Skybreach by Mark R. Healy
The third installment in the Reach series delivers with nonstop action on the unique and compelling premise. From that perspective Skybreach is more than worthy of its predecessors. At the same time, it comes up a bit short in other areas.
Knile, Talia, and Roman are reunited and somewhat safe (no one in this series is ever really safe). They join forces with Silvestri and a group calling themselves Skybreach. Their mission is to get off Earth, just as Knile has always wanted. Their allies include a former Consortium security officer or Redman, named Lazarus, and a group of hackers and brawlers. Standing in their way is the Consortium, Redmen, Enforcers, and a radical religious cult that wants to blow up the space elevator that can take them off world.
Skybreach is nonstop action taking place in a unique setting: a mile-high arcology with a space elevator on top. The structure is called the Reach, with railcars that travel up the wire to Habitat One, a space station in orbit. Escape requires our heroes to fight through to the top of the Reach once again, this time together as a sort-of family. The Skybreach group was an interesting addition to the series as was the religious fanatics, known as Children of Earth. A lot is revealed at the end, which lays a captivating foundation for the next book, Sunspire. There were also sequences that were somewhat difficult to follow. More description would’ve been helpful in some instances, but for the most part the action is strong.
At the same time, Skybreach is missing the character development and family drama of the first two novels. Knile, Talia, and Roman are a pseudo family but their family dynamic doesn’t evolve or come into play much. The secondary characters are solid, but largely this novel is plot-driven and not quite as dynamic as the previous novels.
Like in the previous novels, the main characters possess tremendous maturity and insight, somewhat contrary to their background and origin stories. There was a scene or two when Knile and Talia sounded like sitcom parents rather than ex-criminals. Roman and Silvestri also demonstrated incredible maturity and poise, which didn’t seem to fit their character.
The Duran plot line was underwhelming until the second half where it intersected with Skybreach. Ursie’s story intersected as well, uniting the events of the series into one. There is a lot to follow towards the end but it is largely satisfying to see things come together.
The world-building is strong, although the post-apocalyptic themes faded into the background. The Reach and Habitat One are the setting, both large pieces of futuristic technology that are falling apart. The series has largely shifted away from the depressing post-apocalyptic opening towards straight action, survival, and space travel.
The ending was amazing, with a great lead in to the next novel. The author excels at giving satisfying endings while generating a lot of excitement for the next book.
Overall, Skybreach delivers for the Reach Series when it comes to sci-fi action and great world-building. The main characters didn’t drive this one as much and the themes have changed a bit but this book is well worth it.
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