1st of the Skyhunter Duology
Type of Sci-Fi: Human Development
The Karensa Federation has conquered a dozen countries, leaving Mara as one of the last free nations in the world. Refugees flee to its borders to escape a fate worse than death—transformation into mutant war beasts known as Ghosts, creatures the Federation then sends to attack Mara.
The legendary Strikers, Mara’s elite fighting force, are trained to stop them. But as the number of Ghosts grows and Karensa closes in, defeat seems inevitable.
Still, one Striker refuses to give up hope.
Robbed of her voice and home, Talin Kanami knows firsthand the brutality of the Federation. Their cruelty forced her and her mother to seek asylum in a country that considers their people repugnant. She finds comfort only with a handful of fellow Strikers who have pledged their lives to one another and who are determined to push Karensa back at all costs.
When a mysterious prisoner is brought from the front, Talin senses there’s more to him than meets the eye. Is he a spy from the Federation? Or could he be the weapon that will save them all?
What an intense book! I think this was one of Lu’s darkest, emotionally-heaviest novel after The Young Elites. Skyhunter’s about the last free nation trying to survive against all odds, after all. Though Lu does give the readers and characters some reasons to keep hoping throughout the story.
When I first read about the creatures called Ghosts which are basically zombies, I was not thrilled (not being a fan of zombie books). But they are a small part of the plot, and the twist in the middle of the book was a shocking delight that yanked me in even more.
I enjoyed getting to know Talin, a complex, caring, loving, dedicated, yet not faultless, character. I admired how she fought for Mara even though the country’s leaders didn’t treat her mother and the other refugees well. She has a heart of gold, and it was painful to see all the suffering the author put her through.
It was also an interesting experience to read ab
out a character who is mute and uses sign language. It did work out pretty conveniently that the Strikers just so happen to use sign language. But otherwise, the use of translators and sign language was done well.
There were a few things that felt too implausible or just like cheating, like when Talin dreams her backstory. No dreams are ever that realistic!
The friendship between Talin and the other strikers was sweet and fun to see and lightened the story a teensy bit. Also, the lore of the Early Ones was fascinating and well done, especially in regard to all the relics they’d created that were still part of the
current characters’ world, which play a bigger role in the sequel. It wasn’t clear to me, though, if these Early Ones were supposed to be from our world or a different one altogether.
The book ends on a cliff-hangar, so make sure you have the sequel ready to read right away!
Skyhunter was a fast-paced read that will cut your heart out.
Trigger Warnings: Light cussing, experimentation/torture, PTSD, war
YA Sci-Fi Book Review: Steelstriker
2nd of the Skyhunter Duology
Type of Sci-Fi: Human Development
As a Striker, Talin was taught loyalty is life. Loyalty to the Shield who watches your back, to the Strikers who risk their lives on the battlefield, and most of all, to Mara, which was once the last nation free from the Karensa Federation’s tyranny.
But Mara has fallen. And its destruction has unleashed Talin’s worst nightmare.
With her friends scattered by combat and her mother held captive by the Premier, Talin is forced to betray her fellow Strikers and her adopted homeland. She has no choice but to become the Federation’s most deadly war machine as their newest Skyhunter.
Red is no stranger to the cruelty of the Federation or the torture within its Skyhunter labs, but he knows this isn’t the end for Mara – or Talin. The link between them may be weak, but it could be Talin and Red’s only hope to salvage their past and safeguard their future.
My Thoughts (Small Spoilers for Skyhunter)
Finally, I can talk about Red! I love him so much, and I’m glad we had chapters from his POV in this book. I wished there were more (physical) interactions between him and Talin. The whole dream-connection thing felt a little too weird/convenient to me.
And speaking of convenient things, all the break-ins and rescues in Steelstriker seemed too easy. There’s no way it would have gone that easily…
I would have liked to see a redemption arc for the Premier. His character could have been fleshed out even more since Talin is so close to him throughout the book.
I also wanted some more emotional debriefing from Talin after something painful/terrible happened to her at the end. After this climax, the book just seemed to move too quickly without the proper emotional wrap-up.
Talin’s relationship with her mother was beautiful and heart-ripping painful, and I’m so relieved that they both got the endings they deserved! Her mother actually didn’t seem to have as much of a strong personality as the first one, for some reason. I expected her more to argue with her daughter about Talin’s decisions.
There were some nice twists (one I did see coming, but thankfully not the last one), and like Skyhunter, it’s an emotionally heavy book.
All the characters deserved some much-needed rest and counseling, and after reading the last pages, I did too! I definitely craved a lighthearted, humorous book. If you’re already in a dark pit or bad place mentally/emotionally, I advise you to read something lighter!
My Thoughts: Light cussing, sex scene, torture, PTSD, war