I’m really pleased to dig into some middle grade books for a bit, and I’m kicking off my MG reading with Skyriders, the first book in a new fantasy/adventure series from the amazing Polly Holyoke! I’m joining in with Lone Star Book Blogs tours to share my review. Read on to see what I thought about Skyriders and check out Polly’s fun book trailer and the adorable giveaway for this tour!
Skyriders Series, #1
by Polly Holyoke
Children’s Fantasy / Middle Grade Readers / Mythical Stories / Adventure
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Date of Publication: March 7, 2023
Number of Pages: 304 pages
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Wings of Fire meets Pax in this epic fantasy adventure set in a world where human and skysteed share a deep bond of friendship. When monsters emerge to attack the empire, it’s up to shy Kiesandra and her beloved winged horse N’Rah to prove to the imperial army that she has what it takes to lead them to victory . . . and to ensure the survival of their world.
Buzzing with action, heart, and friendship, this first book in the Skyriders series shows that kids can achieve the impossible–especially with flying horses on their side.
PRAISE FOR SKYRIDERS:
“Skyriders soars off the page and takes you along for an epic adventure that will leave you breathless and asking for more.”
—James Ponti, New York Times bestselling author of the City Spies series
“A breathtaking, mythical adventure. This is the kind of book I would have devoured and read over and over again as a kid.”
—Liesl Shurtliff, New York Times bestselling author of Rump and the Time Castaways trilogy
“Kiesandra Torsun is an unforgettable heroine who never gives up, even when facing staggering odds against vicious three-headed monsters attacking her homeland. Her loyalty, courage, and kindness won me over and her bond with her winged horse left me dazzled.”
—Mary E. Pearson, New York Times bestselling author of The Remnant Chronicles
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Confession time: I’ve been a fan of Polly Holyoke since my then 8-year-old (maybe? has it been that long?) first picked up a copy of The Neptune Project at a book fair and we read it together. Now 17, when I mentioned that I was reading Polly’s newest book, they grinned and named that first book with great fondness. For a kiddo to remember the name of a book some nine (it’s been a while, my math could be wrong) years later says a LOT about the adventure it took you on.
Skyriders takes you on a huge adventure as well. I think that this book has so much to share – a feisty and brave 13-year-old protagonist, flying horses (but don’t call them horses!), and some really exciting battle scenes with three-headed monsters (the chimerae) that will appeal to both boys and girls.
What I Loved
This story depicts middle grade children who all hold a lot of responsibility. Some, like Kiesandra and Topar, are sky couriers, tasked with delivering mail from station to station on their skysteeds. Others, like Ruden, are young Skyforce cadets who train for tournaments as well as battle. Kie’s uncle has put a huge task on her. But despite doubts of how to get the grownups to listen to her, she manages to do just that. Ultimately, she is heard AND respected.
And it’s not just her message of how they need to train to beat the chimerae; they also hear and accept her beliefs about respect and personal responsibility around the skysteeds. There is a power to seeing that grownups aren’t always right and can make better decisions. I also appreciated that everyone learned about compromise and working together to create a better way to fight against the chimerae using the strengths of both the smaller, faster steeds and the larger, stronger ones.
I especially liked the theme of found family. At the start of the book, her family is really only her Uncle Dug and her skysteed, N’Rah. She feels very much the outsider as her uncle is seen as odd for his obsessions with the old ways of training, even though the chimera have not been seen in a long time. After settling temporarily into life around the Imperial stables, she begins to make friends – even some unexpected one. And yes, I might have shed a happy tear.
“I think you would be happier if you had a herd of your own. You spend too much time by yourself.”– Skyriders by Polly Holyoke
We’re thrown into the world and the fight very quickly, so we don’t know why the chimerae are back and who is creating them (or why). The book wraps up the current situation nicely but leaves an opening for more battles to come along and for all our questions to be answered.
I would have liked a little more time with poor, sick Uncle Dug at the start (but maybe that’s the mom in me, too). Also my brain wanted to switch chimerae to chimeras every time I read the word, but that’s also probably a me thing as well. Neither would likely be a distraction for our middle-grade readers, though.
Summing It Up
Skyriders is a fantasy adventure that will appeal to both boys and girls – it has flying horses, interesting weapons, exciting battle scenes, and interesting world building. It also offers a strong protagonist with agency, and supporting characters with wonderful growth arcs.
I’m giving Skyriders 4 flying stars 🌠🌠🌠🌠 for being a fun, empowering fantasy adventure.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Polly Holyoke is the award-winning author of the middle grade sci/fi Neptune Trilogy (Disney/Hyperion) and the new children’s fantasy series, Skyriders, (Viking Children’s Books). A former classroom teacher, Polly loves doing school visits and getting students excited about writing.
Polly grew up in Colorado, where she spent her childhood skiing, camping, reading, and dreaming up fantastical stories. Polly went on to graduate from Middlebury College and become a middle school social studies teacher. She lives with her husband and their two daughters, as well as two cats, two Chihuahuas, and a beagle.
Signed copy of SKYRIDERS, set of 5 flying horse necklaces + a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card.
(US only; ends midnight, CDT, 4/7/23)
CLICK TO VISIT THE LONE STAR LITERARY LIFE TOUR PAGE FOR DIRECT LINKS TO EACH POST ON THIS TOUR, UPDATED DAILY,
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|Chapter Break Book Blog
|Hall Ways Blog
|All the Ups and Downs
|Shelf Life Blog
|Sybrina’s Book Blog
|The Real World According to Sam
|Boys’ Mom Reads
|The Plain-Spoken Pen