The Orphan Army: The Nightsiders, Book 1

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
The Orphan Army: The Nightsiders, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Exciting alien-invasion thriller mixes sci-fi and magic.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

The Orphan Army is set mainly in the bayous of Louisiana, and the author attempts to depict the local flora and fauna realistically. One character's Cajun accent seems a bit dubious, but most readers won't notice.

Positive Messages

Teamwork enables people to succeed in the face of adversity. Heroism comes in many forms and to the most unlikely people. Loyalty and commitment to family and friends are important qualities.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Milo Silk doesn't consider himself a hero, but he discovers unexpected reserves of strength when he's forced to face off against relentless alien invaders. He can't do the job alone, however. He must learn to trust a group of individuals who are very different from anything he has experienced before.

Violence

Milo and his friends and allies are in almost constant danger, and The Orphan Army does have its fair share of violent scenes. But the characters suffer very little permanent damage, and much of the mayhem happens off-page. A teen is badly shocked with a stun gun. Milo undergoes something like a near-death, out-of-body experience. A wolf attacks various members of the Swarm in aid to Milo and his crew.

Sex

Milo seems intrigued by the shape-shifting Evangelyne, but he has neither the time nor the inclination for any kind of romance.

Language

One character mentions that a situation "sucks."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Orphan Army is the first volume in a science-fiction trilogy. Set in the bayous of Louisiana after Earth has been invaded by the Dissoterin (aka the Swarm), the story follows 11-year-old Milo Silk as he struggles to save himself, his friends, and what's left of his family from merciless, insect-like extraterrestrials. Milo has strange dreams about the future, but he isn't ready at first to accept that a group of shape-shifting individuals might be able to wield magical powers and aid him in his quest for sanctuary. Milo and his friends and allies are in almost constant danger, and The Orphan Army does have its fair share of violent scenes. But the characters suffer very little permanent damage, and much of the mayhem happens off-page. A teen is shocked by a stun gun. Milo undergoes something like a near-death, out-of-body experience. A wolf attacks various members of the Swarm in aid to Milo and his crew. There's mild romantic interest between two characters.

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What's the story?

For 11-year-old Milo Silk, normal life ended when the alien Swarm invaded Earth when he was 6. Now he's plagued by cryptic dreams, his father is missing and presumed dead, and his mother is off on a dangerous mission. Meanwhile, Milo slogs through the bayous with a group of other young refugees. As he and his friends battle for their very survival, Milo realizes they may have a set of unexpected allies in THE NIGHTSIDERS, magical creatures who also fight against the Swarm.

Is it any good?

It's hard to find a fresh angle on the alien-invasion story, but veteran horror author Jonathan Maberry succeeds by adding an unusual supernatural element to the plot. Aimed at middle-grade readers, his new novel is fast-paced and action-packed, with a likable main character, a diverse supporting cast, and a formidable villain.

Sometimes the story feels a little out of balance, as Maberry piles on one incredible revelation after another. It's clear, however, that there will be further installments in this saga, and readers who enjoy science fiction mixed with magic will be ready and waiting for more.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the disruptive nature of war. What might it be like to be a refugee, separated from family and thrust into dangerous situations?

  • How do you define heroism? Are heroes always sure of themselves, or do they worry about their own shortcomings? Who are your favorite heroes in books you've read?

  • What is the nature of evil? Does it exist? Is it a supernatural force, or does it stem from human failure alone?

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