CW’s: Death, Bullying, War Scenes
Now pilots are the heroes of what’s left of the human race, and becoming one has always been Spensa’s dream. Since she was a little girl, she has imagined soaring skyward and proving her bravery. But her fate is intertwined with that of her father’s—a pilot himself who was killed years ago when he abruptly deserted his team, leaving Spensa the daughter of a coward, her chances of attending Flight School slim to none.
No one will let Spensa forget what her father did, yet fate works in mysterious ways. Flight school might be a long shot, but she is determined to fly. And an accidental discovery in a long-forgotten cavern might just provide her with a way to claim the stars.
➽ Spensa was a great heroine with a distinct character voice. I was a bit hesitant about her as she’s a very strong character that you either like or don’t. But Spensa is really well-written. Though flawed, she’s got such an interesting background story and distinctive character voice that I immediately connected to her and was rooting for her to succeed the entire time. Spensa’s pilot father instilled her love for flying in her, but when he supposedly abandoned his flight mates in the most important historic battle, he was shot down and branded a coward for trying to flee. Ever since Spensa and her family have lived with the scorn of others, which especially hit her hard as she loves his father and is sure of his innocence. She’s determined to become a pilot, but there are a lot of people with grudges against her father who try to prevent her dream. Spensa is frustrated, was often isolated as a child and had to rely on herself to provide for the family. While the other pilot families get privileges, her mother and grandmother receive nothing. This background explains so much about Spensa and why she has become so defensive and quick to attack others. She’s learned that she needs to anticipate other’s hostility and therefore reacts with fight. Spensa’s bold, fierce and impulsive, bordering on being reckless. A lifetime of being scorned has her wanting to fight back, though I appreciated how she slowly got more control of herself and began to think things through instead of blindly haring ahead. Another important theme in Spensa’s character arc is the definition of bravery vs. cowardice, as the worst thing for her to be would be a coward. She works so hard on being brave as she’s been told her entire life that her father’s cowardice is the worst thing that could have possibly happened to her family. However, even though the military promotes this thinking, Spoensa also begins to question her father’s story and what bravery even means to her. As she sees battles upfront, there is a great discussion about what makes a hero and how sometimes surviving means more than being branded a coward. I loved how this was explored and it fit together so well with Spensa’s own views, as she was raised on her grandmother’s stories of grand heroes and battles.
➽ I loved all the secondary characters so much! I appreciate books that have a strong character cast and take time to delve into the secondary characters, making them more than stereotypes. That’s exactly what happened here. Spensa’s flight squad – Skyward Flight – consists of many interesting characters. In the beginning she judges them and relies on her own assumptions, but I love that almost everyone proves her wrong. Even the stereotypical ‘macho/bullies’ who I thought would become trouble are more than they seem and turn out to be really complex characters. Jorgen was a bit of Jerk at first, the kind of privileged kid who enjoys being the leader and showing his own competence, but he’s not so bad once you get to know him. He’s genuinely trying his best to be a good flight leader, even though he’s sometimes a bit too methodical and by the book. Yes, he can be frustrating but he’s loyal to his squad and though Spensa antagonizes him, he sees that she’s a great pilot. The same goes for Nedd and Arturo, his two friends who at first seem like your typical ‘cronies’ intention of making Spensa’s life hell. Turns out Nedd is playing the fool, but actually has a really fun side and is kinder than he gives himself credit for. Arturo also isn’t as bad as you’d think and Spensa begins to respect all her flight mates. They all bring something to the flight, be it Bim with his passion for shooting down things or Morningtide who tries her best despite the language barriers. Kimmalyn (who often quotes the ‘Saint’s’ wisdom and seems super nice and naive, but is one of their best sharpshooters), FM (who’s challenging the Defiant culture and military system, even though she wants to become a good pilot herself) and Hurl (who’s bold, always says what she means and can come across as a bit prickly), some of the female pilots especially stood out to me.
“By me,” M-Bot said. “Earlier today. I wrote seven thousand pages. My processors work very quickly, you realize. Granted, most of what I wrote is just ‘humans are weird’ repeated 3,756,932 times.”
I also loved Rig, Spensa’s best friend from childhood, who always had her back when most of the children scorned her for her father’s reputation. The instructor Cobb was also such an interesting character. He used to be Spensa’s father’s wingmate and is the only one who gives her a chance. He’s not flying anymore, but a good teacher. He can be a bit gruff at times, but has a good heart, as he truly cares for his students. The true star of the book is M-Bot though, a mysterious ship that Spensa finds and decides to fix. It’s got an internal AI, meaning it actually talks back to her, but has lost its memory banks, so it doesn’t have any idea what it used to be. Their conversations were one of the most fun parts of the book, as M-Bot insists it’s logical, cannot think for itself, and only stimulates human emotions, but it feels more human than it should at times. It clearly cares more than it admits and I cannot wait to find out more about it! Its obsession with mushrooms was quite hilarious 😂
➽ The Dynamics in Spensa’s flight squad & with her friend Rig + M-Bot were great. The characters really make this book so great, as I was invested in their little group! Like I said Spensa’s flight mates are all different and interesting from each other. I especially enjoyed her growing respect for some of the more privileged guys in the group, once she saw that they were also loyal and invested, instead of just doing this because they could. Spensa never expected to find friends anywhere, especially as she’s still targeted by the admiral and given no housing on the base, meaning that she feels separate from the others. My heart broke for her feeling of isolation, especially as she’s used to it from her home. Ever since her father was branded a coward people treat her with scorn and it was good to see her still making connections despite that. I also loved that Spensa developed a strong bond with the other female pilots, it was good to see a bit of sisterhood and no animosities because of boys, but rather because of Spensa’s legacy. I liked that the girls were dedicated to their flying and supporting each other in the end. As I said, I also enjoyed Spensa’s friendship with Rig, especially as there was nothing romantic between them anywhere in the past. It was refreshing to see no romance focus in a story and have it explore Spensa’s platonic relationships so much. The bond she develops with M-Bot stands out on its own here, they make a great team! 🥰
“About what?” I asked. “Normal things,” FM said, shrugging. What was normal? “Like…guys?” “Stars, no,” Hurl said, sitting up and pulling something off her headboard. She held up a sketchbook filled with little drawings of ships going through patterns. “Flight strategies!”
➽ I also found the world and plot engaging. This is a tome, but I found it a super immersive reading experience, I was never bored despite a slower pacing. What the book did right is making me invested in the character dynamics and having many interesting storylines that we all explored. I loved getting such a big focus on Spensa’s journey to become a pilot and pass flight school, in general, I enjoy school settings a lot and here we saw excellent, fun interactions with the other students. There’s also a good nuanced discussion of classism and how children of pilots and important citizens get so much privilege, but that a lot of them also have no freedom in their future. We also see Spensa struggled with her father’s legacy, as being the daughter of a ‘coward’ makes her a target for the admiral, who would love to see her gone from flight school. Last but not least, Spensa is bonding with the ship she discovered M-bot and I loved their story arc of figuring out what she ship once was and if it could be fixed. The world this is set in is also interesting, it’s in a future where humans crashed on this planet called Detritus. They ow live mostly underground in caves as the planet is surrounded by old military defenses and junk that crashed on the surface. The biggest threat os a mysterious alien race called the Krell, who often attack humans, intend to wiping out the cities they built underground. That’s why the pilots and the military base are so celebrated: they keep the enemy at bay and ensure that they can build up more ships to one day escape the planet.
IN CONCLUSION. ➽ Skyward was such a fantastic adventure full of flying, space battles, and a fierce heroine who struggles with her own bravery. All the characters are really great and the storylines are so interesting, be it about mysterious aliens, AIs, or trying to become a great pilot. I was so immersed in reading this book and I cannot wait to read more! 💗
Have you read Skyward? What is your favorite book set in space/on another planet or that features flying? ⭐