REVIEW: Skandar and the Unicorn Thief by A.F. Steadman

by |May 5, 2022
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Calling all middle grade fantasy and adventure readers (and anybody who has ever harboured the belief that unicorns are inherently evil) — Skandar and the Unicorn Thief is for YOU!

A.F. Steadman

A.F. Steadman

How do I even begin to describe the magical, fantastical adventure that awaits you between the pages of this book?! It’s like A.F. Steadman took all the parts of Harry Potter, Percy Jackson and Eragon that I adore and lovingly stitched them together, sprinkled a whole lot of magic over it and then added evil, bloodthirsty unicorns into the mix. To quote my nephew after I read the blurb out to him: “that’s EPIC”! I mean, any book that leads with “the chosen one” trope, adds in elemental magic and sends the main character off to a magical boarding school automatically goes on my “will re-read over and over again” pile.

The first book in a hotly anticipated new fantasy adventure series (that, I might add, has already been scooped up for a film adaptation by Sony Pictures cue the unicorn squeals), we follow thirteen-year-old Skandar Smith who has only ever dreamed of becoming a unicorn rider. The time has finally come for him to take the hatchery exam, a test that will determine if he is destined to hatch a unicorn egg. But when Skandar is mysteriously stopped from taking his exam, and the Weaver, a super evil rogue unicorn rider, steals the most powerful unicorn in the entire world, things get a whole lot more dangerous. As ancient secrets unravel while fierce sky battles play out and bloodthirsty unicorns are on the hunt, Skandar must make a difficult choice. Will he be the hero or the villain of the story?

While you’re definitely in store for a fast-paced, action-packed adventure, what will surprise and delight you is the depth and emotion that the author has put into the character arcs and relationships. From the most wholesome sibling relationship, to the fierce love and protectiveness Skandar finds in his new friends, to the bond that grows between a unicorn and its rider, I appreciated how flawed and real every character was and how their relationships with one another reflected this. There’s even fantastic anxiety rep in one of our side characters that was so heartwarming to see, and realistic portrayals of strained parental relationships too. Perfect for readers aged 9+, the elemental magic system was easy to understand which is so refreshing — I didn’t have to sit there for 10 minutes jotting down some algebraic formula, with a super confused look on my face, trying to make sense of it all.

Now let’s talk about the unicorns! I was filled with the same sort of awe and glee that I can only compare to when I read The Sorting Hat chapter in Harry Potter when the time came for the unicorn eggs to hatch – I really felt like I was there, watching it all happen before me, and that’s a testament to A.F. Steadman’s writing! It really draws you in and envelops you in the magic of it all – I can picture the Eyrie, the Mirror Cliffs and the Hatchery so vividly in my mind! The unicorns are a far cry from the rainbows and glitter we have conventionally associated them with — they are vicious, belong in nightmares and only those bonded with riders can be tamed, and even then they are still somewhat wild and deadly, if provoked. And yet, you can’t help but love them, even when they are being incredibly difficult in a life-or-death situation (there’s one very stubborn unicorn, you’ll know him when you see him). All in all, this book whisked me away on the adventure of a lifetime, made me feel all the emotions for all the characters and had me hugging the book by the end of it, wishing I had the sequel in my hands already so I could stay a little while longer with Skandar and his friends.

What a brilliant start to what I already know will be one of my favourite series of all time!

Skandar and the Unicorn Thief by A.F. Steadman (Simon & Schuster Australia) is out now.

Skandar and the Unicorn Thiefby A.F. Steadman

Skandar and the Unicorn Thief

Book 1

by A.F. Steadman

Unicorns don’t belong in fairy tales; they belong in nightmares. So begins Skandar and the Unicorn Thief. Soar into a world where unicorns are real – and they’re deadly. They can only be tamed by the rider who hatches them.

Thirteen-year-old Skandar Smith has only ever wanted to be a unicorn rider, and the time has finally come for him to take his Hatchery Exam, which will determine whether he is destined to hatch a unicorn egg. But when Skandar is stopped...

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