Review: CYTONIC by Brandon Sanderson

Publisher: Delacorte Press
Page Count: 409
Release Date: November 23rd, 2021
Series: SKYWARD, Book 3
Rating: 3.5/5 Stars – Liked it!

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


Trapped on the alien world of Starsight and facing immanent capture by a force that is determined to destroy her home world, starfighter pilot Spensa takes the only way out: jumping through a one-way portal into the strange realm known as the Nowhere. It is here that the delvers live, the unfathomable beings capable of destroying whole planets when they choose to enter the galaxy. Alone with M-Bot, Spensa must traverse this space, seeking a way back to her home dimension, while also discovering the secrets of the delvers. She’ll have to hurry though, because the longer one stays in the Nowhere, the more memories one forgets, until Spensa may not believe she has a reason to return at all.

CYTONIC is a decent adventure in the SKYWARD series that’s main detraction is that it’s a major detour from the momentum of the main story. For the second time in the series, most of the supporting cast is jettisoned as Spensa is thrown into a new location, leaving her to interact with an entirely new set of characters. The Nowhere is far from uninhabited and Spensa goes through a whole new process of learning who to trust and who to fight. I think the series suffers a bit from starting from scratch with the cast every time, though it looks like book 4 will finally return to Spensa’s home world.

Looking at the series as a whole, I’m starting to wonder if Sanderson is purposely modeling the overall arc after one of the mythic quest stories Spensa loves so much. There’s certainly an episodic feel to the books akin to THE ODYSSEY, with Spensa traveling from one adventure to the next, meeting increasingly strange aliens and places as she journeys home. Much of CYTONIC, however, just feels different from the previous two books in the series. Earlier books focused on the conflict with the Galactic Superiority; this time, the focus has shifted to the mystery of the delvers and how to possibly beat them. The threat of the Superiority still lingers, but in the background. Those wanting to know what is happening in the way with the Superiority will have to turn to the novellas Sanderson (and co-author Janci Patterson) wrote and released alongside CYTONIC.

CYTONIC does make use of the book to give Spensa and M-Bot some good character beats. M-Bot has been becoming more and more self-aware over the series, and finds himself grappling with emotions and what they’re for. It’s a storyline played mostly for laughs, but with a few thoughtful moments thrown in. Spensa’s best moment comes when she finds herself with an opportunity to leave the fight against the superiority forever. It’s not something she rejects out of hand, but actually weighs for several pages, reminding the reader that this is a girl whose entire life has been war. She’s been under threat since she was born and never known a day when she wasn’t on alert. The idea of simply….stopping is as alluring to Spensa as it is confusing. This is the first time she’s realized she has the active choice to keep fighting instead of continuously being thrown into the fire by her circumstances.

CYTONIC didn’t end up connecting with me as much as the first two books largely because it felt like a different genre than the previous entries. That said, I still enjoyed the read and will be looking forward to the final book, if simply because it should hopefully be a return to storylines that carried me through the first half of the series. Spensa gets a bit of a break to lead her best quest-filled life this outing, by am definitely looking forward to her returning to the pilot’s chair!

5 thoughts on “Review: CYTONIC by Brandon Sanderson

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  1. I think there might be something to your observation that this one almost felt like another genre. I read through this recently and had trouble connecting with it initially too. The momentum loss was definitely felt in any case.

    Still, I liked it! Just not as much as the first two. I expect we’ll see things pick up again for the next one. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved the first two in series and will definitely pick this one up too but I’ve noted a few bloggers saying similarly that this one was a little ‘off’ and I can’t deny it makes me push it back down the pile a little. Oh well, I’ll have to get on with it at some point.
    Lynn ๐Ÿ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

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