Book Review: Defiant (Skyward, #4) by Brandon Sanderson - Novel Notions (2024)

Cover art illustrated bySam Green

Defiant by Brandon Sanderson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Series: Skyward (Book #4 of 4)

Genre:Sci-fi

Pages: 415 pages (Kindle edition)

Word count: 117,000 words

Publish date: 21st of November 2023 by Delacorte Press (US) & Gollancz (UK)

This is another series wrap-up from Sanderson. Defiant is a satisfying concluding volume to the Skyward series that reflected the root of the first book: friendship.

“Some of them might die, I said. And it’s going to hurt. We’ll get through it though. Pretending that nobody will ever be in danger is the same as living in the nowhere, pretending loss doesn’t exist.”

Skyward is the fourth series by Sanderson I finished, and I am still impressed with how he is able to produce a rewarding conclusion after the blunders in Cytonic and Skyward Flight omnibus. I had a great time reading Skyward and Starsight, and I have been vocal in saying how mixed I felt about Cytonic and the titles in Skyward Flight omnibus. I stand by my words that the Skyward series is longer than it should be, and there is a good chance I won’t be reading the sequel series—Skyward Legacy—because I think the series really should’ve ended here in Defiant. But as far as Defiant goes as a series finisher, it is not one of Sanderson’s best books. However, it is definitely a page-turning conclusion with a quality as good as the first two books in the series. I will keep this review relatively brief to avoid spoilers.

“The people who brood about their moral compass in stories tend to be the strongest at making decisions.”

One of the things that decreased the quality and enjoyment of Skyward Flight and Cytonic for me, and I assume many readers, is Spensa separated from the crew of Skyward Flight. The first book, Skyward, spent a lot of time developing the relationship of Spensa with M-Bot, Jorgen, FM, Kimmalyn, and more. But the rest of the series after that did not touch upon this—except M-Bot—as much as I preferred. This situation has happened since Starsight, but for me, it was still tolerable and very much enjoyable in Starsight. But not so much in Cytonic and Skyward Flight omnibus, which only seems to prolong the series unnecessarily than it should be. I am pleased that the friendship between Spensa and her Skyward Flight crew, M-Bot, and the kitsen returns as one of the main charms of Defiant. Identity, friendship, and war are some of the main themes of Defiant, and the first half is focused on exploring the effects of Spensa and each respective—especially Jorgen—development of the other main characters.

“At the end of the story… at the end of the story, the hero came home, and found herself transformed… into someone who didn’t belong, and could never belong, with the people she’d left behind. It was the same in almost every story I’d read.”

It is not easy for Spensa to feel like she truly belongs again with her friends due to the longevity of her time separated from Jorgen and the Skyward Flight crew. The first half of Defiant is dedicated to exploring this. Essentially, the first half of Defiant demonstrated the impact of the development and changes that happened to each character in the previous three books and what each character needs to do to reignite the sense of trust between each other. This also means Spensa and Jorgen, especially Spensa, need to learn to trust their beloved companions even more. Understanding your own self and each other is a big topic in Defiant. And it can be surmised that Cytonic and Skyward Flight omnibus were all leading to the events in Defiant. The second half is all about the brief preparation and also the final battle with the main villain of the Skyward series. I had mixed feelings on Cytonic and Skyward Flight omnibus, but I cannot deny they made Defiant one of the strongest installments in the series; up there with Starsight for me.

“War has always been packed with people who didn’t want to be there.”

I don’t have any big complaints regarding the climax sequence or ending of Defiant. As I said, the preparation was worth it, and the final space war was the most exciting battle of the entire series for me. Excluding Skyward Flight omnibus, Defiant is also the first time the series utilized multiple POV chapters at the end of the book to make the Sanderlanche sequence more dynamic and effective. This did not feel jarring at all. It felt proper. We have seen the other characters’ POV in Skyward Flight omnibus, and it would feel weird if any of them did not appear as POV characters in Defiant.

“Some of them might die, I said. And it’s going to hurt. We’ll get through it though. Pretending that nobody will ever be in danger is the same as living in the nowhere, pretending loss doesn’t exist.”

Picture: DDF Phoenix-Class Battlecarrier: Defiant by Ben McSweeney

Book Review: Defiant (Skyward, #4) by Brandon Sanderson - Novel Notions (2)

The interior artwork by Ben McSweeney once again returned in Defiant, and it was a super welcome additional content that worked to increase my visualization and immersion of the final battle in Defiant, especially on the physical appearance of the spaceships. If there’s anything to complain about, it is back to one of my main criticisms of the series. The series does not have to be this long. Defiant could’ve ended the series satisfyingly, which it did as Sanderson has stuck the landing. But the final chapter showed hints of the next adventures of Spensa and the Skyward Flight crew story. Unfortunately, as of this moment, I am already pleased with the ending I got from Defiant, and I don’t think I will be reading the Skyward Legacy series as soon as the first book is out. I enjoyed reading the series, but I am sad to say I never felt emotionally invested in the characters as much as I should. Who knows, though. The reading mood is unpredictable, and maybe one day I might decide to read Skyward Legacy after it is finished.

“And as a ship is useless without an engine, what is an engine without people to move and protect? You act like the lone spear, Granddaughter. But a spear is always stronger as part of a phalanx.”

Overall, as expected of Sanderson’s final book of a series, Defiant ended the Skyward series satisfyingly. Oddly, my favorite characters in the series were GranGran and the slugs, which probably shows that my investment in the main characters is not as deep as I prefer. However, if you are a fan of Sanderson’s Cosmere books and you want to try reading Sanderson’s non-Cosmere work, you cannot go wrong with trying Skyward series. At the very least, the first two books should be sufficient to entertain you. Lastly, I think Skyward series would work amazingly for newcomers to reading sci-fi novels. With the completion of Skyward series, this means the only two series by Sanderson I haven’t read are The Reckoners and The Rithmatist. I have no idea when I will read them, but for now, I can confidently say that my heart belongs in the Cosmere much more than any of Sanderson’s non-Cosmere books.

“The purpose of life was to learn, and the way to learn was through excitement, emotion, and change. Boredom was the path to complacency, and complacency the path to stagnation.”

Series Review:

Skyward: 4/5 stars
Starsight: 4/5 stars
Cytonic: 3/5 stars
Skyward Flight: 3.5/5 stars
Defiant: 4/5 stars

Skyward Series: 18.5/25 stars

“I could love stories of courage and admire the strength of warriors, without wanting to see innocent people dead.”

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Book Review: Defiant (Skyward, #4) by Brandon Sanderson - Novel Notions (2024)

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