Get it? Cause it takes place in the Nowhere? I’m clever, applaud me.
As the third entry in the Skyward series (not counting the novellas), Cytonic is a rock-solid follow-up to the previous books. I don’t think it’s better than Starsight, the second book, but I would say that this is the most fun entry in the series.
Diving into the Nowhere, Spensa, M-Bot, and Doomslug find themselves surrounded by the Delvers, attacking the one Spensa changed at the end of Starsight. After saving it, the Delver delivers Spensa and her merry crew of weirdos into the Nowhere, a dimension outside of time, and sets her on a quest: to follow the Path of Elders and unlock her try cytonic powers. Now, Spensa must go on an adventure straight out of the stories of her childhood in order to find a way to stop the Delvers and save humanity from the Superiority.
This book is so much damn fun! It takes you on an adventure with a capital A! Spensa sails across oceans, deals with pirates, faces supernatural monsters, gets into aerial dog fights, it takes you on a journey all across this timeless void! It is enjoyable from start to end!
That is made possible by the setting. The Nowhere is a surprisingly vibrant and fun place! It’s delightfully weird, with each Fragment (basically an island that floats) being different from the last. Combine that with the variety of strange alien life that we see and the effect it has on our characters’ minds, this is easily the most interesting and enjoyable setting we’ve seen in Skyward to date.
Better yet, that fun plays well into Spensa’s character. As she goes on this thrilling adventure, she begins to lose sight of who she thought she was. She has to start asking herself the hard questions and consider what she truly wants in life. Her arc in this book is highly compelling and serves as an excellent third step in her journey.
Of course, Spensa isn’t alone. Her merry crew of adventurers is highly memorable. From old characters like M-Bot to new characters like Chet, the group chemistry in this book is great. Which is perfect; what’s the point of an adventure if you don’t have friends to share it with?
On this journey, we finally get answers to many of the questions that have lingered since the first book. What are the Delvers? What are cytonics? Why are AI so feared? The mysteries of the series are all unraveled here. Unfortunately, not every answer is satisfying. They’re all logical, yes, but some of them are pretty underwhelming. My reaction to the truth of the Delvers was literally, “Oh. Is that it?”
While we’re on the critique side of this review, let’s get to my biggest gripe: death. Or in this case, the lack of it. Characters that were supposedly killed in the last one are revealed to have not actually died and come back to life here. Hell, that happens to some of the characters that supposedly die in this book! Why should a reader ever be worried about death if it doesn’t stick?
Thankfully, those are my only two real complaints about this book. It is a very solid and enjoyable sci-fi adventure story. If the last two novellas were appetizers and this was the main course, then this was a dish well worth waiting for.
And from the look of things on Sanderson’s official blog, we won’t have to wait all that long for Skyward 4. Plus, we still have one novella left to sate our hunger until then.