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Skandar and the Unicorn Thief: The international, award-winning hit, and the biggest fantasy adventure series since Harry Potter (Volume 1)

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I really like the aesthetic look of the book, especially the foiled flames on the hardcover. However, although I found the concept of racing magical unicorns to be a very interesting and creative concept. “Skandar and the unicorn thief” follows a tirelessly generic premise which entails confusing concepts, little action, and boring training sequences. Steadman does a great job of providing details and there is a lot of imaginative ideas utilised such as the bonding ritual and the hatching door. I enjoyed the speedy introduction of the weaver as it injected some early action and interest. However, the idea of a poor, unknown protagonist who later realises they have a special gift which gives them the edge is an overused storyline. I would have much rather preferred that Skandar worked for the talents of his unicorn rather than having been gifted a “spirit element.” I knew the moment I first started reading this, I had found someone extraordinary in Annabel. This has been matched by the excitement from publishers and the world record-breaking offers for a children’s debut – with a number of publishers offering well into seven figures,” said Copeland. “This has been the most exciting auction of my career and to top it off with wildly exciting film news as well has left everybody breathless.”

And for months now Skandar’s dad had been telling him the same. That it was possible, probable, even inevitable, that he’d become a rider. And despite knowing how unusual it was—despite seeing Kenna so disappointed last year—Skandar wanted more than anything for it to be true. A. F. Steadman has created a stunning new world that feels both familiar and fresh, with a cast of characters that will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading.’ – Tọlá Okogwu, author of Onyeka and the Academy of the SunUnicorns don’t belong in fairytales; they belong in nightmares,” writes Steadman as the series opens. The unicorns in her books are “not at all like the unicorns we know in shops, these fluffy unicorns with rainbows, they’re different and exciting and magical but also dangerous,” she says. The mysterious identity of the weaver was one of the only intrigues that kept me reading. However, finding out that it was Skandars mother was a random and unimpressive revelation. Especially, since her name is only mentioned in the finale and there was no possibility of guessing her as a prospect. Also, the element of surprise is removed completely when Mitchell accurately guesses Erika as the weaver. Also, her former positive family life with his sister and dad in the mainland is not entirely explained. Why did she leave Skandar and his family if she was happy at the mainland? And why try to destroy the chase cup instead of making your own race? Would have been better had she bonded to a wild unicorn after her own unicorn was killed. However, it takes over her mind and she transforms into the weaver. Skandar breaks the bond after defeating her and she ends up free. I also found it underwhelming that none of the “actual” chase cup riders have any major interactions with Skandar and his friends. It would have been better had they been assigned a mentor based on their elemental types to help them train. As the training continues, Skandar realises that his mentor is a spirit wielder, but not before he is captured and imprisoned. He then hatches a plan to release him alongside his friends. A magnificent book. I raced through it – at turns enthralled, delighted, amazed. It’s everything I could have wanted and more. No doubt this book is going to fly.’ – Hannah Gold, author of The Last Bear It could work. Those elements form a very classical children books plot. Rowling invented nothing there. The difference is in the world building. Rowling's is spotless. I hate the woman, but still love the books. Steadman's world building is shallow. It is fragile (the unicorns, even the bonded one, are supposed to be wild, dangerous, bloodthisty, human-eaters. They are constantly dangerous : it is the main appeal of the book. It is entirely forgotten after, well,... 30% into the book ? There is even a moment where one of the unicorns, which are supposed to be ravenous carnivores, starts eating the grass like any boring horse. What you have instead are grumpy horses that can do magic. My Little Pony with a Temper).

Steadman said she collapsed on her bed on hearing about her deal. “It kind of completely went mad after that. I was like, this isn’t real, this can’t be real,” said the author, who wrote down the original idea for Skandar in 2013, but set it aside to focus on her job as a lawyer. If this book manages to make a kid happy, I say good for the kid and the author. But it left me... what is the word... disillusioned? It made me question what is the standard we have for books nowadays, and how we push manufactured hype rather than genuinely good and valuable book without a bat of an eye. Steadman fantastically reinvents the traditional Western unicorn mythology by inverting the classic images—serene, majestic, noble, gentle, sparkly—and presenting instead a creature that is ferocious, deadly and nearly unstoppable. Skandar and the Unicorn Thief is filled with incredible worldbuilding, a fully realized system of magic and an unforgettable cast of riders and unicorns. —Kyla Paterno, freelance reviewer 6/03/2022 - Shelf Awarness


SKANDAR has all the ingredients of a bestselling middle grade adventure. A out-of-his-element but unyielding hero in Skandar Smith, an outcast at his school in Margate that harbours a special something about him. A magical world not-so-separate from our own; the unicorns are not a trade secret to the world, born on an island presumably off the coast of England somewhere, that compete annually in a race called the Chaos Cup. Animal familiars, in the uniquely bloodthirsty unicorns that will not hesitate to rip you apart. A classic elemental magic system, with water, fire, earth and air, and an additional fifth, spirit. An adventure of friendship and fun and discovering yourself.

For any first-timers just joining us, we’re live from Fourpoint, the Island’s capital. And in a few moments these unicorns will fly out of this famous arena and begin the aerial racecourse—a grueling sixteen-kilometer test of stamina and sky-battle ability. Riders must stay outside the floating markers on their way round or risk being eliminated—not easy when twenty-four other competitors are trying to hit you with elemental magic and slow you down at every turn— Oh, that’s the countdown. Five, four, three, two…Your turn this year, though, eh?” Dad ruffled Skandar’s hair with a greasy hand. “Now, the best way to make fried bread...” As Dad gave him instructions, Skandar nodded in all the right places, pretending he didn’t already know how. Other children might have found this annoying, but Skandar was just pleased when Dad gave him a high five for getting the bread the perfect amount of crispy. In an alternate modern world, unicorns exist on the Island. Skandar Smith has always dreamed of being a unicorn rider, but when a mysterious villain by the name of the Weaver appears to steal the unicorns of bonded riders, it's up to Skandar to save the day. Steadman, who attended King’s School, Canterbury, on musical and academic scholarships before going on to study at Selwyn College, Cambridge, left law in 2017. She then took a master’s in creating writing at Cambridge and returned to the story she’d thought of years earlier.

Steadman fantastically reinvents the traditional Western unicorn mythology by inverting the classic images--serene, majestic, noble, gentle, sparkly--and presenting instead a creature that is ferocious, deadly and nearly unstoppable. Skandar and the Unicorn Thief is filled with incredible worldbuilding, a fully realized system of magic and an unforgettable cast of riders and unicorns. -- Kyla Paterno, freelance reviewer

Skandar and the Unicorn Thief introduces our hero as an uncool 13-year-old from the seaside town of Margate, whose status changes when he is spirited away to join the elite who have passed the Hatchery exam – the unicorn world’s equivalent of the 11-plus, which entitles them to join an island training camp for everyone’s favourite TV spectacle, the Chaos Cup. Skandar stayed very still, not daring to turn his head away from the screen as the unicorns entered the arena. Dad only talked about Skandar and Kenna’s mum on Chaos Cup day. By his seventh birthday, Skandar had given up asking about her at any other time—learning it made Dad angry and upset, learning it made him disappear into his room for days.

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