Review: SUNREACH and REDAWN by Brandon Sanderson and Janci Patterson

Publisher: Delacorte Press
Page Count: 208/229
Release Date: September 28th, 2021/October 26th, 2021
Series: SKYWARD, Books 2.1 & 2.2
Rating: 4/5 & 3.5/5 – Liked them!

Warning: Light spoilers ahead for earlier books in the series. You can read reviews for those books here: SKYWARD, STARSIGHT

Sunreach

The human colony of Detritus has just avoided annihilation, thanks to the young fighter pilot Spensa Nightshade. But the war is far from over and Spensa is missing in an unknown region. But before she disappeared, Spensa managed to pass along the secret to hyperjumping, information that’s been hidden by the Galactic Superiority from all “lesser” species. FM & Skyward flight are already under pressure to master this new technique when word comes that potential allies are in trouble – and the only way to reach them in time is through hyperjump.

Meanwhile, Alanik, the alien woman who crash landed on Detritus and showed Spensa how to get to Starsight, has woken out of her coma and hyperjumped home. Realizing that the Superiority is tightening its grip on her people, she has no choice but to turn to the humans to give her rebel faction one last hope of surviving and keeping her people free.

ReDawn

SUNREACH and REDAWN are two fun, adventurous novels that take place at the same time as the events in CYTONIC, book three of the SKYWARD saga. I held off on reviewing these two novellas because I wanted to see how they interacted with CYTONIC, particularly since they were released before that third book and are meant to be read before it. (It’s become clear to me that novella 3, EVERSHORE, can likely be read before CYTONIC as well, but I’m reading in release order.) Here’s the thing about these novellas: they aren’t simply fun little stories to give fans more time with secondary characters. They contain critical plot that absolutely affects the state of the galaxy and happens completely “off screen” in CYTONIC. People die, alliances are struck, and none of it is mentioned while Spensa is on her own adventure. I imagine book 4 will recap some of these things to get Spensa up to speed, but fans who want all the details shouldn’t skip these books.

Setting aside how they interface with CYTONIC, SUNREACH is the stronger of the two novellas because most of the heavy lifting has already been done in terms of characters and world-building. Readers of the SKYWARD series already know the colony of Detritus and the various members of the flight group, so the story can jump right into the meat of the problem without missing a beat. It doesn’t hurt that there are adorable new animal companions at the heart of the story, and the group learning to bond and interface with them probably gave this book a leg up.

REDAWN, on the other hand, is from the POV of Alanik, who appeared only briefly in STARSIGHT and a few quick scenes in SUNREACH. She’s a completely different species and culture, from a completely different planet. And while Sanderson and Patterson have done an admirable job sketching in details in the short length of REDAWN, I felt like I could have used more time in this culture than the novella gave me. This was particularly true when it came to Alanik’s reasons for rebelling against the Superiority, particularly when, from the humans’ point of view, her people don’t have it nearly so bad. There were some general arguments put forth, but for some reason they felt superficial. At this point, readers accept the Galactic Superiority is bad, but based on REDAWN alone, I don’t know that Alanik makes a strong case for resisting their influence.

SUNREACH and REDAWN are essential reading in the SKYWARD universe. Thankfully, they are on the whole fun returns to a world I’ve enjoyed quite a bit. I’ll be sure to check out EVERSHORE as I settle in for the wait until the final book in the series drops in the future.

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