'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Wednesday, 17 August 2022

Review: Skandar and the Unicorn Thief

Like every other kid on the mainland, Skandar dreams of acing the hatchling exam and being chosen to move to the Island to train a unicorn. 

He doesn’t care that unicorns are bloodthirsty and dangerously powerful animals. From the time he was born, it’s all he’s ever wanted.

But things take an interesting turn when a dangerous enemy, the Weaver, threatens the Island and the Mainland, and Skandar is ordered not to take the hatchery exam. 

His hopes and dreams are smashed, until a mystery unicorn rider arrives and takes him to the Island after all...

Skandar's arrival is surrounded in mystery, and he knows he must keep it a secret. But as he joins the other recruits and hatches his unicorn, Scoundrel’s Luck, he discovers he isn’t the only one with secrets. Scoundrel’s Luck is…different, and Skandar needs to hide these differences from his teachers.

But no matter the secrets he’s tied up in, Skandar is on the Island. And alongside a few trusted friends, he works to train his sometimes-uncontrollable unicorn and control the magic that comes with that responsibility. There are many challenges to overcome, and hiding secrets isn’t easy, but Skandar works to find his place— for both himself and Scoundrel’s Luck — on the Island.

Enemies, however, don’t tend to care about boys and their desire to fit in. When unicorn riders are attacked and Islanders start disappearing, it’s apparent the Weaver has big plans, and Skandar won’t stay away from the danger if there’s something he can do to help.

But what does the Weaver really want? And is this threat bigger than anyone on the Island is willing to admit? Can Skandar and his friends be part of the battle when they haven’t even finished the first year of unicorn training?

Skandar and the Unciorn Thief is a brilliant new fantasy series for middle grade readers. I love that it turns the unicorn trope on it’s head and offers something completely different. In Skandar’s world unicorns are not friendly, magical creatures. They are dangerous, powerful beasts that pose a threat to everyone if they cannot be controlled.

The book has a Harry Potter vibe in that you’ve got a bunch a kids thrown into a school environment to learn the magic they’ve been destined to wield. But through the year as they learn their crafts, they also uncover important secrets. And when enemies come knocking, they rise up to battle them head on.

That said, this is not Harry Potter, and it brings a fresh new story for fantasy lovers. There are loads of mysteries to unravel and so many twists and turns I didn't see coming.

Character development is spot on and connecting with them is fluid and effortless due to the care author AF Steadman has taken to build them and the world around them.

This book is a winner for all fans of fantasy adventure. It’s got that familiar comforting vibe of stories you’ve loved, with a super fresh, and unpredictable, storyline.

Title: Skandar and the Unicorn Thief 
Author: AF Steadman
Publisher: Simon & Schuster , $19.99
Publication Date: 28 April 2022
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9781398512429
For ages: 9 - 99 
Type: Middle Grade