BOOK REVIEW: Starsight, by Brandon Sanderson

-Spoilers for Skyward, and mild spoilers for Starsight-

Starsight.jpg

Publisher: Gollancz

Series: Skyward (2)

Genre: Space Opera

Pages: 457

Publication Date: 28/11/2019

Verdict: 5/5

Spensa has uncovered the truth. That the aliens who assault her world are in fact jailers with all of humanity as their prisoners. When an opportunity presents itself to infiltrate the enemy and learn how to destroy them.

Brandon Sanderson’s Young Adult space opera continues. While the first act follows on pretty neatly from the first book, from then on it goes off in a completely different. As usual, Sanderson’s pacing is on point, with the pace rarely slowing down once the action has started, and the action starts soon. Without going into spoiler territory, this book also has the usual Sanderson hallmarks of snappy dialogue, larger-than-life characters, and a slow-burn universe that is always on the cusp of revealing yet another secret.

In this volume, we leave the world of Detritus behind, and head for the alien colony of Starsight as Spensa infiltrates the ranks of humanity’s opponents. There are a lot of aliens involved, from the familiar Krell to the genderless Diodes to an utterly alien race who exist only as smells. There is, on occasion, a sense that we’re only seeing the surface of a much larger universe, with aliens of all sorts being thrown into play, but this never detracts from the plot. In a way, the ancient enemy of humanity feels like a darker take on Star Trek‘s Federation, with hundreds of different species working toward a seemingly common goal.

Once again, our narrator is Spensa, with interludes from Jorgen’s perspective. Accompanied by M-Bot the sentient fighter jet and her adopted pet Doomslug, Spensa is separated from the cast of the first book. But fear not, for there are of course new characters in town. Representing a group of species without ever being reduced to crude stereotypes, this new dramatis personae is a far cry from the first, but each brings their own skill set and charm to the table.

Much has been made of Sanderson’s worldbuilding, and that is on fine form in Starsight. As is ever the case with his novels, Young Adult or otherwise, nothing is quite what it seems, and there are twists and turns that will keep you guessing right up until the end. Not just in terms of worldbuilding and plot, but in the nature of the story itself. Starsight is a book that manages to be many things at once. this may put off some readers, but for me it was the icing on the cake. It is to Sanderson’s credit that none of these shocking revelations ever seem out of place, even as he turns worlds on their head. If you look closely enough, you’ll see all the clues were there from the start.

As a minor aside, in my copy of the book, Chapter 45 comes after the Epilogue, which seems an odd decision to me. Either a printing error or an unusual choice, but make sure you don’t stop reading too soon.

All told, this book cements Sanderson’s place as one of the finest story crafters of this generation, and we’re only halfway through Spensa’s story.

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