Lou Anders concludes his THRONES & BONES trilogy for middle graders with Skyborn, which follows Frostborn and Nightborn.
Skyborn begins as our three young heroes have just lost one of the Horns of Osius which are able to control wyverns and dragons. To free these creatures from the empire that controls them, they must travel to Thica to find and destroy the horn.
Our heroes couldn’t be more different from each other. Karn is the human son of a well-to-do farmer. His family expects him to take over the farm, but Karn is more interested in strategy games. Thianna is a half-giantess from the frozen northern lands. She has been bullied all her life because she is of mixed races and looks different from the rest of the frost giants. Desstra, a dark elf who was not ruthless enough to pass her final exam to become an elite soldier, is now an outcast from her society. These three unlikely allies will team up with even more unlikely allies to try to bring down the Thiccan Empire and save the dragons and wyverns from slavery.
Thica is a matriarchy with a culture similar to our mideast cultures (they eat a lot of spanakopita and the book even contains a recipe for that tasty treat). The Thican dynasty keeps power by using the horn to enslave the dragons and wyverns who help them keep control over the entire continent. When Thianna realizes this, she is greatly disturbed to realize that she is genetically related to bullies. She hates bullies! The matriarchy will try to tempt her into joining them, as is her birthright. Can Thianna resist the allure of power and the royal lifestyle? Meanwhile Karna and Desstra will have their own unique challenges, as will other characters who will join them such as the minotaur prince and the cowardly dryad.
Similar to the previous books, Skyborn is nonstop adventure and it’s full of strange sights such as a minotaurs riding scorpions through a labyrinth city. Our spunky sarcastic heroes meet automatons, dwarves, a mega-hydra, a sphinx (which of course asks riddles), an Arachne (eek), and other sorts of oddities. I found this aspect of the book to be a little jumbled and chaotic, but kids will probably love it and at least they will learn a lot.
There are some really sweet spots in this story such as when Thianna meets the dragon who carried her mother to the land of the frost giants in the opening scene of the first book in the trilogy. A theme throughout is the idea that travelling and meeting different types of people broadens the mind. Young readers will be challenged to realize that their own heritage and customs are not superior to others’.
As a parent, I can whole-heartedly recommend this trilogy to middle graders and young adults. The action is fast-paced and exciting, the characters are loveable, kids will learn quite a bit about different civilizations and about mythical creatures, and the story extols the virtues of friendship, diversity, teamwork, kindness, and mercy.
The audio versions of the THRONES & BONES trilogy are terrific. They are produced by Listening Library, are each around 9 hours long, and are read aloud by Fabio Tassone. This would be a good trilogy to listen to together as a family.