Mull, Brandon. Sky Raiders (Five Kingdoms #1)
March 11th 2014
ARC from Baker and Taylor, along with nice t shirt I gave to student.
Cole is at a haunted house on Halloween with his friends from school when many of them are taken by creepy people through a portal... and he follows, trying to rescue them. He ends up in the Outskirts (which is made up of five kingdoms), and gets captured by the same slavers that have his friends. On the way to the main city, Cole is sold to the Sky Raiders who board floating castles and loot them before the buildings escape into the cloudwall. It's dangerous work, and Cole must complete 50 missions before he can do less dangerous chores. He meets Mira, who is a Shaper. The High King is after her, and when her protector dies in a castle raid, Cole and Mira make plans to escape. They later find out a secret about her background which explains why the Legionnaires are after them. Eventually Cole and Mira, along with Jace and Twitch, get through a bizarre place called Brady's Wilderness and head to Greta in Middlebranch, who will supposedly help them. Cole finds out that people from Earth have more Shaping powers, which is why so many of them are stolen as slaves, and he still plans to rescue his friends.
Strengths: Mull's books are very popular in my library, and he does some fun characters. There is also a lot of action adventure, and the Outskirts is an interesting place. I'll have to buy the series; already, students are drooling over the ARC I have.
Weaknesses: Frequent Readers know how I am with fantasy books. After a while, I just can't take any more. While I adored Fablehaven, I haven't vibrated to Mull's other series as well. I thought this one in particular was not solid on world building. The Outskirts is explained in bits and pieces, and is comprised of a random assortment of parts that is confusing. I would have liked this a lot better if things were explained more and (I hate to say this) if there were a map at the beginning of the book.
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Fun fact-- the only money I ever made from my writing was when WD paid me $40 for a poem in 1984!