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Book Rec: The Starward Series by Brandon Sanderson (YA military SF)

Skyward Book CoverTLDR: Magic outcast girl goes to military Flight School to save humanity and also the universe. It’s great!

On a desert planet that is totally not Arrakis, lives Spensa Nighshade, feisty orphan with super-human skills.

And a temper.

Spensa’s temper often gets her into trouble, in big part due to the fact that in her hyper-militarized society (think Starship Troopers on steroids, under constant threat of alien attack), starship pilots and their families are worshiped. As the daughter of a pilot, Spensa should have it all, especially access to the flight academy.

Only problem: everyone thinks her father was a coward, abandoning his flight mates at the worst possible moment.

Everyone except Spensa, that is…

What’s to like?

I’ve got a love-hate relationship with Brandon Sanderson.

I love his books, his openness, his care for his fans and how he seems to be an all-round good guy. I hate the length of his books. Seriously Brandon, you ever heard the term “The End”?

The Skyward series of YA novels is short. That is, Brandon-short, meaning about the length of a regular fantasy novel, around 120 000 word/600 pages each.

That’s still a lot of reading. And it’s worth every minute of it.

I breezed through all three of the available Starward books (a fourth, that will end the current series, is due in 2023,) and I loved them. They are tense, wrapping mystery with action and some truly likeable characters.

Even a lot of the bad guys are likeable, once their motivations are revealed.

At the same time, Sanderson is a master of injustice, doling it out to hurt and harry his characters in ways that grab you and pull you through the story.

Cytonic Book CoverThere are a few moments in each book where the story loses pace, but I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that they’re there to let you put down the book and get some sleep. I’ve heard Brandon mention it on his writing craft podcast appearances, that you need to give the reader a breather now-and-then.

And even then, you’re still engaged in the story, and want to get back to it.

There aren’t all that many original ideas in the series, but Sanderson executes the tropes masterfully, and you never feel that the books are stale. Instead, they come across as familiar and comforting, the kind of novels you’d read when you’re in the mood for a pop-corn action movie with a happy ending and not too much danger.

And as such, they work great!


From Brandon Sanderson, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Reckoners series, the Stormlight Archive, and the internationally bestselling Mistborn series, comes the first book in an epic new series about a girl who dreams of becoming a pilot in a dangerous world at war with an alien race called the Krell.

Spensa’s world has been under alien attack for decades. Pilots are the heroes of what’s left of humanity, and becoming a pilot is Spensa’s dream. Ever since she was a little girl, Spensa has dreamed of soaring skyward and proving her bravery. But her father’s legacy stands in the way—he was a pilot who was killed for desertion years ago, branding Spensa the daughter of a coward, and making her chances of attending flight school slim to none.

Spensa is still determined to fly—even if it means she must be as resilient in the face of long odds as humanity itself has had to be against the alien threat. And her accidental discovery in a long forgotten cavern might just grant her a way to claim the stars.

Goodreads blurb

Defeated, crushed, and driven almost to extinction, the remnants of the human race are trapped on a planet that is constantly attacked by mysterious alien starfighters. Spensa, a teenage girl living among them, longs to be a pilot. When she discovers the wreckage of an ancient ship, she realizes this dream might be possible—assuming she can repair the ship, navigate flight school, and (perhaps most importantly) persuade the strange machine to help her. Because this ship, uniquely, appears to have a soul.


Skyward at Brandon Sanderson’s site

Goodreads Skyward series info


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