Marie Lu is one of those authors whose books I constantly keep an eye on. Ever since Warcross and the Legend series, I’ve been following Lu’s books. I am so excited for another SF series from her! Keep reading to see my full thoughts on Skyhunter!
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?
(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
TW: human experimentation
A unique world building concept will get me every time. Unfortunately I can’t discuss my favorite element of the story, because spoilers, but Lu is able to pair a detailed SF world with themes of weaponization. At the beginning, the SF touches seem subtle, but Lu builds them on top of a foundation of a fractured world. A world with refugees fleeing from their life from colonialism. In the middle of a war, where Talin has been turned into a deadly fighter Lu discusses the ways people are turned into weapons.
Lu presents a world and situations where her characters must contemplate whether we are defined by our monstrous actions. Are we able to be guilty while still being defined by our present choices? Is mercy ever the wrong answer? Throughout Skyhunter we are asked how we become callous, cruel, and merciful. It also illustrates the lengths to which people will go to in order to stay safe. What we will do for what is right, especially when it is hard.
In Skyhunter, Talin is mute and has to sign for a large portion of the book. I cannot speak to the accuracy of the representation. Most of the people around her seem to understand her signs (because they need it also for combat), but there are situations where her that is not the case.
Talin is a refugee in Mara and one of the elements I enjoyed in Skyhunter was the way it illustrated her complex relationship with Mara. She has dedicated her life to fighting for Mara against the Federation who destroyed her home. But in Mara, her family and her are treated pretty badly. Teased and forced to live on the Outskirts with little opportunities, Talin has to navigate the way she is treated, as well as her own feelings fighting for Mara.
Part of what I loved so much about the audiobook was not only the way Natalie Naudus is able to convey the emotions and longing in Talin’s narration, but also the interview at the end of the program. Natalie and Marie discuss the process of recording the audiobook as well as the representation of Asian American voices in YA fiction today. It was a wonderful treat after finishing this fantastic SF.
Skyhunter is the beginning of a series I will be keeping up with in the future. It’s a story about fighting for what is right against the odds. About hope, starting anew, friendship, and love. If you love the idea of another SF from Marie Lu, then you’ll have to check this out. I also highly recommend the audiobook!