Sky Raiders

A sixth grader in Mesa, Arizona, Cole Randolph is concerned about fairly typical topics for tweens: homework, sibling rivalry, whether he has feelings for Jenna, and whether he should go trick-or-treating.  He and his best friend Dalton decide to visit the haunted house in Spook Alley, where the guy who just moved in previously performed special effects for Hollywood.   The effects turn out to be more gross than scary at first with bones, black bug juice,  a host that seems a little off to Cole, “not very bright, big creepy-looking, maybe not totally sane” (16), and a whiskered woman who eats venomous cockroaches as if they were snacks and lectures the group about fear, hardship, and bleakness.  When the group descends into the basement and Dalton hears the door lock, he and Cole begin to worry that they may be in genuine danger. 

In the basement behind black curtains, Cole discovers cages packed with kids in Halloween costumes and patrolled by a grubby assortment of villains.  His hope that the haunted house is simply an elaborate hoax plummets when he learns the villainous plan: their time in the world is over, his friends will not see their families again, and their plans and expectations for their lives will forever be unfulfilled.  Although he is hidden, Cole feels responsible for the rescue of his friends—after all, it was his idea that they visit the haunted house, so he follows the kidnappers down a manhole to the Outskirts.

In this mysterious world between worlds, Cole meets a Wayminder, the man responsible for opening the portal, and from him he learns about free marks and bond marks and shapers and about the High King of the five kingdoms who supports slavery.  Still convinced he can perform a heroic rescue, Cole concocts a plan, but he is ratted out and ends up chained behind the caravan that carts his friends in portable cages like circus animals. 

The first slave purchased from the caravan, Cole learns what it means to be an outcast: marked, chained up, caged, and ignored, he feels deeply lonely and less than a person.  When Cole arrives at Skyport, his owner declares he will become a Sky Raider, a dangerous job that involves raiding floating castles.  While living near the Brink and fighting the worry that his life is over, Cole vows to never stop watching for a chance to escape and to find his friends:  Maybe he would lead a slave revolt, maybe he would sneak away on his own, or maybe he would align with Jace and Mira and Twitch to liberate his friends. 

Sky Raiders by Brandon Mull, the first book in the Five Kingdoms series, is an action-packed adventure tale with both science fiction and fantasy elements: cloudwalls, alternate universes, semblances, shapers, jumping swords, floatstones, and monsters like Carnag, scorpipedes, huge spiders, and giant bears that hunt in packs.  Written with the same imaginative spirit as the Fablehaven series, Mull’s book reads like an online game with trials, hazards, risks, and peril at every turn. 

  • Posted by Donna

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