Book Review : Starsight

Book Review : StarsightStarsight (Skyward, #2) by Brandon Sanderson
on November 26th 2019
Pages: 461
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From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Reckoners series, Words of Radiance, the Mistborn trilogy, and the Stormlight Archive comes the second book in an epic series about a girl with a secret in a dangerous world at war for humanity's future.
All her life, Spensa has dreamed of becoming a pilot. Of proving she's a hero like her father. She made it to the sky, but the truths she learned about her father were crushing. The rumors of his cowardice are true--he deserted his flight during battle against the Krell. Worse, though, he turned against his team and attacked them.
Spensa is sure there's more to the story. And she's sure that whatever happened to her father in his starship could happen to her. When she made it outside the protective shell of her planet, she heard the stars--and it was terrifying. Everything Spensa has been taught about her world is a lie.
But Spensa also discovered a few other things about herself--and she'll travel to the end of the galaxy to save humankind if she needs to.

I am so glad that I pushed through Skyward in order to get to its follow up, Starsight. Starsight feels much more like a Sanderson novel to me, complete with amazing world, er, galaxy building. I was completely surprised and thrown by the direction Starsight went in, but boy, was I glad it did. The only reason I didn’t give this book five stars was because there were a mere one or two things I think it really could have done better.


Focus on the mission, I thought. Steal a hyperdrive. Come flying home with salvation in tow, to the praise of my allies and the weeping of my enemies.


Starsight follows Spensa on her most dangerous mission yet, being a spy behind enemy lines. If that weren’t hard enough for our less than subtle spy, she has to travel way outside of her comfort zone–and her home planet, Detritus. After an alien with the same cytonic abilities as Spensa crash lands on Detritus, she begs Spensa to venture across the galaxy to an alien space station, known as Starsight. Realizing that she can use the coordinates from the alien, and that she now has a chance to infiltrate a society with the technology to use hyperdrives, Spensa adopts the alien’s identity and sets off with her trusty pet Doomslug, and her smart-mouthed ship, M-bot. 


At first I was disappointed that more of Starsight didn’t take place on Detritus. I was bummed that I wouldn’t see more of the rest of Spensa’s friends and flightmates, but as Spensa infiltrates Starsight, she soon finds herself a new flight, and even a rival cytonic user and human, known as Brade. I was shocked at how much I loved Spensa’s new motley crue of alien flight mates. There’s Vapor, an invisible floating cloud who expresses her emotions in feelings, Hesho a former king of the fox-like Kitsen who is trying (and hilariously failing) to enforce his people to enact a democracy, and Morrimur, a dione who technically hasn’t yet been born and is something of a rough drafted. I loved all of them, perhaps even more than Spensa’s flightmates back home on Detritus.


 I was quickly ensnared by the alien lifestyle and customs that Sanderson artfully weaves into his story with a practiced ease . It amazes me how well the author is able to build a world, or galaxy, and how it never feels like an information dump. Instead, he merely makes the cultures and customs a part of every facet of daily life in a way that feels completely natural. In Starsight, something as little as a smile can have such big implications. And not only does Spensa have to get over her own presumptions about aliens, but she also has to get over their prejudices against humans. 


“Wait. What was that you said? My ancestors tried to conquer the galaxy three times?” “And quite nearly succeeded each time,” M-Bot said. “According to the records on Alanik’s ship. Many in the Superiority apparently name the ‘human scourge’ the greatest threat the galaxy has ever known.


At the end of Skyward, we found out that humans are imprisoned on Spensa’s home planet by aliens out of fear for the destruction of the galaxy. As such, other species, or aliens universally regard all humans with intense fear and dislike. Spensa’s new rival, Brade, is practically a pet to high ranking Krell official, with him needing a license to own her and train her.  even though she disdains her own kind as well for their believed inherent aggression and destruction. I really liked Brade’s efficiency as a character, she is a human like Spensa, but was taken from her family at the age of seven to live with aliens. As such, she harbors her own hatred for humanity and herself, rendering her own viewpoints as a direct foil to everything Spensa stands for and is. I think their reluctant bond, as well as the other relationships Spensa forms with alien, has really helped Spensa grow as a person, pilot, and a character.


We flew like we’d been wingmates for decades, rarely needing to even confirm with the other what to do. Perhaps it was because we were both cytonic, or maybe it was because our individual piloting styles were in sync. Over the last week, I’d spent time training with each member of the flight—but I never seemed to fly as well as I did when Brade was on my wing.


However, I do wish that the novel had spent more time on Spensa’s relationship with Brade. I also wished more time had been dedicated to her friendship with Spensa outside of their training practices. Instead, Spensa really only hangs out with another alien flight mate, Morrimur, which seems like a major missed opportunity. It certainly would have given more emotional payoff to the final confrontation between the two. Instead, it’s just like the two are immediately great wingmates despite their different backgrounds and beliefs. Spensa is determined to save Brade from herself. Admittedly another part of me almost wished that Brade had been a love interest, whether as a female character or instead a male character, and that Spensa developed romantic feelings for the human-hater, making the two quite literally star crossed lovers—something that would’ve forced a bit more depth into their relationship. Instead, Brade’s background, trauma, and beliefs are not given much page space, which undercuts her usefulness as Spensa’s foil. Likewise, I wish we could have seen less bravado and more conflict in Brade. I felt that Starsight really only scratched the surface of these facets of Brade, but I get the feeling that future novels will give the character some more complexity.  Hopefully though, Sanderson will push the parallels between Spensa and Brade—both cytonics, excellent pilots, and determined to see through their goals—in future entries in the series and give it a bit more complexity. 


“And we’re supposed to fear people who can see into the nowhere,” I whispered. “Because they draw the attention of the eyes.”


The only other thing that gave me pause in this masterpiece of a follow-up was the confrontation with the eyes Spensa sees so often, the mysterious malevolent beings known as the Delvers. I absolutely adored everything Spensa learned about the mysterious eyes in the sky, the Delvers, and about their threat to the galaxy. I loved her training on how to fight what seem like the cytonics’s naturally enemies. So it came to a surprise to me, how at the very end of the novel View Spoiler » I honestly fear Sanderson wrote himself into a corner with this ending, but seeing as he always has a plan, I am cautiously optimistic to see where the next entry in the series goes. 


Honestly, I enjoyed Starsight way more than its predecessor, Skyward. It felt more mature as a whole and was a pleasure to read, instead of something to force myself through in good faith of the author. I am really excited to read future entries in the series and to see what kind of trouble Spensa gets herself into next. 

Book Review : Starsight - Blogging with Dragons

Posted March 22, 2021 in Book Reviews, Science Fiction, Young Adult

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