A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What 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.
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What's the story?
Meilin and Conor may be miles apart, but the same emotion is consuming them: regret. Meilin for stealing off in the night to Zhong to help her father fight, only to get hopelessly lost and nearly starve in a bamboo maze. And Conor regrets giving the Earl of Trunswick something his fellow Greencloaks desperately needed to fight the Devourer. But what was he supposed to do? Luckily for Conor, there's little time for brooding. He, Abeke, Rollan, and experienced Greencloak Tarik are heading into a Zhong port to meet a messenger ready to help them find the next talisman they need: the Slate Elephant. Sneaking into an enemy-held port is just the beginning of their trials to find the talisman. A jungle, rhino-riding warriors, and a giant croc-filled swamp await.
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about animals and their talents. Which animal would you like as your spirit animal? What "powers" would you borrow from it?
What do you think of the series so far? Will you keep reading? Will you keep going online to play the games? Do you like it when books come with "extras" like these?
Each book in the series features different authors. Are there authors you like that you think should have a turn? Would you like to write one? Where would you put the next talisman? What impossible obstacles would you put in the way of the characters?
- Authors: Garth Nix, Sean Williams
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Friendship, Wild Animals
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
- Publication date: March 25, 2014
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 192
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, Kindle
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