Five Kingdoms 1: Sky Raiders

by Brandon Mull
First sentence: “Weaving down the hall, Cole avoided a ninja, a witch, a pirate, and a zombie bride.”
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Review copy downloaded from Net Galley
Content: There’s some intense action, but it’s pretty tame, after the kidnapping scene. And there’s a lot of talk about “liking” girls, but it’s pretty innocent. It’s happily situated with the rest of Brandon Mull’s books in the middle grade (grades 3-5) section of the bookstore.

Cole is your average run-of-the-mill 7th grader in your average run-of-the-mill American suburban town. He has a crush on a girl, he has friends, he gets decent grades. Nothing spectacular. Then on Halloween, he and his friends go to a haunted house and end up slaves on a different planet. (Actually, his friends get kidnapped.. Cole goes down the hole after them, hoping to save them. And ends up as a slave.) The world is the Five Kingdoms, and Cole (and his friends) are on the Outskirts. And once you’re there, they find, it’s practically impossible to leave.

One of the best things about this new series by Brandon Mull is the world. The Outskirts is a fascinating place. Part magic, part dreams, part vicious, part insane; it’s a crazy, wild ride of a world. And while this one is basically your typical first in a series, introduction to the world book, the world that Mull creates is a fantastic one.

Cole finds himself sold to the Sky Raiders: a group of pirates that go out over the Brink — an endless chasm — and raids floating castles for anything they can sell. The thing is: the floating castles are dream-like, filled with semblences — lifelike beings that are somewhat sentient, but not entirely. They’re dangerous, and it’s Cole’s job, as the bottom of the totem pole, to scope out the castle, and make sure that it’s not dangerous before the raiding crew comes in. Their parting words before Cole’s first mission? Die bravely.

Of course it’s a bit more complicated than that; there’s a girl (there always is) who turns out to be something more than you think (again, kind of predictable). And there’s more adventure than you can shake a stick at, even though the plot kind of felt like one vignette after another all strung together. There is an overarching plot, and once we get to the point where the plot of this one begins to advance the overall plot, it loses some of the vignette quality. But the thing that kept me reading was the world. It really is that imaginative and wild.

The rest of it was good, enough that I’ll keep an eye out for the sequel. Which is a good thing, I think.

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