Cole is going trick or treating with his friends Jenna and Dalton, but since they are in 6th grade they don’t want to go anywhere lame. So, they decided to brave the super-scary neighborhood haunted house. The first part of the house was not that scary, but when the owner decided to invite them to the second top secret part of the house they decided to go. When they get down there, they hear a voice telling them to turn around and run away, but by that point it is too late. Slavers come to steal the kids, Cole manages to hide, and after sending another hiding girl to go get help he goes after the Slavers to try to save his friends. When he reaches their train where they have the kids in cages, he has come up with a plan, but one girl that he doesn’t know tells the slavers that he is hiding and so he is captured. After being punished by being forced to walk along the wagon train without food or water for a day, and then shoved into a cage with a strange talking smiley face, a slave buyer comes along. He belongs to a place that is notorious for slaves dying early, and the slavers cannot wait to be rid of their most belligerent slave: Cole.
Once in the Sky Raiders, he meets Jace, Mira, and Twitch, and then realizes from their stories that the early slave deaths are not quite as frequent as they seem. The Sky Raiders use special weapons and tools to raid the sky castles that appear daily from the cloud walls. After 50 missions a person can rank up and not have to put their life in danger every time they go on a mission. Cole is not worried about his first mission, but when it begins to go south this job proves more dangerous than he could have ever predicted, and his life is flipped upside down again.
Although these characters were younger than I had expected, the story was not cheesy or dumbed down. It was written for middle schoolers (I found myself dying of laughter at some of the “romantic” parts), but the adventure parts truly threw me into a whole world nearly completely disconnected with Earth. All of the elements of a true fantasy world were there, and it was paced well enough that I never felt bored. At about 430 pages, it was by no means a quick read, but I did enjoy the ride. While the characters are young, all of them have an air of maturity about them, and they all approach the situations in the book with the sense of real adventurers. I cannot wait to read through the rest of this series.
Overall Rating: 4/5