Non-Spoiler Review of Brandon Sanderson’s Starsight

Background photo: NASA, JPL-Caltech, Susan Stolovy (SSC/Caltech) et al.

Last year, Brandon Sanderson launched readers into a new world with Skyward, the story of Spensa (callsign: Spin), M-Bot, and the Defiant Defense Force (DDF)—a story that encompasses amazing highs and lows. We learned about the struggles of the human race on the planet of Detritus. We also learned to love Spensa, rooting for her as she fights to become a pilot and struggles with being labeled “The Coward’s Daughter.” And on November 26, everyone will have the chance to find out where the next stage of Spensa’s journey will take us in the highly anticipated sequel, Starsight.

Checking in from Beta Flight to provide a non-spoiler review and discussion are Darci Cole, callsign: Blue, and Deana Whitney, callsign: Braid.

It is impossible to talk about Starsight without getting into spoilers for Skyward (which we’ve previously discussed here). So, we hope anyone reading this review has read the first book in the series—and if not, you should go do that now, and then come back to this article!

The cover description for Starsight reads:

All her life, Spensa has dreamed of becoming a pilot. Of proving she’s a hero like her father. She made it to the sky, but the truths she learned about her father were crushing. The rumors of his cowardice are true—he deserted his flight during battle against the Krell. Worse, though, he turned against his team and attacked them.

Spensa is sure there’s more to the story. And she’s sure that whatever happened to her father in his starship could happen to her. When she made it outside the protective shell of her planet, she heard the stars—and it was terrifying. Everything Spensa has been taught about her world is a lie.

But Spensa also discovered a few other things about herself—and she’ll travel to the end of the galaxy to save humankind if she needs to.

Spensa’s fear of turning on her friends, like her father had done, became a central focus of Skyward. She loves her new friends in Skyward Flight (and we readers learned to love them, too, over the course of the book!). Betraying them would be horrible. And there are other questions to consider, heading into Book 2…

Now M-Bot is known to the DDF. He can no longer hide in his cave with Spensa as his pilot. How has his involvement with the DDF affected the force? What have the engineers, like Rig, learned from studying his technology? Why is he so fixated on shoes and mushrooms? Also, how has the information Spensa gathered about the Krell impacted the DDF?  What new developments have happened among the Skyward Flight?

Braid: So…would answering any of those questions be considered a spoiler?

Blue: Only a little bit…*wink.* But before we get into any answers Starsight might offer, let me ask you this: after reading Skyward, what did you expect the sequel to give us? What promises and expectations did the first book leave you with?

Braid: After Skyward, I really wanted to see Admiral Judy Ivans (callsign: Ironsides), go down. Every policy she had in place with the DDF, I hated. So I looked forward to learning how the DDF changed after the final battle. I also wanted to know more about Doomslug the Destroyer. Sanderson does not believe in simple pets. Another part of me looked forward to seeing the conversations Quirk and M-Bot might have together; the snark is so strong in them both.

Blue: Hundred percent agree on Ironsides. I wanted to see how she dealt with the aftermath of her choices in Skyward and how things changed from there. I also hoped for more interactions with Skyward Flight, and to see Spensa learn more about her powers and maybe transport herself around Detritus or something. And I definitely wanted to see Spensa and Jorgen’s relationship progress. I’m a shipper at heart.

Braid: I’m not the shipper you are, but yes, the relationships built in Skyward were such a great part of the story; I’m a big believer in showing platonic relationships in stories, so all the friendships made me happy. Yet I’ll admit to a soft spot: hoping to find out if Rig ever achieved his date with FM…while hoping he and M-Bot could get along better too. My guess was that they would spend more time together while the DDF tried to incorporate M-Bot’s tech into their fleet. After enjoying the first book so much a year ago, I was excited to get to read Starsight.

Blue: Starsight is amazing! Though I’ll admit that in many ways it was not the sequel I expected… Despite that, it is still a satisfying continuation of the story we all loved in Skyward. I can’t go into detail without spoilers, so we’ll have to save that discussion for the post-release review. I’ll just say we get answers to a lot of questions in this book, while it raises even more.

Braid: Oh so true! So many answers! Yeah! And questions: so many more. And while we do get answers to a small number of the new ones within Starsight itself,  it is the second book in a four part series: Thus, you have to expect to come across more questions and mysteries for later books to deal with.

Blue: Absolutely. This is all part of the setup for a bigger story, right? One of my favorite things that we did get (without spoiling anything, I promise) was a bit more time with Gran-Gran, getting to hear more of her stories and see her training in action.

Braid: Ha, ha. Yes. The way she tells stories just compels you to listen. I want to be like Gran-Gran when I grow up. My eyeglasses tell you I’m halfway there already. Sigh… Back to the book: the hints given in the epilogue of Skyward teased a much wider story.

Blue: Hehehe. Well, like Gran-Gran, Sanderson is, at his heart, a storyteller. And Starsight is extremely well done for as complex a story as it is. We get to see SO MUCH more of the universe in which the story’s set. I can’t wait to see how everyone feels about some particular elements, once the the book is available. I loved learning more about the wider universe, what exactly the people of Detritus are up against, and how they can fight it.

Braid: Sanderson is a master worldbuilder. His abilities and imagination are highlighted well in Starsight. Just about everything else I want to say on these matters are spoilers. However, I will note that reading the interludes in Starsight was more enjoyable this time around. I hated being in Ironside’s head through the last book.

Blue: Yes, the interludes!!! I LOVED them in Starsight. They were like a breath of fresh air at just the right moments.

Braid: And they give you a chance to catch your breath. Sanderson knows how to pace his books well. He continues the five-part structure from Skyward, and each one of them makes for their own type of wild ride.

Blue: Yes. The pacing in Starsight is pretty much non-stop. Especially when—

Braid: Wait…NOW I fear we are starting to stray into the spoiler zone. Want to wrap up with some context-free reactions from the Beta read?

Blue: Teasers? Absolutely.

Braid:  My two favorite reaction moments: “Oh! I can’t wait to hear more about this change!” And… “Noooooooo!!!! This makes me so sad. ”

Blue: One of my very first comments, in chapter one, was, “I just love EVERY PART of this WHOLE conversation.” Then from later: “THIS IS AMAZING I HAD NOT CONSIDERED HOW USEFUL THAT WOULD BE!!!” Or maybe you’d appreciate, “HOLY SHIZ WHAT IS HAPPENING.”

Braid: “chuckles” It’s not like we all have one vision about how to react.

Blue:  …I use a lot of all-caps when I beta read.

Braid: I had noticed. Too many interrobangs (‽) or exclamation points are my trademark. Sharing our emotions is part of our job as betas. Text shouting: totally allowed. There were a number of events which caused shouting and cursing on my end…

Explanations about what caused our many reactions and answers to other pressing questions will be coming soon in our full-spoiler review after Starsight is released later this month.

For now, let’s just say we were impressed from the beginning. Starsight offers fun times just as Skyward did, with more worldbuilding, some favorite returning characters from Skyward, some amazing new characters and settings, and a ramped-up storyline leaving us dying to read more and frustrated that we have to wait another few years for the rest of the story.

Starsight is available for preorder now! Release date is November 26th, which, if you’re in the U.S., gives you all of Thanksgiving weekend to read and enjoy. There will be no book tour, but lucky fans can attend an epic release party in Orem, Utah. Beta Flight signing out (for now…).

Darci Cole—Callsign: Blue—is an aspiring author of young adult and middle grade fantasy, audiobook narrator, Harry Potter Superfan, and Sanderson Beta Reader. You’ll recognize her by the blue streak in her hair, and can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram as darcicoleauthor. M-Bot is her Patronus.

Deana Whitney—Callsign: Braid—is a Sanderson Beta reader, a Doomslug fan, a historian, a cook, and an avid reader. Known as Braid_Tug on Tor, she is working on another Cosmere Cuisine article. She added the Iron Eagle soundtrack to the Skyward Universe playlist to go with Top Gun.

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