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Sky Raiders (Five Kingdoms) Hardcover – March 11, 2014
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#1 bestselling author of The Inheritance Cycle Christopher Paolini interviews #1 bestselling author Brandon Mull about his new series, Five Kingdoms.
Paolini: What inspired you to write Five Kingdoms: Sky Raiders?
Mull: It’s hard for me to pinpoint where my stories come from. I get bored easily so I make up crazy stuff to cope with reality. Some of that stuff is useless, but some takes shape and becomes fun to revisit. I knew my sister-in-law Liz wanted a story with sky castles, so floating castles were one of the first ingredients I threw into the stew. I may not be able to detail the origin of Five Kingdoms, but I can explain what I was aiming to accomplish.
With Five Kingdoms, I wanted to bring together much of what I do best as a writer into one place. I wanted to merge some of the fun I put into Candy Shop War, with the discovery and adventure from Fablehaven, with some of the big world-building like I did in Beyonders. I wanted to create a world that opened up story possibilities I haven’t seen before.
The result is the Outskirts, where five different kingdoms are each governed by different types of magic. Some characters from our world get drawn into a fast-paced adventure that is sometimes scary and often strange but hopefully never boring.
Paolini: We’ve spoken before about your love of doorways, portals, and other such openings that transport you to strange and different places. That idea seems especially prominent in Sky Raiders. Is it something you thought about consciously when you were writing, or did it arise naturally from your interest in the subject?
Mull: Since my childhood, I’ve loved the idea of characters being transported to another world through a wardrobe, down a rabbit hole, over the rainbow, etc. As a kid, after reading the Narnia series, I sincerely wished for something like that to happen to me. I wanted to be king of some world and kill all the monsters and ride on lions and save everybody. When that didn’t pan out, I visited other worlds in my imagination instead.
With Five Kingdoms, I’m deliberately creating my most elaborate and varied world so far, and exploring it through the eyes of a character from our reality. Since each of the Five Kingdoms has different kinds of magic that work there, by the end of the series, readers essentially get to visit five new fantasy worlds in one.
Paolini: Many of your books feature characters who are siblings—specifically brother/sister—or who feel like siblings. In this case it’s Cole and Mira. Having a sister myself, I think you do a great job of portraying that sort of relationship. What is it, that you enjoy most about those kinds of characters?
Mull: I grew up as the oldest of five kids. I did and said nice, loving things to my siblings that I didn’t do or say to anyone else. And I did and said mean things to my siblings that I wouldn’t dare do or say to my worst enemies. And my siblings returned the favor in good and bad ways. We had each other’s back and we stabbed each other in the back.
Brother and sister relationships are complicated and interesting. They help ground characters and bring them to life in ways that many readers can identify with. I enjoy trying to capture the blend of silly banter, heated arguments, and real love and protectiveness that I remember from my own family relationships.
Paolini: It seems like you put a lot of thought into how the economy of the Five Kingdoms works. The sky raiders are scroungers, eking out a living on the edges of a very strange world. Much more interesting than just reading about kings and queens. How did you go about developing the economy and the society?
Mull: Some people think of fantasy as nonsense where anything can happen, but I’ve never seen it that way. To me, good fantasy doesn’t abandon reality. Instead, it creates a functional reality with different rules than our own. If my fantasy worlds make sense and feel authentic, the reader will have an easier time getting involved and caring about the story.
Part of the task involves figuring out the logistics of how the world works. Who governs it? How do they maintain control? Who supports them? Who dislikes them? Given the reality I have established, I try to think through how the fantasy/magical elements in the story would affect day-to-day life. I especially try to think how people would exploit different magical abilities or artifacts for gain.
Paolini: The magic in Five Kingdoms is really cool! I’d love to know more about why you chose this particular kind of magic and what its particular advantages/disadvantages are.
Mull: Each kingdom in Five Kingdoms has a different type of magic. Those in Sambria with magical talent can reshape reality as they desire. Only the most gifted can change reality in big ways and create beings called semblances that seem alive. Powerful shapers risk losing control and either becoming trapped in a nightmare of their own making or flat out destroying themselves and everything around them.
That type of magic seemed cool and dangerous, and gave an excuse for me to take readers to some very unusual settings. I had to be careful not to let the magic feel too powerful, so I made it very dangerous to tamper with living things, I made the magic work better in certain geographic locations than others, and I didn’t let any practitioners be flawless experts.
Paolini: Have you plotted out the series from start to finish? If so, how much does the outline change as you write?
Mull: I tend to daydream about my stories until I see them like movies in my mind. Then I convert that daydreamed adventure into written scenes. So I have a pretty firm blueprint at the start, but it evolves as I make discoveries along the way.
With Five Kingdoms, I know the kingdoms we’ll be visiting, and the main events that will happen. Many details will be added as I go.
Paolini: Who is your favorite character and why?
Mull: So hard to pick! I like Cole because he really cares about his friends and takes responsibility for them accidentally getting taken to the Outskirts as slaves. I think he is funny and grounded and tries hard to do the right thing.
Paolini: If you had to choose one magical item to use when raiding along with the sky raiders, which one would you choose?
Mull: Of the items in the book, I’d want Jace’s golden rope. It was an item that he claimed when scouting out a sky castle. The rope can get longer and shorter as needed. It responds to the will of the wielder, so it can reach out and tangle an enemy, wrap around a distant object, coil and spring the wielder forward, or curl up to cushion a fall. The golden rope’s extreme versatility would increase my chances of surviving a dangerous sky castle raid.
From School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—Cole talks his friends into visiting a house on Halloween rumored to provide a hauntingly good scare in this fantasy adventure. Instead of a fun evening in the suburbs of Arizona, the teenagers are kidnapped and taken through a portal to be sold as slaves in another world. Cole is sent to work as a Sky Raider, where his mission is to steal valuables from floating castles. This dangerous work helps him forge new friendships with young people who possess special powers. One of these friends is a princess in hiding, and Cole must help her overthrow her father, the evil King, as a way to establish order and help his friends escape slavery. The world-building lacks the necessary description and details which readers expect of this genre. Cole seems to move through the incredulous events without demonstrating any connection to his life on Earth or a real desire to return. The plot contains many twists and turns, but each new encounter is fashioned to outdo the previous one, which strains credulity.—April Sanders, Spring Hill College, Mobile, AL
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Top Customer Reviews
This book proved me wrong- after the first couple chapters, I was hooked. I can barely wait for the second in the series to come out, because I want to know what happens next. If you have read Fablehaven and you especially liked Seth's character, then you will definitely enjoy this book. I found that the main character in this book, Cole, was very similar to Seth in how they acted and the style of writing Brandon Mull used when writing from their point of view.
This book is great for anybody age 8 or older- a younger kid definitely could read the book, but Brandon Mull's writing style might be too sophisticated for them to enjoy the book much. However, I think that this book would be great to read aloud in an elementary school classroom where foreign words could be explained by a teacher. I would definitely recommend this book!
There is one element that really didn't ring true to me. That is, how little Cole thought about his family after he came to Outskirts. Except for a few times sprinkled through the book, he didn't worry much about them. I think most 11 year olds who are sold into slavery and face death nearly all the time would at least be a bit homesick. Supposedly his family loses all memory of him, but he remembers them... barely. I think it would have added some depth to his character if there had been more elements of this. Overall I think that each of the characters were pretty well developed but could have used a bit more depth.
character had learned things through action rather than being fed everything through exposition. This book is almost entirely dialogue. And why were we still being introduced to new characters up until the end of the book? Bad story-telling.
I had just finished the third book in the Spirit Animals series before reading this book. That book was a nightmare to read and a struggle to finish due to grammatical disparities, poor word choice, and constant contradictory disheveled descriptions. It was good to return to a book actually written by Mull, not just someone taking his story and pretending to be an author.
In this second installment of the Five Kingdoms series, Mull continues the quest of Cole Randolph seeking to rescue his friends who were kidnapped from Mesa, Arizona, one Halloween night. He faces a series of challenges and sees even more incredible wonders than what he'd seen in the first book. Mull's creations are inventive and unlike anything I've ever read in any other books, with people wielding magical powers and skills that are so inventive. I've read all of his books and can't wait for whatever he puts out next.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
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