A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Specific to this installment: talk of the very curious lifecycle of bamboo. In all the books, enhanced powers that the spirit animals pass to their human counterparts will get readers thinking about animals' keener eyesight, superior jumping ability and agility, etc., and perhaps spark some conversation about which skills are natural and which, like prophecy and healing, are magical.
Teamwork and loyalty are the two big themes here, followed by forgiveness and trust. Kids continue to struggle with conflicting loyalties -- to their heroic cause and to their families.
Positive Role Models
Two of the four main characters stand out in this one: the usually stubborn Meilin, for apologizing to her friends for making the wrong decision, and Rollan, for choosing to be honest at a crucial point in the story.
Violence & Scariness
There are two sad deaths in a big climactic battle with many more deaths and injuries from arrows, axes, swords, and animal bites. Giant crocs attack in that battle and a few times in the swamp; in a rare moment of goriness Conor's axe is pulled from a croc skull with a "hideous sucking sound." Rollan gets sick and falls unconscious. Kids are hit with poisoned darts and awake tied up.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Brief mention of rice wine and soldiers are drinking at an inn.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Blood Ties is the third book in a multimedia, multi-author series from Scholastic, similar to its 39 Clues and Infinity Ring series. There's a website where young readers can choose their own spirit animal and character identity, and enter codes from the books they read to unlock prizes and whatnot. Aimed at animal-loving tween readers just digging into fantasy tales, each book since the series debut in September 2013 -- Wild Born, by Brandon Mull -- is written by a different, seasoned children's author -- or in this case, two -- with new installments appearing every few months. As in the first two books, the plot of Blood Ties isn't terribly complicated, but the four diverse 11-year-old characters face a bit more battle violence this time. A climactic scene involves much bloodshed from giant crocs, axes, arrows, and swords, and there are two sad deaths among the casualties. Teamwork is still the most important theme of the series. The four tweens need each other to survive against the giant croc-riding Devourer and his army, and they need the help from other armies as well.
Is It Any Good?
Scholastic brings on more good authors with BLOOD TIES. Garth Nix and Sean Williams keep the story moving and the likeable main characters focused on teamwork and defeating the enemy. The climactic battle is the most exciting in the series yet. Still, the same problem remains three books in: so much focus on the simple task at hand -- get the talisman, where's the next one? -- and not much on the long game. The Devourer shows up finally, but just as a one-note bad guy with the scary name. Here's hoping the next in the series gives him a bit more depth.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.