Defeated, crushed, and driven almost to extinction, the remnants of the human race are trapped on a planet that is constantly attacked by mysterious alien starfighters. Spensa, a teenage girl living among them, longs to be a pilot. When she discovers the wreckage of an ancient ship, she realizes this dream might be possible—assuming she can repair the ship, navigate flight school, and (perhaps most importantly) persuade the strange machine to help her. Because this ship, uniquely, appears to have a soul.
This book has been sitting on my #floorstackofshame for months after my lovely friend Katie picked it up for me from a charity shop for like £1.50. I have a number of his books as he’s been an author really recommended but i’ve never actually gotten around to reading any. I have to admit, I put this book off mainly due to its size – it just seemed a bit too intimidating for me. But I finally bit the bullet at the end of last month and started reading it and I am so glad that I did.
Ohh this book was good; it had all the elements that I enjoy, a badass female lead, a questionable male lead, SENTIENT AI (YES THANK YOU), fight, bravery, determination, and strength. This book drops you straight into an emotional rollercoaster and it doesn’t really stop until the end (emotionally I mean, i’ll get to the pacing shortly). We are firstly introduced to Spensa, our protagonist, who I utterly love throughout this book; not just because of her determination to claim the stars, but also her fierce love and defense of her father who is nothing but a hero to her. What I love most about her though, is that she is flawed but she’s also not afraid to admit (albeit after some time) when she’s wrong. When she first gets into a simulation aircraft she isn’t the best, in fact she crashes pretty fast, and I was so goddamn pleased about this. I don’t want my characters to be brilliant at everything off the bat, I want them to build it up and I want them to struggle and get frustrated and KEEP TRYING. That’s what Spensa does. She keeps going back, despite the failures and the shitty treatment she gets from everyone around her, she is determined to carry out her destiny.
“Then [Hurl] sat up, holding out her fist. “Not cowards. No backing down. Brave until the end, right Spin? A pact.”
I met her fist with mine. “Brave to the end.”
She honestly just gets stronger as the book goes on, and especially once she begins to build relationships with those around her. I love her relationship with Cobb because it is so layered through both of their relationships with her father. He is such an interesting character and I hope we get more of him in the sequel. Rig, Jerkface, Hurl, FM, Quirk – all relationships that Spensa develops throughout the book are so layered and more than just what they seem on the surface. The dynamics between all of them are really interesting and there’s such a camaraderie to them and a sarcasm that is so relatable. But there’s also so much depth and this is never more present than when a character gets killed. Sidenote here – I even liked the character of Judy, because although what she was doing to Spensa seemed horrific, we ultimately learn she is doing it for the survival of the planet. I cannot imagine how awful it was for one of her trusted friends and pilots to suddenly seem to turn on you and try and kill you. She ultimately did him and his family a kindness by only stating he was a coward and not a traitor; SO MANY LAYERS.
“I know how it feels,” he said. “Like there’s been a hole carved right out of you. A chunk of flesh that’s just not going to grow back. You can function, you can fly, but you’re going to leave a blood trail for a while”
Sanderson is not an author that shies away from killing off his characters; in fact it seemed that ever page I turned a character died. It is honestly refreshing of an author to do this as you read so many fantasy books and the characters just seem to survive again and again in situations that they really shouldn’t come out of alive, so it just makes the whole book realistic. Adding death, especially of characters we’ve grown to care about over the pages really adds a depth and grit to this book and really moves to firm it in reality. War isn’t fair and it isn’t pretty; you watch those you love, that two minutes ago you were joking with, die and fall to their deaths. I am glad that Sanderson chose to represent that in this book because it really raises the stakes and makes the battle actually seem like something to be feared.
“You have four guns.”
“Someone must have stuck them on when I wasn’t looking.”
One of my upmost favourite characters is M-Bot. If you know me you now I am obsessed with AIDAN from the Illuminae Files and M-Bot honestly reminded me a little of him. He’s sarcastic and just downright hilarious at times but he’s also kind and determined to stick to his parameters and goals. I like his development throughout the book and how he learns and how he responds to Spensa; he knows what she needs from him at the right time and honestly when he came back to her – tears in my eyes.
“We must not cower in the dark because we’re afraid of the spark within us. The answer is not to put out the spark, but to learn to control it.”
My only real issue with this book is the pacing – at 500 pages long I just felt it was a bit excessive because the bulk of the action doesn’t happen until the last 70 pages, the rest is just building up to it. Although the world-building and character-building is amazing, I don’t think we needed 400 pages of it and it could have been cut shorter and then for me it would have flowed a bit better.
There are still so many unanswered questions and I am eagerly awaiting the sequel in the hopes that they get answered. I did really enjoy this read and would definitely read more from him in the future. So let’s go and claim the stars my dear friends.