#SciFiMonth YA Weekend: Cytonic 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: 3.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Series: Book 3 of Skyward
Publisher: Delacorte (November 23, 2021)
Length: 432 pages
Oh, Brandon Sanderson, you sly dog. So who saw those twists coming? Not me! Cytonic is the third book in the epic YA sci-fi series Skyward, continuing protagonist Spensa’s journey across the galaxy to save her world from destruction. Along the way, we’re also introduced to an incredible line-up of supporting characters as she goes about forming new alliances left and right, though a few familiar names and faces do show up, and some of them are bringing big surprises, I might add.
Before we begin though, it is important to note this review will likely contain spoilers for the first two books, Skyward and Starsight, as well as possibly the novellas set in the world so far, Sunreach and ReDawn. All the events and characters are connected in some way, so it would be impossible to discuss this book without touching upon the others, and let’s not forget how the previous novel ended on a cruel cliffhanger which saw Spensa pull off a desperate gambit to escape a no-win situation.
The good news is, she made it through to the other side of that mysterious portal in one piece. The bad news is, it has literally landed her in the middle of nowhere. Few have ever returned from this place, known to be the home of the Delvers, ancient extradimensional beings that pose a lethal threat whenever they manifest into physical space. But while Spensa is here, she figures she might as well do some investigating into her surroundings, see if the timeless emptiness will shed some insight on how to complete her mission. A cytonic, she is also not without the skills to utilize the energies of the nowhere, not to mention she’s one hell of a pilot.
As I mentioned, in this book our protagonist is joined by a handful of new allies. In the nowhere, she encounters Chet Starfinder, an explorer of sorts. Together with our old friend M-Bot (because yes, he tags along here as well), they provide much of the comic relief so readers have more to interest them than watching Spensa poke her way around trying to figure things out. Then we also have the Broadsiders, who are essentially space pirates with their own code and unique culture. Luckily for Spensa, they also revere good piloting skills, making her a shoo-in for their clan.
So, yes, there were a lot of fun elements to this book. That said, despite the scenes of heart-pounding dogfights between spacecraft and conversations filled with laugh-worthy banter, there was also much about Cytonic that felt like filler. I couldn’t help but feel it was a step back from Starsight, which as you might recall, I loved because of how ridiculously fast-paced, urgent, and exciting it was. In contrast, Cytonic felt like a very different novel than its predecessors, in that it mainly focuses on Spensa as she embarks on this mini-mission which feels a lot like a side quest in the context of the series’ overall arc. Characters we know and love from before, namely the members of Skyward Flight, are largely absent except for a few stolen moments with Jorgen. Before this, I confess I had been looking upon the Skyward novellas with skepticism, but now I see their purpose may have been to remind us all of the big picture, since what we get in Cytonic is only a narrow slice of the greater conflict at hand.
In many ways, this novel also serves as an information drop. There’s a lot to take in about the nowhere and cytonics, especially towards the end. Spensa also gains a lot of new knowledge about the Delvers and their role in the greater galaxy at large, and how it all relates to the war against the Superiority. And yeah, there were some pretty big bombshells as well. There’s no denying that the scope of the world-building has pretty much exploded with Cytonic, and you can be damn sure it’s all very cool, though just be forewarned if you’re not following carefully enough, it can be easy to get lost or confused.
In terms of the story, admittedly a lot of it smacks of being a bridge book connecting what came before to what’s coming next, but on the bright side, we do see plenty of character growth from Spensa. It’s also always a pleasure to see her relationships with others develop, and of course, new characters mean new kinds of interactions and Sanderson is ever the wiz at creating unique personalities and coming up with brilliant dialogue.
Perhaps most important of all, Cytonic also sets the scene up for great things to come in this next installment. No scream-inducing cliffhanger this time around, thank goodness, but the ending does leave us with plenty of questions that I’m eager to get answers to. This was a great book to get to know Spensa better, but here’s hoping the next one will put us back on the fast track.