Shadows Beneath Starsight by Brandon Sanderson

Saints and Stars! I really enjoyed this book, even with my editor brain analyzing it the whole way through. Okay, so Starsight is the second book in the Skyward Series by Brandon Sanderson. And if you haven’t read it you should totally read it. Oh, I know the series is still in progress and probably won’t be finished until 2023 but I am so excited for the next installment (tentatively sometime in 2021)! Wait if you must but you’re missing out. If you do decide to wait and opt not to read the spoilers that are sure to pop up in the rest of this post, I want you to know I will be writing a New Year post next week, where I’ll look back at the last year and reevaluate what 2020 will look like for me. I’m actually pretty excited with the current plan (wink, wink).

Suit up and let’s talk!

You’ve been warned. SPOILERS ahead!

Starsight starts six months after Skyward ends. The DDF has made progress using Spensa’s and M-Bot’s intel and skills and now command one of the old stations that float above Detritus. Spensa is still foolhardy, taking unnecessary risks and being far too independent. M-Bot still has the great one-liners. But despite their advancements the Superiority still has the advantage of large battleships and they are pointing more and more guns at Detritus.

Spensa feels the pressure to figure out her cytonic abilities, to be the hero for Detritus. At first I wondered what her character arc would be. But when an alien, Alanik, crash lands on Detritus and gives Spensa the coordinates for one of the enemy’s home planets (Starsight), even Jorgen agrees that Spensa needs to become a spy. I loved the challenges this presented her. It reminded me of traveling to foreign countries and not knowing what their customs were and having to learn their perspective on life. Even when Spensa returns to Detritus, Brandon does an excellent job of portraying culture shock.

All the different aliens on Starsight are unique. The diones for example have a completely different way of reproduction than humans. This is the first book that I’ve read that uses the plural ‘they’ for one person because their gender is unclear. I’ll be honest. It took some getting used to. I found myself having to clarify a few things for my listeners as I read (yes, I read this out loud to my family). Also, on that note, I should mention that the way Brandon portrayed Spensa’s thoughts was ambiguous at times for the listeners. Reading it silently, there was no question if the sentence was a thought, narrative, or dialogue. But out loud . . .

Back to the aliens. The kitsen were my favorite! Not only were they cute little fox-gerbils but they were hilarious.

I know this doesn’t do them justice but how do I show you what a fox-gerbil looks like when they don’t exist?

They were a fortress shifting in the vast sea of stars. And I’m so sad Hesho died!!!!!!!!!!!! What was Brandon thinking? I was just beginning to get to know him and then he was gone.

As for second place, I’m torn between Vapor and Morrimur. I love the fact that Vapor is a scent! You know I’m not biased or anything (cough, cough). I can’t help but wonder how I can use this idea in my own scent based world. I don’t want to just copy it but will definitely keep this in mind while I continue to edit Smells of War. As for Morrimur, I liked their personality. Being an ‘unborn’ dione presents some very unique perspectives and ideas. And I love that they become a hero among their timid and biased people.

Concerning the plot, I feel like I know Brandon’s style a little too well. Maybe I’ve watched a few too many lectures from him but either way, I knew that the secret to the safe hyperdrive was not going to be cytonics like Spensa. Because I knew that he would explore about three options for what the hyperdrive would be and then have a fourth awesome option. Knowing that may have taken some of the joy out of discovering what the true solution was, but I can honestly say that I didn’t figure out that slugs would be the answer. Go Doomslug!

If I’m completely honest, I was disappointed with Spensa’s response upon learning that she had a ‘safe hyperdrive’ from the beginning. Not because his species was super cool, but because it seemed like the Superiority was torturing them to make it safe and Spensa didn’t make this connection or didn’t care about that aspect.

Maybe it’s the fact that this book is YA which is not my normal go to, but I also knew the answer to the hidden need from almost the beginning of the book. From the moment Spensa felt what the delvers felt, it was obvious that the delvers weren’t the enemy everyone thought they were. Even from Spensa’s first encounter with the aliens on Starsight and her prejudices, I knew that she would eventually figure out that everyone needed to try and see things from the others’ perspectives for there to be any possibility of peace.

Don’t get me wrong. I think this was a great message that more and more people need to be aware of. Too often, I find that if we take a moment to try and understand the other side to an argument, we can actually have a discussion about it. We may still not agree with one another but it helps alleviate the anger and stops the name calling. Right now, the state of US politics for one is a great example of people assuming things about each other and not listening to one another, from ALL parties. Next time you meet someone with a differing view, take a moment to stop and listen and try not to assume you know what they’re thinking. I know this is something I need to work on too. So if you see me making assumptions, let me know. I’d love to talk about it.

Starsight is a great place to begin these discussions. Let me know what you thought of the book. What was YOUR perspective on it?

January’s book of the month will be Wayfarer by K. M. Weiland, a gaslamp fantasy about the first superhero in London in the year 1820. Until next time, I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and will have a Happy New Year!

One last thing–I can’t wait to see where Brandon goes with M-Bot’s character!



  1. I loved this book so much, too! First off, I did enjoy how fast-paced it was, being YA. Kept me hooked for sure! And the world building is incredible, especially when it comes to the culture shock you mentioned when Spensa lands on Starsight. All those different aliens! I loved Vapor, too! I think she was my favorite. 🙂 Although I did like getting to know Brade, too; her personality provided a cool “black mirror” to Spensa, in a way, and it’s fascinating how she’d been indoctrinated to despise her own race so much.
    And I thought having Doomslug be the secret to the safe hyperdrive was brilliant! Like you, I did not see that coming. 😉 But as always with Sanderson, it totally makes sense.
    And I, too, can’t wait to see how Brandon develops M-Bot’s character in the next installment! That bot’s one-liners are spot-on . . .
    Can’t wait for “Wayfarer”!
    Happy New Year! 🙂


    • Now that you mention it, I can’t believe I didn’t even mention Brade! Maybe because she wasn’t alien. But, yes, she was a “black mirror” to Spensa. I still have hope that Brade will turn on Winzik in the next installment even though I knew she wouldn’t in this book. Oh, and one more thing I forgot to mention: I simply loved the interlude with Jorgen and Gran-gran!


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