars with some unique weaponry and tech. How can you not love reading about becoming a starfighter pilot?
Beyond all the glitz and glamour of flying through the sky at Mach 6, there is a significant message in this story. Sanderson himself in the Acknowledgements at the back of the book. The story is about his own fears and overcoming adversity while beginning his writing career. There is an overwhelming amount of accomplishing goals despite the many obstacles standing in the main characters way. The book is less about a girl becoming a pilot and more about a person overcoming adversity.
As I started this review I mentioned that I have been focusing on books that would help me with mental wellness. I began Skyward as a source of distraction from it all, knowing Sanderson can always pull me into a new world far away from here. What I ended with was one of the more inspirational stories that I have read in a while. I needed to hear that we can get where we want to be no matter what is in front, or behind, us. This ‘secret project’ from one of my role models and a gift from one of my closest friends became a source of inspiration to keep going. Coincidental, but powerful none the less. And, all the fun of taking to the stars didn’t hurt either.