Friday, March 14, 2014

ARC Review: Sky Raiders - Brandon Mull

Sky Raiders by Brandon Mull
Series: Five Kingdoms #1
Genre: Middle Grade, fantasy
Published on March 11, 2014
Published by Aladdin
Pages: 432
Read From: 3.1.14 - 3.6.14

Cole Randolph was just trying to have a fun time with his friends on Halloween (and maybe get to know Jenna Hunt a little better). But when a spooky haunted house turns out to be a portal to something much creepier, Cole finds himself on an adventure on a whole different level. 
After Cole sees his friends whisked away to some mysterious place underneath the haunted house, he dives in after them and ends up in the Outskirts. The Outskirts are made up of five kingdoms that lie between wakefulness and dreaming, reality and imagination, life and death. It's an in-between place. Some people are born there. Some find their way there from our world, or from other worlds. 
And once you come to the Outskirts, it's very hard to leave. 
With the magic of the Outskirts starting to unravel, it's up to Cole and an unusual girl named Mira to rescue his friends, set things right in the Outskirts, and hopefully find his way back home before his existence is forgotten.


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? I do like the cover art, with the giant scorpion and the desert. Yes, there’s a character impersonator, but I don’t mind too much.

Characters: Cole is a resourceful kid, cares a great deal about his friends, and who also adapts to his new surroundings very quickly. So quickly, in fact, that I would complain if this were not a book totally hinged on adventure. And in adventure novels – Middle Grade ones especially – I personally have always found it acceptable for a character to come to terms with sudden events as rapidly as possible. Denial just slows an adventure down. And Cole isn’t totally all right with what’s happened. He’s just got a lot of other things on his mind – like surviving, and understanding the laws of The Outskirts, and rescuing his friends from slavery. I never did warm up to Jace, the “senior” scout for the Sky Raiders. He had a short temper, not much of a sense of humor, was a jerk to Cole, and always did stuff to compromise their missions. I don’t think he’ll ever be a bad guy, but I don’t really trust him. I really liked Twitch for some reason. He kept to himself and didn’t let Jace bully him. Then there’s Mira, the girl character (because apparently every book needs one). I actually really, really liked her. She’s tough and practical, but she doesn’t have an attitude and puts Jace in his place.

The Romance: Jace has a crush on Mira, and there will probably be affection between Mira and Cole in future volumes, but as of right now, there is no romance.

Plot: Cole and his friends are just trying to have fun on Halloween when they go to a new haunted house that is reported to be super creepy. But when they’re locked in the basement, kidnapped by slavers, and taken through a portal into another place called The Outskirts, the fun is over. The Outskirts is an in-between place; a crossroads in the universe. Some people are born in The Outskirts, others come from Earth or other worlds. It is a strange place where the laws of physics are turned upside down and the impossible is reality. Cole is sold to the Sky Raiders – people who raid mysterious sky castles for loot. No one knows where the sky castles come from, nor the stuff that’s found inside. Cole’s job is to scout out the sky castles for worthwhile loot. Sometimes the castles are safe; sometimes they have guardians. The average lifespan of a scout is a week. But Cole soon finds himself caught up in the political turmoil of the Five Kingdoms, and the wonders of The Outskirts may not be as random and bizarre as everyone thinks. Sky Raiders is almost totally hinged on world building, and not a whole lot is explained in this first book in a six-book series. The Author introduces us to the bizarreness of The Outskirts, and like Cole, we really don’t know what’s going on. But I have absolute faith that it will all be explained, because Cole is asking all the right questions and isn’t going to give up until he understands everything. The Outskirts is weird, but it’s fun, and I loved the sky castles. I wish there had been more of them. The one thing I didn’t like about The Outskirts was the indefinite style. Punk rock shirts were mixed in with tunics, and some people talked like they lived in medieval times, while others reminded me of the Wild West. I like a certain style, a feeling of symmetry in my worlds. Even so, I can’t say that I disliked the weirdness – it was too much fun. The plot takes a little while to get to the “meat” of it, but the events leading up to it are not boring. There isn’t a dull moment in Sky Raiders. There were at times that I felt like it rushed through explanations a little too quickly, and I totally didn’t get the purpose behind Happy the animated smiley face (and it’s about as weird as it sounds). Thankfully, he is hardly in it, and I was able to grasp everything in the long run.

Believability: Not applicable.

Writing Style: Third person, past tense. It’s nothing special in the fact that it wasn’t poetic. But it’s action-packed and very descriptive and fun.

Content: None.

Conclusion: Am I eager for Book #2? You bet! Sky Raiders doesn’t end on a killer cliffhanger, but it does make you want to read on. Especially since we’re going to get to learn more about Twitch! This is my first Brandon Mull book, and it makes me want to read his other series. It’s a really fun story, very quick despite its length.

Recommended Audience: Girl-and-boy read, ten-and-up, great for fans of Brandon Mull and the Rowan of Rin series or any other Emily Rodda books.

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