Skyward Flight – Grounded

Today, we return to the world of Detritus, where humankind fights for its freedom from the iron-fisted Superiority. Brandon Sanderson’s Top Gun-esque series blends sci-fi and fantasy, and this collection of three novellas co-written with Janci Patterson expands on the core series through the perspective of three side characters. 

I read this tome as one big book, but each novella stands on its own as a key addition to Skyward lore. Instead of a big ol’ review, I’ll briefly discuss each entry. Mild spoilers for the main Skyward series follow, so beware. 


In Sunreach, we follow Spensa’s crewmate FM as she plots a rescue mission and researches the taynix: slug-like creatures with cytonic powers. 

That’s it; that’s the novella. As stage-setting goes, Sunreach lowered my hopes for this narrative trio. The plot was predictable as all hell, and it dragged at doomslug’s pace, even for a ~200 page story. The prose and dialogue leave a lot to be desired, too. FM’s internal monologue stretches on for long passages, often adding no context we wouldn’t have already inferred as readers.

Sunreach is the most forgettable of the three novellas, though perhaps that’s because I read it first and have already forgotten it. I read it in two sittings simply because I wanted it to be over. 


ReDawn, meanwhile, sparked a new hope in me. It follows Alanik, the UrDail Spensa impersonates during her journey to Starsight in the book of the same name. Sanderson and Patterson offer an in-depth look at the political struggles of Alanik’s homeworld. The Unity faction seeks to become part of the Superiority, which the party believes will benefit the UrDail despite having been burned before by the “peaceful” government. The Independence faction wants to stay sovereign and avoid the tendrils of the Superiority from interfering with their way of life. 

Alanik returns home from Detritus after recovering from her crash. The Unity party soon makes moves to take over, and she pleads for an alliance with the humans and asks for help saving her people. 

ReDawn has a point of view and momentum, which I found missing from Sunreach. Alanik’s plight drives the story forward and pulls back the curtain to reveal a new corner of this sci-fi universe. Her interactions with Skyward Flight are interesting. One problem—present in each novella, I might add—is how often Alanik reinforces the dichotomies she perceives. Almost every thought she has with a human, even after they save her life or vice versa multiple times, is “Well, they could betray me to the Superiority right now.” The progression from tenuous allies to trusting teammates is far too abrupt for my liking. 

Otherwise, I found ReDawn generally palatable. The ending is climactic and left me shaken. Completely unexpected.


In this installment, Jorgen Weight deals with the fallout of ReDawn’s climax (which I won’t spoil) and tries to track the source of a distress signal somewhere in space. This leads him to the Kitaen home planet of Evershore, where he tries to balance his internal struggles with an attempt at forming an alliance with the fox-like creatures. 

Here Jorgen also learns more about his cytonic abilities. Jorgen’s personal arc, the interactions with the kitsen, and Alanik’s further integration into the team make this a fun and breezy read, but nothing too major. I’d place it second after ReDawn but still far ahead of Sunreach

The ending of Evershore isn’t all that satisfying. It’s a forgivable gripe, however, because it’s clearly setting us up for Defiant, which comes out later this year and concludes the core Skyward series. It feels exhausting that you are forced to dive into a number of convoluted novellas for the setup of the next book in a series, but that’s another space horse altogether.

Final Thoughts & Loose Ends

Skyward Flight is a mixed bag. The prose, dialogue, and character development are just okay when you consider the book as a whole. Each novella has its own strengths and weaknesses. But the important question on any Skyward reader’s mind is: are these books necessary? 

Yes, they are. Skyward Flight fills in a lot of plot and worldbuilding left on the sidelines of the core books. I imagine the occurrences of these novellas will play a massive role in Defiant. I left the trilogy of novels feeling bored by the overall experience and, frankly, kind of disappointed that an already-big series (three 500+ pagers with a fourth on the way) requires a side volume of the same length just to make sense of things. 

Rating: Skyward Flight – 6.5/10

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2 thoughts on “Skyward Flight – Grounded

  1. I think it’s important to understand that the primary function of these novellas is to fill in the story of what happened with the other characters while Spensa was off fighting the Delvers in the nowhere. It would create a massive plot hole if everyone in the physical universe just sat on their hands and nothing changed while Spensa was away. Without the novellas, Brandon would have needed to devote several chapters of the upcoming book just catching us up, which would have been hugely dissatisfying when we want to know what happens now that Spensa has returned.

    Likewise, I found Tolkien’s chapters describing Frodo, Sam and Smeagol’s trek into Mordor after the fellowship split to be a bit of a grind; especially compared to the adventures of Aragon’s company. But had Tolkien sent Frodo’s group off on its own, only to have them suddenly show up on the steps of Mount Doom a whole book later, I doubt any of us would have heard of LOTR.

    Grind or not, the Skyward Flight novellas are an important part of the story.


    1. Well said! I still struggled through them, but completely understand this point of view and I think Defiant will be better without this filler.

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