I fancied myself mostly as a fantasy author and reader. Magic and the idea of drawing the power from within had always been elements of storytelling I loved (very anime). But recently I was enamored with the idea of trying to write a science fiction story. Lo and behold, as I thought about it Skyward by Brandon Sanderson had come out. To no one’s surprise, I can honestly say I loved it so much.
The story starts off strong with a painful start to Spensa’s journey. Having to grow up labelled the daughter of a coward is hard for anyone, but she remained determined to join flight school and prove herself. Spensa’s journey was one that really caught me off guard with how emotional it became. There were moments where my heart just plummeted along with Spensa’s. Her character development delved into some really serious themes of courage, what it means to be brave, and the trauma of loss. It was wonderful seeing how she grew throughout learning more about the DDF, her father, and herself. The way she interacted not just with her peers but also with her superiors evolved throughout the story to reflect how much she had grown. It was satisfying to see how the change was gradual and really helped to make the cast of characters more endearing.
The skies truly come alive with each time Spensa took flight. The descriptions of the dogfights are epic and really come alive with tension. Sanderson spares no detail in explaining how the mechanics of these fights work and because of that, you really get a sense of tension each time. But Atla Base and Igneus, the people of defiant, fuel the internal struggles and conflicts that Spensa and her peers endure. The way the culture is ingrained in everyone, from the very top to the lowest citizen, impacts how Spensa perceives herself and everyone she meets. The culture is reflected in everyone’s interactions not just with Spensa but with each other. It really serves to drive home how critical the ideas of courage, bravery and especially cowardice are so impactful to the plot.
Spensa’s journey is a difficult one that deals with human nature and elements of self discovery. Living under her father’s shadow as the child of a coward allows for some intense and awkward moments that make for an exhilarating story. The novel is long and takes its time to really build up what’s happening. Every plotline is given a good amount of attention to keep it from being forgotten. It helps to keep the story from ever feeling plodding or cumbersome. The story was easy to get lost in for hours and enjoy every minute of it. There is a good mix of levity tempered with moments of tragedy. Neither feels off-putting or ill-timed and serves to strengthen the story and character development.
It’s Brandon Sanderson. At this point I think it’s safe to say his writing style is amazingly well done. For the sheer length of the novel I never felt exhausted or overwhelmed. The writing flowed smoothly from scene to scene without waxing too much on details. That being said, Sanderson does an excellent job of writing a scene without drowning the reader with useless information. The story is solidly character driven and never pushed by a random event because the plot needed it. Spensa was always the driving force behind her own story and it always makes for a compelling read.
What Writers can learn from this book
This story hit so many more emotional cues than I was expecting it to. There were a lot of times where I felt myself tense as revelations came to light or dog fights intensified. But what was most impactful was the emotional toll on Spensa as the story progressed. To see how her confidence is shaken, to see her start to question things about the world and herself, it really pulls at the heart strings of the reader. You want her to be right, we’re routing for her throughout the story but fearing the worst. They way it’s conveyed through the interactions with others, through her own self reflection, it’s a level of character development that is easy to understand but masterfully perfected.
My favorite book so far!