Blessedly, Sanderson's second installment doesn't suffer from the slump of second-book-syndrome. Although it DOES pluck our heroine completely out of her element and sends her on an espionage mission into the heart of the alien civilization that's been keeping her people captive for generations. As it turns out... her jailors are nothing as she'd imagined. And there is a larger element being drawn into the fight--one that threatens the very existence of all space-faring species.
“Not that there’s anything wrong with humans. I find their frail, emotionally unstable, irrational natures quite endearing.”
The downside is... we see very little of the side characters and team dynamic from the first book--as Spensa is separated from her squadron for the duration. It's largely just our MC, Doomslug, and M-bot (which, to be honest, was all this reader really needed.) But if you were hoping for advancement to that tiny romantic subplot, just try to think of it as on hold for now.
The upside? A handful of fascinating new characters--including a non-gendered alien pilot who's technically only a few months old, a being that seems to exist as a semi-corporeal "smell", and an entire crew of sentient gerbil-like creatures led by a "king" (who, delightfully, reminded me of Reepicheep from Chronicles of Narnia.)
Us vs. Them mentalities are examined at length; along with an enriching smatter of alien cultures, political maneuvering, and varied misinterpretations of non-universal cues (i.e. facial expressions and body language.) And this is, thankfully, all done quite organically as our MC encounters them. True to Sanderson's usual form, ethical quandaries and thought provocations are never ham-fisted in handling.
“That's what war is," Cobb told me. "A bunch of sorry, desperate fools on both sides, just trying to stay alive. That's the part that those stories you love leave out, isn't it? It's always more convenient when you can fight a dragon. Something you don't have to worry you'll start caring about.”
This book answers several mysteries from Skyward, and presents readers with a whole new set of wonderings. And like it's predecessor, it will leave you hanging on hoping (and perhaps impatiently waiting) for more.
“Feelings aren’t proof. Feelings are the opposite of proof."
"Not when the thing you’re trying to prove is someone’s humanity.”