Sky Raiders: Five Kingdoms, Book 1

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
Sky Raiders: Five Kingdoms, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Fast-paced adventure, slow storytelling in series opener.

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 8 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Readers can compare many aspects of this world with others they've read about: the kind of magic, the beings that inhabit it -- good and scary, the terrain, the government (is there always an evil king?), and more. They can also think about how much work it is for an author to create all the aspects of a new world just out of their own imaginations.

Positive Messages

Characters engage in a heated debate about choosing the right battles and showing empathy; it's not always smart to immediately react when you've been treated poorly. Main characters are slaves or posing as such for most of the book, so topics of freedom and fair treatment are raised. Also explored: What makes a person a hero instead of a coward.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Cole is a pretty self-possessed and brave sixth grader. He's willing to risk his life to save his friends and allies he encounters in his new world. Also, he doesn't like to harm others, even those who are after him. When forced to shoot an arrow at an attacker he aims for his leg. Mira's also very brave, willing to sacrifice herself for the greater good.


One moment of gore that's more "ewww" than anything when Cole lands on a cyclops at high speed holding a sword. He aimed for the eye and his arm "disappeared ... all the way up to the elbow. It felt as if he had punched a deep bowl of warm pudding." There's a longer battle on that castle in the air that kills a handful of Sky Raiders hit by flaming catapults. Plus mentions of other deaths when a carriage falls into a raging river. Kids are kidnapped and enslaved, then treated like slaves -- one's beaten up as an example, another's hit and forced to walk without water and food behind a cart for a whole day after they threaten to cut off his hands and feet. Main characters are swept into a tornado-like vortex and barely survive. A giant creature destroys towns, but captures people instead of killing them. An army of skeletons and giant plastic dinosaurs attacks a group of kids. An army pursues the main characters and Cole hits one man in the leg with an arrow.


A couple pecks on the cheek, and there are a couple of crushes.


A quick mention of Twix bars.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A man's drugged into sleep with a potent herbal tea.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Sky Raiders is the first book in the Five Kingdoms series from fantasy author Brandon Mull, who developed a big fan base from his Fablehaven and Beyonders series. If kids have already read some of Mull's books, they'll find the start of this series less violent and just a little less complex than Beyonders. There's one moment of gore that's more "eww" than anything: The main character's sword punctures a cyclops' eye at fast speed and goes through it "as if he had punched a deep bowl of warm pudding." While child slaves get hit and deaths happen -- most from a catapult's flaming arrows taking down ships in the sky -- there's a respect for life in many skirmishes. Main character Cole aims an arrow at his attacker's leg, and a giant creature out destroying towns takes people captive instead of killing them. Cole's a very brave sixth grader, willing to risk his life repeatedly on a quest to save his friends. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byPolarWarrior June 9, 2015

Five Kingdoms is AWESOME!!!

The Five Kingdoms by Brandon Mull, is about a boy named Cole Randolph. Cole and his friends decide to go to the neighborhood haunted house but it is far more sc... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bybjjedi October 24, 2016

Five Kingdoms Sky Raiders

it is a great book for most ages it is full of action and its hooks you in once you start reading it.
Teen, 13 years old Written bySomeQKid May 9, 2021

Great book! Im definitely going to recommend it to my friends.

I'm currently reading this book and I find it great and fast paced. I also had to go back and reread bits so I could understand what was happening, even a... Continue reading

What's the story?

It was Cole's idea, a trip to a new neighbor's haunted house on Halloween. He'd invited his best friend Dalton and his sometimes crush Jenna, and a whole group of kids ended up going. It turned out to be way worse than a haunting -- it was a kidnapping. Cole managed to hide in the curtains as his friends were chained up and taken down a manhole. He followed behind just to report to police where they were headed. What a nasty surprise when he started to fall and kept on falling -- right into another realm with no known way back. Of course Cole felt responsible and tried hard to free his friends, but that only made things worse. He found himself not only enslaved like his friends, but hauled off by himself as the property of the Sky Raiders -- scavengers who raid castles floating in the sky toward a Cloud Wall from which nothing ever returns. How will he first find his way out of the Sky Raiders, then find and rescue his friends? His new mysterious and magical friend Mira may have a way to help ... if Cole doesn't die helping her first.

Is it any good?

Fans of Brandon Mull know he needs a warm-up period with each of his series, and SKY RAIDERS is an OK warm-up that rabid fans will enjoy. The sky castles are pretty darn cool. So are the magic renderings and fights with giant plastic dinosaurs on top of even bigger cheesecakes. But casual fans and readers who like a clear picture of where the story is headed at the regularly appointed time (ahem, first plot point a quarter of the way through, pretty please) will be drumming their fingers, even through some of the cooler action scenes, because the action isn't moving the story along. 

Another problem with spending most of the book making this new world cool and interesting: The main character, still a sixth grader, barely mentions parents or mourns the life he left behind. The omission seems almost as strange as, well, fighting plastic dinosaurs on top of a cheesecake.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the concept of world building. If you;ve read Brandon Mull's other series (Fablehaven and Beyonders), who do the Five Kingdoms compare with Mull's other worlds?

  • What are your favorite fantasy worlds? Why?

  • Will you read the next book in this series? Why or why not? What hints do you get at the end of Book 1 about what will happen in Book 2? What new characters are we likely to meet?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love adventure and fantasy

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