Title: Skandar and the Unicorn Thief
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Published: 28th April 2022
Synopsis: The first book in the hotly anticipated new fantasy adventure series for readers age 9+, from A. F. Steadman. If you like Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Eragon or His Dark Materials, you’ll love this . . .
Unicorns don’t belong in fairy tales; they belong in nightmares.
So begins Skandar and the Unicorn Thief. Soar into a world where unicorns are real – and they’re deadly. They can only be tamed by the rider who hatches them.
Thirteen-year-old Skandar Smith has only ever wanted to be a unicorn rider, and the time has finally come for him to take his Hatchery Exam, which will determine whether he is destined to hatch a unicorn egg. But when Skandar is stopped from taking the exam, and the mysterious and frightening Weaver steals the most powerful unicorn in the world, becoming a rider proves a lot more dangerous than he could ever have imagined. And what if Skandar was always destined to be the villain rather than the hero?
Get ready for unlikely heroes, elemental magic, fierce sky battles, ancient secrets, nail-biting races and, of course, bloodthirsty unicorns. This will be the biggest new series of 2022.
Skandar lives on the Mainland – in the UK, where he watches the Chaos Cup every year with his father and sister Kenna, whilst studying for his Hatchling exam. The Hatchling exam determines if people will go to the Island to hatch a unicorn, bond with it, and become a unicorn rider. In Skandar’s world, unicorn riders are the only ones who can tame a unicorn, and both rider and unicorn are often aligned to one of the four elements: earth, air, fire, or water. Nobody has been aligned to the band element, spirit, for a long time. Skandar is pulled into the world after he is banned from taking his Hatchling exam, and after the Weaver steals a powerful unicorn. So is Skandar the villain, the hero, or does he have a different destiny?
As the first book in a new series, I feel like Skandar has taken some of the best bits of fantasy, and turned them on their heads – flying, meat-eating unicorns, who can be dangerous. Secret elements that people are scared of, and don’t want to see. Elemental magic – which is always a fun thing because everyone does it so differently. Sky battles – who doesn’t love a sky battle or sky sport? And finally, races that have you on the edge of your seat and epic battles where you never know who is going to win. Skandar follows in the traditions of Narnia, His Dark Materials, and many other fantasy series. But what I loved is that it is also its own entity. It has its own traditions as well as playing with the well-known and recognisable tropes that we have seen in so many books over time.
The new take on some of the traditional and fantasy elements is exciting – I loved seeing how A.F. Steadman challenged what we know and made it her own, how Skandar was determined to remake the spirit element, and I hope he does. I hope he succeeds, and finds a way to cope with the events and revelations in the first book. It’s an epic story that I can see having at least five books, based on the class system Skandar must go through as a unicorn rider. It was so engrossing, but I also knew I wanted to take my time, so I could try and put the pieces of the puzzle Skandar and his friends were trying to solve together. It is the kind of book where you can do either, or where clues are dropped when they need to be. I loved the way the group came together to support and help Skandar and ensure his safety. At the same time, there are those that we think we can trust, but I always felt like there was something off about some characters, and for some, it will be interesting to see where they end up over the series.
Everything comes together wonderfully in this book, and it’s an exciting and fast paced book filled with action and adventure that I’m sure will find a readership. I thoroughly enjoyed it and can’t wait for the next one!