“Cole Randolph is just trying to have fun with his friends on Halloween. But their trip to a neighborhood haunted house turns out to be the start of a wild adventure when Cole watches his friends being whisked away through a mysterious passage.
Cole dives in after them, only to emerge somewhere that’s very clearly no longer Mesa, Arizona. He soon learns he’s come to a place called the Outskirts.
Made up of five kingdoms, the Outskirts lies between wakefulness and dreaming, reality and imagination, life and death. It’s an in-between place. Some people are born there. Some find their way there from our world, or from other worlds. The balance of power in the five kingdoms has been upset, and the magic there is becoming unstable. It’s up to Cole and an unusual girl he meets there names Mira to set things right, rescue his friends, and hopefully survive long enough to find his way back home…”
The book was a slow burn for me. I didn’t really get into it until after our protagonist Cole gets into the titular Sky Raiders. But before you turn away from the book, it does happen fairly early on. You just have to read through a lot of exposition and establishing action first.
And there lies my problem with Sky Raiders. It establishes things that, while informing our main character’s goal, doesn’t really add anything to the entirety of the book. You could swap a different goal for Cole, a more pressing one maybe, and the action will unfold the same way.
What we get instead is knowledge that the story doesn’t end in this book. And while I enjoy reading stories that continue from book to book (and I already knew this when I picked up the first book of the Five Kingdoms series), I wish the whole thing was better executed.
A perfect example of this would be Brandon Mull’s own Beyonder series. The first book has its own start, quest, and end. As a reader, I was invested in that journey thoroughly because it had a clear ending. And although its ending was pretty much complete, I opted to join the second adventure that the author offered, because Mull didn’t disappoint in wrapping things up before presenting the second goal.
The same cannot be said for the first Five Kingdoms book. When I passed a certain percentage of the book and our main characters were still on the road, looking for the first boss battle to fight? I already knew the whole book was just a set up to something else. Something that we might still not get in the second book. And although I’ve already picked up Rogue Knight (because I am intrigued about this new world Mull has built), I am not happy about the fact that we didn’t get a satisfying conclusion in the first book.
Which brings me to a question: With the success of Harry Potter and other book series, are publishers becoming more lenient to stories that don’t end in one book? Is this a way of ensuring future sales? Because, I must say, I’m not a fan.
A book should be allowed to have its own ending, even if it’s just an ending for now. Because, as a reader, there’s nothing satisfying about being left hanging on a cliff for a year, before finding out if you’re continuing your journey or not.