If you’ve heard me talk about books on the Internet for any amount of time, you’ll have heard me talk about how much I love Marie Lu’s books. I own every single book she’s published and I’ve read almost all of them.
As a growing fan of duologies, I was really excited when Skyhunter was announced. I’d already loved the Warcross duology and knew that very little about Lu’s writing could disappoint me. Plus, it’s a story rooted in sci-fi dystopia, something she excels in writing.
When I was going through my 12 from 12 challenge and asking people to recommend me books, one of my friends suggested that I look through her stack of 2021 favorites to pick something. The moment I laid eyes on Skyhunter, I knew it had to go on my list. So thank you, Negin (@neginreads) for making this part of my TBR for this year and being a fellow Marie Lu fangirl.
Author: Marie Lu
Pub Date: September 29, 2020
Book #8 of 2022
Reading Time: 5hrs & 10mins
Date Finished: March 7, 2022
Content Warnings: War, prisoners of war, human experimentation, torture, murder, child soldiers, mass killings, racism, disability bullying
What Worked For Me: Everything
What Didn’t Work For Me: N/A
Skyhunter is one of those books I knew I’d love even before I picked it up. Granted, I based that assumption off my love of Lu’s backlist books and the gorgeous cover. It doesn’t qualify as a cover buy since I did know a bit of the plot, more of an auto-buy author kind of thing. But it was the last copy in the store AND it was signed, so I couldn’t pass it up.
I got to see how two different authors, both of whom I love greatly, tackle something as difficult as having non-verbal main characters and what these characters would experience. There were similarities and differences. One of the main differences being that Talin was able to speak to more people because Striker warriors used sign language in battle.
That gives her a voice among her few friends, but it also makes her stand out negatively because she can’t communicate in that way with everyone. No matter what she does, Talin is unable to converse with the higher class and the lower class, leaving her very isolated.
Adding in that she is a refugee from a fallen nation and you get many tense interactions when people look down on Talin, either because of her race or her sign language. Nevermind that she’s one of the most skilled fighters, her differences leave her subject to a lot of discrimination.
And if you know anything about Marie Lu’s writing, you’ll know that she often tackles big political issues within her stories. Not in an overt way that shoves her beliefs in your face, but through the lenses of characters with differing views.
It was clear that one of her biggest points in Skyhunter was about war and racism. It was also very much about the negative treatment of people with disabilities.
I think the way she tackled all of it through Talin’s perspective and story was very well done. Unlike many others who were displaced by the war, Talin worked her way up through the ranks to become a Striker, a coveted position where she is the only one of her race. She fought the racism and discrimination to become a fearless fighter and one of the best.
There’s anger and frustration when she doesn’t get recognized or when people make racist comments toward her, but Talin has also earned immense recognition from her leader. Her literal lack of a voice means there’s nothing she can do against the crude remarks she hears, but that never keeps her from holding her head high and working hard.
There’s part of me that feels for her in that sense. Though I never faced that, I know what it’s like to want to prove yourself through hard work and ignoring chosen ignorance. How sometimes, holding back is hard because you just want to hit someone or say something. I understood Talin’s frustrations because I’ve felt them too.
Skyhunter made me think of the times when I was like Talin, without a voice. It wasn’t often, but it happened. And it made me angry that there are very real situations in which people can’t say anything because they’re not from the “right” country or because they’re different in a way that’s beyond their control.
Another character whom I felt deeply for is Jeran. The poor boy living through such cruelty made me wish I had the ability to make certain characters come to life so I could unalive them myself. I would grip the book and hope constantly that nothing bad happened to Jeran, that he would find some freedom or escape.
I love how Lu writes depth into her characters. They have a background that you can feel, something fleshed out beyond what we know. It makes them more realistic, more like people I’d meet on the streets. Maybe not elite fighters (unless I’ve met some and not known about it), but real people with real struggles.
I’d also forgotten how much I love the way she writes fight scenes. Everything feels so real and thought out, I can picture it happening in my head. The act of describing a combat scene takes so much time, effort, and mental choreography. I know that when I’ve written them, I had to physically act out certain things to see if it was possible.
That’s one of the things I love about Skyhunter, how many beautifully written battle and fight scenes there are. They feel so easy and natural and I'm jealous of how Lu writes them. I’m always a sucker for a good fight scene, and Lu consistently delivers that in her books. There’s nothing quite like reading action choreography and being able to see how it flows and feel the impact of blows.
The undertones with romance were cute. It’s not a big part of the storyline but I liked the way it was woven naturally into the plot. There are lowkey enemies to lover vibes going on. At the same time, the progression made sense and didn’t feel rushed. I always appreciate that about romantic plotlines.
As usual, Lu did a great job with the cliffhanger ending of Skyhunter, leaving me wanting to dive into the sequel immediately. Of course, me being me, I haven’t. But that doesn’t mean I won’t. I’m really glad I have the second book so I can pick it up whenever I want because waiting for it to arrive would be painful.
Being a growing fan of duologies and a generally huge fan of Marie Lu’s work, I would highly recommend picking this up as a quick and easy sci-fi story. The characters are wonderful, the story is fast-paced, and it got me out of what felt like an oncoming slump.
I can always trust her books to make me feel better.