Skandar Smith has always yearned to leave the Mainland and escape to the secretive Island, where wild unicorns roam free. He's spent years studying for his Hatchery exam, the annual test that selects a handful of Mainlander thirteen-year-olds to train to become unicorn riders. But on the day of Skandar's exam, things go horribly wrong, and his hopes are shattered...until a mysterious figure knocks on his door at midnight, bearing a message: the Island is in peril and Skandar must answer its call.
Skandar is thrust into a world of epic sky battles, dangerous clashes with wild unicorns, and rumors of a shadowy villain amassing a unicorn army. And the closer Skandar grows to his newfound friends and community of riders, the harder it becomes to keep his secrets--especially when he discovers their lives may all be in graver danger than he ever imagined.
Skandar Smith, 13 and white, dreams of becoming a unicorn rider and competing in the prestigious Chaos Cup like his mother, who died when he was young, leaving behind Skandar, his sister, and their frequently depressed father. But barred for unclear reasons from taking the eligibility test, Skandar is smuggled by a mysterious rider onto the Island's Hatchery, where he bonds with a just-hatched unicorn called Scoundrel's Luck. But Scoundrel's markings reveal an affinity for a fifth--and forbidden--element, which Skandar must disguise if he wants to both undergo Eyrie training and avoid being killed as an illegal rider. Luckily, a trio of new friends willingly help with the masquerade. While navigating his new elemental powers and exploring his bond with Scoundrel, Skandar is drawn into a tragic mystery surrounding the forbidden element and the evil Weaver, who steals unicorns and continually attacks the Eyrie. Debut author Steadman covers familiar territory in this series opener about a magical school in crisis, but rousing variations--bloodthirsty winged creatures that exhibit signs of both humor and horror--feel fresh alongside upbeat characterizations of resourceful, resilient youths of varying skin tones learning to trust one another. Ages 8-12. Agent: Sam Copeland, Rogers, Coleridge & White. (May)Copyright 2022 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.