This review’s subtitle might throw you off if you haven’t read any of the Skyward series yet. Head to my review of the first book if you count yourself among the confused. For those of you who are caught up, we now turn to Cytonic the third installment in Brandon Sanderson’s high-flying, space-faring romp. Cytonic was a ton of fun, and I’m finally feeling as though I understand where the series is headed. If Defiant (book four, slated for release next year) is indeed the final Skyward book, I think fans are in for a real treat.
In her rush to escape the Superiority and its corrupt officials, Spensa lunges into a portal to the Nowhere, the dimension through which Cytonics can travel. She doesn’t emerge on her home planet of Detritus, though. Instead, she stays in the Nowhere, hellbent on discovering the secrets of the mysterious place and the Delvers who reside there, threatening life as she knows it in the Somewhere. Almost immediately, pirates capture her and she is rescued by Chet Starfinder, a plucky adventurer who shows her the ways of the Nowhere and agrees to help Spensa discover its secrets.
I had more fun reading Cytonic than either of the other Skyward novels, and it’s not even close. I wouldn’t say it was technically better or worse than either of the previous installments. It lets loose and takes itself less seriously than its predecessors. The pages practically turn themselves. I also read the brunt of it on a plane, which felt fitting for a series about starfighters.
As much as I enjoyed Skyward and thought Starsight was good enough, Cytonic finally got me excited about this series. The Nowhere—home of the Delvers and (as it turns out) numerous other beings—proves a setting worth exploring. I didn’t pine for word from Detritus because The Nowhere was a strong enough setting to keep my attention. Whereas Starsight was overwhelming in its scope as a location, The Nowhere felt manageable despite its equal vastness.
Cytonic resounds with a sense of adventure. Spensa finally feels like she’s the main character in one of Gran-Gran’s epic stories. The action, which for once is not dominated by dogfights, feels cinematic and suspenseful. Against the backdrop of a sweeping adventure, Spensa can engage with herself and grow as a character more than either of the previous books allow. We get meaningful introspection from a character who desperately needs it. Cytonic is a front-row seat to Spensa’s evolution. Does she want to be an adventurer and shed the duties of her station? Or is helping people part of who she is? She grapples with this dilemma and numerous others through the course of the novel, and it’s refreshing. Juxtaposed with the action-adventure pastiche, Cytonic becomes a lesson. Accomplishing the things we’ve convinced ourselves we’ve always wanted leads to personal growth, and the person we become isn’t necessarily what we expected.
Beyond Spensa’s development, Cytonic answers long-held questions about the Skyward universe. I don’t know for sure whether Defiant will conclude the series, but I hope it does. Cytonic feels like the third rung on a four-step ladder, and I think the top of the ladder will give us an amazing view. I’m expecting the fourth installment to unite the many factions and characters we’ve met so far in an epic crossover. If that is indeed what Sanderson is careening for, I’m so in.
Adventures are had. Mysteries are solved. Bigger questions are revealed. Cytonic is heaps of fun. I was already engaged, but my buy-in to this series only increased as I read the third installment. Now I’ll start the interstitial novellas as I eagerly await book four.