A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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.
- Parents say
- Kids say
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?
- Author: Brandon Mull
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More, Adventures, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires, Pirates
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Aladdin
- Publication date: March 11, 2014
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 432
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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