Audiobook Review: Starsight by Brandon Sanderson
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 5 of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Series: Book 2 of Skyward
Publisher: Audible Studios (November 26, 2019)
Length: 14 hrs and 25 mins
Authors take note, this is how you write a book that will resonate with readers and stand the test of time. These days, I find the problem with a lot of YA is how canned it all feels, the way writers try so hard to conform to some pre-existing narrative which just makes the end result seem so sanctimonious and fake. And that’s why I’m such a huge fan of Brandon Sanderson, who has always ever only been interested in telling good, genuinely fun stories. There’s never an awkward social message shoehorned in or a romantic subplot not-so-unobtrusively shoved in your face, yet somehow his books always manage to be incredibly meaningful and filled with heartfelt connections anyway.
Starsight is the sequel to the brilliant Skyward, and dare I say it, but it might even be better than its predecessor. Due to the fact it would be impossible to discuss this book without getting into details from the previous one, I also highly recommend being caught up before reading this this review as it may contain potential, inadvertent spoilers for Skyward. The story once more follows protagonist Spensa, who is still processing some devastating news about her father, as she prepares to embark on another mission for her home colony of Detritus. Her people are in desperate need of hyperdrive technology—so desperate they are willing to risk sending one of their best pilots to infiltrate the Krell, a crab-like alien race who are at war with humans. Using holographic tech to take on the identity of Alanik of the UrDail, a species once allied with humanity, Spensa signs up for an interspecies training program sponsored by the Krell which would enable her to mingle with pilots from all over the galaxy.
Out of her depth, Spensa never expected she would have to play a spy. And yet, with the survival of Detritus and everyone she cares for hanging upon her success, she’s willing to do anything to get her hands on the information she needs, even if it means having to lie her way through training and deceive everyone around her. However, nothing could have prepared her for the friendships and camaraderie she finds among members of the other alien species, some of which humanity would count among their enemies. Eventually, as the truth behind what she and her fellow pilots are really training for is revealed to her, Spensa also comes to a new understanding of the world and the way she sees it.
To say that this is a book everyone needs in their lives right now is an understatement. At its heart, Starsight is story about unity, empathy, looking past our prejudices and differences because deep down inside we all want and care and fight for the same things. But unlike a lot of YA you find on the shelves today, this novel manages to get all these points across without being preachy, divisive, or smugly self-congratulatory about it. The message simply comes across naturally as an intrinsic part of the story, one that anyone anywhere at any time can relate to, and to me that is the mark of a classic. Personally, I was moved to tears as I was experiencing Spensa’s revelations and all the moments where she was hit with a clarity, and I don’t even know if Sanderson was going for such a hard-hitting emotional response, but he got it from me anyway.
Also, I say this every damn time I review anything by Brandon Sanderson, but hey, it’s true—the guy is a master world-builder. The sci-fi setting of the Skyward series is one full of originality and wonder, where the jaw-dropping surprises and moments where you think to yourself, “Cripes, how does he come up with all these cool ideas?” never stop coming. If you enjoyed being introduced to all the fascinating planets and aliens in the first book, then we will love Starsight, which expands the universe even more.
Speaking of which, there are plenty of interesting new characters to meet and fall in love with, which goes a long way in making up for the fact we don’t get to see much of those from Skyward. But fret not, for Doomslug and M-Bot are back, of course, and in a big way. By the end of the book, I guarantee you won’t look at either the same away again. And of the new characters, I loved all the aliens whose personalities and traits highlight once again the extraordinary imagination of the author. Like I said, I did miss some of the interactions between Spensa and her friends from the first book, but with time, I think this new group will endear themselves to you in more ways than you can imagine.
In fact, the only real piece of criticism I have to level at Starsight is the unbelievably sudden, unbelievably cruel cliffhanger at the end of the epilogue. While Sanderson has been known to leave some major threads hanging between books, there was a real “Are you kidding me?!” quality to this one that seemed a bit uncharacteristic of his endings. Good thing he’ll be churning out more books to his other series that I will also read in the interim, but I won’t lie, the wait to find out what happens to Spensa next will be a killer. This was just a great sequel, and a book that brought me so much joy, emotion and excitement deserves no less than a full five stars.
Audiobook Comments: I listened to the first book in audio and was fortunate to receive the opportunity to review Starsight in this format as well. Kudos to the wonderful Suzy Jackson for bringing Spensa and all the characters of this world to life with her superb narration; I loved her in Skyward and she has once again delivered a pitch perfect performance for this sequel.
More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of Skyward (Book 1)