SKYRIDERS, by Polly Holyoke, Viking Books for Young Readers, March 7, 2023, Hardcover, $18.99 (ages 8-12)
A girl and her skysteed find themselves key to the empire’s survival following a vicious monster attack in Skyriders, by Polly Holyoke.
Thirteen-year-old Kiesandra’s best friend isn’t human, but that doesn’t stop her from sharing jokes and secrets with her winged horse, N’Rah. She, like every other person with a skysteed, can communicate with N’Rah through her mind. Their bond is critical when one day, monsters from long ago reemerge to ravage a nearby village. No one knows how to fight the fearsome chimerae except Kie’s uncle . . . and now Kie.
Injured in the battle, Uncle Dug makes her promise to bring his attack plan and weapons to the capital. Kie reluctantly agrees. At the palace, she and N’Rah attempt to gain the trust of the royals and train the army in Dug’s lessons. But how can a young girl and her skysteed convince anyone that only they know how to defeat the deadly monsters? —Synopsis provided by Viking Books for Young Readers
Buzzing with action, Skyriders is a heart pounding fantasy adventure that you won’t want to put down. I read into the wee hours of the morning so that I could finish it. It’s that good.
There are two main elements in Skyriders — the characters and the creatures.
The creatures in Skyriders really bring the book to life. The skysteeds — winged horses that can speak to those they bond with through their minds — are elegant and strong and nimble. Everything you’d want in a heroic animal. The three-headed chimerae — bloodgoat, lion and sand dragon merged together by dark, binding magic — is massive, vicious and deadly. A dangerous foe that the entire empire must fight as a united front.
On the character front, Kie is the reluctant hero. She starts out with a small “herd” (N’Rah and her uncle) and is fine with that. But through her journey, Kie learns the power of friendship. And it’s through her courage that grownups learn that children are sometimes the ones with the best answers.
While Skyriders is definitely a page-turning adventure, author Polly Holyoke has also included themes of communication, empathy and equity. It’s done so naturally that readers won’t feel as though they’ve been “taught a lesson.” It seamlessly lives within the plot’s framework and Holyoke’s prose.
Skyriders does feature a fair amount of violence and gore —there are a number of battles — but it’s written in such a way that it never feels gratuitous. It’s a fun read and a great start to a new series.
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