A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
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.
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
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.
Violence & Scariness
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.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A couple pecks on the cheek, and there are a couple of crushes.
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Products & Purchases
A quick mention of Twix bars.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A man's drugged into sleep with a potent herbal tea.
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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.
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.
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.