by Brandon Sanderson
Since Spensa was a child, she dreamed of becoming a pilot, a hero that defended her world from the Krell. But she has been branded coward’s daughter since the day her father broke rank and fled from the enemy. Her chances of becoming a pilot are almost zero. And as Spensa strives to become the warrior she had always envisioned, she begins to unearth old secrets, secrets that may better have remained hidden.
Brandon Sanderson has a knack for writing stories in unique settings with novel concepts, as shown in the Mistborn Trilogy and the Reckoners series, among many others. With Skyward, the setting isn’t quite as original, but there are still many new elements. Sanderson explains each scientific phenomenon in a way that is easy to understand so that the reader isn’t left with glazed eyes and a need to read the passage again.
Each character has a distinct and intriguing personality. From the insufferably arrogant Jorgen, to the beautifully serene FM, to the endlessly cheerful Kimmalyn, Sanderson makes every person come alive, first painting each with broad, colorful strokes, then following up with finer techniques. Once I became familiar with each character’s unique mannerisms, I began to more fully enjoy the dialogues. Reading each exchange was like watching a picture form, each character adding a detail. With Kimmalyn, it was usually a ridiculous quip delivered with all sincerity; with Arturo, a full-blown lecture designed to show off his treasure trove of knowledge.
In addition to his diverse cast of characters, Sanderson also works some humor into the story. With so many different personalities at play, they are bound to interact in interesting ways. Having grown up entertaining herself with extravagant daydreams, Spensa is prone to spouting passionate lines from her mental storybook, liberally strewn with vivid adjectives. These outbursts never fail to momentarily silence everyone within earshot and often result in exchanged looks of incredulity. Spensa, of course, fervently despises Jorgen, who, in addition to being completely full of himself, happens to be right most of the time. Kimmalyn, with her unfailing ebullience and hesitancy to offend others is always a bright addition to any conversation. Add to this all the individual quirks of the other characters and the fact that most of the cadets in Spensa’s flight team are naturally aggressive, and you have a delightfully comical dynamic – not the laugh-out-loud kind, but the kind that makes the corners of your mouth curl ever so slightly upwards.
I would recommend this book for both younger and older readers. With its fair balance of action and relationship building, it makes for an engrossing read. It does contain a made-up four-letter word used frequently throughout the book, but this word has no meaning in the real world. Skyward offers mostly entertainment, but readers can learn much in the way of tasteful humor from Sanderson’s skillful pen.