Book review: Skyward #3 – Cytonic by Brandon Sanderson

It’s been quite a while since I’ve read Starsight back in 2019, but the book was pretty great but didn’t feel as strong as the first book Skyward. Part of that was because the theme shift between what book one was a fight for humanity’s survival against a brutal and unknowable alien race to book two which was a story of subterfuge and understanding of said alien race felt very strange. Thankfully book 3 feels like an appropriate continuation of the series that builds on Spensa as a character and brings more understanding to the rather chaotic story.

Character Development

Strangely enough, while Spensa continues to be an endearing character growing to understand her role in a larger stage, her development isn’t necessarily the highlight here. In fact, while she does grow as a character and questions herself, she doesn’t actually change that much as a character throughout Cytonic. Spensa is a brave warrior who has her ups and downs and, when faced with what feels like an impossible choice, still finds a way to stay true to her nature.There are a few times where, when she questions herself, that it’s not quite clear what the right answer really is. There is a newfound temperance to her actions that, while she still stays true to herself, she is a bit wiser as a result. Nothing is ever quite black and white with Spensa with really shows how much she’s grown throughout the series.

Rather than Spensa, the most impactful development feels focused on the supporting cast of characters. Unfortunately it’s hard to really go in-depth on who exactly the character development is for but what I can say is that it’s an excellent exploration of humanity and what it means to be alive. There’s almost a shocking level of existentialism that comes from Spensa’s adventure but moreso how it affects her companions. It does tend to trend on higher sci-fi concepts to explain the growth of these characters and requires the reader to have their understanding a bit more malleable to justify them. But Sanderson does a great job in making a compelling reason to believe in their growth.


The main plotline of Cytonic, while it fits within the context of the full Skyward series, it still feels weird and very different from the previous two books. But, to be fair, the precedent was already set with Starsight feeling very different from Skyward. That being said, the main story is quite engaging even if it feels like not a whole lot happens in what is quite a large book. Part of that is because there’s so much exposition that feels important to the development of the cast of characters but the actual action is fairly quick. There’s a lot of discussion, planning and talking which builds on the character development Spensa had in Starsight. It’s very clear that she’s grown a lot since her days of being an outcast and it shows as she drives the plot forward based on her choices to what happens to her and her comrades.


The universe of Skyward from the first two books always felt oddly incomplete. There was what felt like two major questions that came from the first book, one of which was answered in the second book and now the third book answers that final question. Despite how weird and strange a lot of the elements of the Skyward universe had felt, Sanderson did an amazing job having it all make sense by the end of Cytonic. It also does a great job building on the knowledge of aliens established in Starsight in a way that humanizes them and helps Spensa realize her own prejudices and shortcomings.

Writing Style

As always to be expected, Brandon Sanderson does a fantastic job of writing in a way that keeps a reader engaged. The whole story is written in first person narrative from Spensa’s perspective and her personality spills into everything described from scene to scene. He does an excellent job of give the text a very Skyward feel to it as Spensa’s quirky personality tailors everything to fit her perspective as she develops as a character. However there are times when it feels like certain descriptions are far longer than they need to be and certain interactions feel a bit dragged out. The book is quite long but in terms of what actually happens, it doesn’t quite feel like a lot of major events took place to note.


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