Stories that are good but not great make for some of the most difficult reviews to write, don’t you think? I always make this determination by my eagerness to write the review. If I love or hate a book, I can knock out the review of it within a few minutes. When I find a book to be okay, I avoid writing the review because I know it is going to be difficult to find the right words. This is my dilemma with Skyhunter by Marie Lu.
Don’t get me wrong; there are plenty of things to like about Skyhunter. Talin is a fierce character, and Ms. Lu really allows her readers to get to know her in detail. She makes mistakes, hesitates when she should attack, and allows her feelings to dictate her decisions. In other words, Ms. Lu makes her a vulnerable teenage girl with more responsibility that is healthy.
At the same time, Ms. Lu once again succeeds in balancing the necessary world-building with maintaining intense plot pacing. We learn about Mara, Karensa, and the Strikers through Talin’s memories, stories told to her, and through old-fashioned observation of current events. Through it all, at no point does the story falter. In fact, it remains action-packed from beginning to end with the right number of respite points for readers and characters to recover and prepare for the next battle.
Plus, Skyhunter may list as young adult fiction, but it is very much on the darker side of that spectrum. The Strikers do everything possible to kill their foes, and Ms. Lu does not hesitate to show that violence. In the hands of Talin and her friends, anything can become a weapon, and they shed a lot of blood to prove that point. Personally, I love a good, dark, and gory story, so I count this as a positive.
The thing is as much as I like Talin, my heart lies with Red. To me, he is a fascinating character with the potential for a backstory even more intriguing and heartbreaking than Talin. I really want to know what he thinks and feels. While Ms. Lu gives us enough of his story to understand his actions, I feel there are more depths she could plumb there. I would love the sequel to be from his point of view.
Skyhunter is not a bad novel. I did enjoy it when I read it, even if very little within the plot is much of a surprise. The thing is, I never felt that reader’s rush when I finished it, the kind that makes you feel a little giddy as you agonize over the fact you have to wait to read more of the story, the kind that makes it next to impossible to pick up another book right away. I will read the sequel when it is available, but I guarantee that I will have to do some research to remember the plot of Skyhunter because the details fade more every day. All of these bits, when put together, are indicators of a novel that may be good but not outstanding, a category in which Skyhunter firmly falls.